Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Monday joined the list of politicians who've deflected this question from Michigan reporters: Would you have supported the U.S. loans to General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC to get through their 2009 bankruptcies? "That's a hypothetical question in the past. We're going to talk about the future," Walker said after speaking to 120 Lansing Republicans in an Oldsmobile car museum ....
In every possible way, Republicans don't like to talk about President Obama's rescue of the American auto industry. As a policy matter, the GOP predicted the policy would fail, and they were wrong. As an ideological matter, Republicans said government intervention in the private sector like this always produces disaster, and the White House definitely proved otherwise.
And as an electoral matter, GOP opposition to Obama's successful policy pushed Michigan out of reach for Mitt Romney in 2012 and Terri Lynn Land in 2014.
But the debate isn't really over, at least insofar as Michigan still likes to know where candidates and policymakers stand on the administration's rescue of the industry. Two weeks ago, for example, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) didn't deny the fact that the president's policy worked, but the Republican presidential hopeful nevertheless said Obama's successful approach wasn't "the right way to handle" the crisis in 2009.
The president's policy may have worked, but Rubio believes the solution was "problematic."
Yesterday, Gov. Scott Walker (R) was in Michigan, where Bloomberg Politics asked about the issue.
There is some truth to the response -- the crisis was in the recent past and asking how the governor would have responded is, obviously, a hypothetical.
But Walker's response was nevertheless woefully inadequate.
Note, for example, that the Wisconsin Republican is willing to answer hypothetical questions about the past, but only when it suits his purposes.
For that matter, the question about the auto rescue isn't some outrageous fantasy -- if Walker becomes the president, it's possible he'll face an economic crisis of his own, with major American industries facing the prospect of collapse. How the Wisconsin Republican would respond to such conditions is directly relevant to his unannounced candidacy.
Dismissing the question as irrelevant isn't a sustainable posture.
Indeed, as 2016 litmus-test issues go, "Do you support Obama's rescue of the auto industry?" is a pretty good one. We've already seen GOP presidential hopefuls weigh in on evolutionary biology, vaccinations, and whether or not they'd attend a same-sex wedding. Why not press the candidates on the backbone of American manufacturing, too?