For months, Mitt Romney has been dogged by a 2008 New York Times op-ed he wrote entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” But now, the same adviser who claimed Romney’s extreme views wouldn’t matter in the general election because it will be “almost like an Etch a Sketch” is doing some serious Etch a Sketch-shaking of his own.
Romney strongly opposed the “bailout” of General Motors, writing: “If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.” He doubled down on that in February, saying that his “managed bankruptcy” proposals would have been vastly superior to the Obama administration’s “crony capitalism plan.” Now that the federal intervention by the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations has proven a huge success, the Romney campaign is trying desperately to change its tune.
On Saturday, Romney’s senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said:
[Romney’s] position on the bailout was exactly what President Obama followed. I know it infuriates them to hear that… The only economic success that President Obama has had is because he followed Mitt Romney’s advice. … The fact that the auto companies today are profitable is because they’ve shed costs. The reason they shed those costs and have got their employee labor contracts less expensive is because they went through that managed bankruptcy process. It is exactly what Mitt Romney told them to do.
Fehrnstrom has made the same claim before. “Mitt Romney had the idea first,” he said last May. “Mitt Romney argued that instead of a bailout, we should let the car companies go through a restructuring under the bankruptcy laws.” This, of course, flatly contradicts Romney’s February editorial, in which he wrote of Obama’s efforts: “I believe that without his intervention things there would be better.”
As industry experts have noted, however, exactly following Romney’s plan would have led to the collapse of the auto industry, since the private sector wasn’t willing to lend GM and Chrysler the money they needed to get to managed bankruptcy. “There was no one that was willing to come up not only with the cash to keep them afloat but also to serve the warranties of everyone, you and I that drive all these cars,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), a Romney endorser, said in February. “There was no one that could have picked up those pieces other than the federal government.”