Mitt Romney probably doesn’t want my advice, but I might suggest he stop talking about the auto-industry rescue altogether. It just keeps getting him into trouble.
A month ago, after three years of condemning President Obama’s successful policy, Mr. Let Detroit Go Bankrupt declared, “I’ll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry’s come back.” In the Republican’s mind, Obama did the wrong thing, except it worked, at which point it became an example of Romney doing the right thing.
Yesterday, Romney talked to the Detroit News and tried to explain his position all over again.
Romney said the Democrats are “distorting” his record on the auto bailout, whose government-imposed conditions included filing bankruptcy.
“If they needed help coming out of bankruptcy and government support, that was fine, but I was not in favor of the government writing billions of dollars in checks prior to them going into bankruptcy,” he said.
So, as of yesterday, Romney’s position on the auto rescue is … well, no one’s really sure.
In 2009, the former Massachusetts governor predicted that we could “kiss the American automotive industry goodbye” if Obama’s policy moved forward. At the time, Romney called the administration’s plan “tragic” and “a very sad circumstance for this country.” He wrote another piece in which he said Obama’s plan “would make GM the living dead.”
All of this looks pretty ridiculous in hindsight. But putting that aside, what kind of policy would Romney have preferred? After yesterday’s comments, the picture is even less clear than it was a month ago.
The Republican has repeatedly argued that GM and Chrysler should have relied on private funding to restructure and get back on their feet. That, of course, was impossible. In early 2009, the credit markets were frozen and there was no private funding available. (When a company called Bain Capital was approached, it refused to invest.)
And so it appears that Romney is shifting once again, not only taking credit for a policy he attacked, but also saying taxpayer support “was fine,” after arguing for three years it wasn’t fine.
The new twist is that Romney is on board with public support after, but not before, bankruptcy, but that doesn’t make sense, either – GM and Chrysler would have never survived the bankruptcy process without federal intervention.
Romney could simply try the truth – he should admit, “I was wrong” – but that seems to be the only position he hasn’t tried yet.