When the history of the 2012 presidential race is written, the absurdity of presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney claiming credit for the rebound of the auto industry will warrant an entry, most likely under the heading "Laughable."
During a televised interview Monday with a Cleveland station, the former Massachusetts governor patted himself on the back and credited his advice that the automakers undergo managed bankruptcy before seeking private financing for the turnaround in Detroit's fortunes.
President George W. Bush gave General Motors and Chrysler bridge loans in the last full month of his presidency so that the automakers would avoid a death spiral that would take the supply chain and a large section of the nation's economy down with them.
Prior to that, Mr. Romney wrote an opinion piece in 2008 for The New York Times with the now famous headline "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." In it, Mr. Romney gave lip service to the conservative mantra of free markets, advising the automakers to seek private financing in their hour of need and spare taxpayers the need to bail them out.
The next year, President Barack Obama continued the industry bailout begun by his predecessor. At the time, the nation's top banks were still traumatized from the financial system's near-death experience months before. Consequently, Detroit had no way of accessing the billions in private capital Mr. Romney wanted the automakers to seek. It fell to Mr. Obama to write a check on behalf of the American people, making the taxpayer a partner in the venture.
Yet now Mr. Romney has the brass to say on Cleveland television: "I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry's come back."
He can't have it both ways -- Drop dead, Detroit in 2008 and I saved you in 2012. The Republican candidate needs to pick the Mitt Romney he wants to be and stick with it.
First Published May 12, 2012 12:00 AM