Sunday, February 5, 2012

Washington Post Fact Checker Debunks Obama Mini-Whopper That Some (Republicans) Wanted the Auto Industry to Fail!

I would invite anyone that’s interested in knowing what the Washington Post Fact Checker actually said unedited to enlarge the below graphic and read it for yourself but here is my take on the subject,

Here are two quotes from recent Presidential “campaign speeches” where it is obvious that President Obama is accusing Republicans in general and Mitt Romney in particular of advocating to let the U.S. Auto Industry go under last year. Thankfully, the Fact Checker debunks that lie in his 3 February 12 article.

“It’s good to remember that the fact that there were some folks who were willing to let this industry die. Because of folks coming together, we are now back in a place where we can compete with any car company in the world.”
--President Obama, at the Washington Auto Show, Jan. 31, 2012

“On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen.”
--Obama, in the State of the Union address, Jan. 24, 2011

The Fact Checker pointed this is “an unfortunate, and remarkably ungracious, tendency to distort the record” of George W. Bush on the auto industry rescue and that it was Bush that loaned billions of dollars to GM and Chrysler so that Obama was not confronted with an auto-industry collapse in his first days in office. He also says the President has a fondness for using rhetorical straw men in his speeches, wondered: Did anyone really say the auto industry should simply die?

The Facts
Reporters assume that the president’s words are aimed at his likely GOP rival former Gov Mitt Romney who penned OpEd titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” The basic thrust of the article was that the companies should go through a managed bankruptcy, mainly to shed labor costs, rather than just get a “bailout check” but he certainly did not say that the industry should die. In the end Obama did exactly what Romney advocated, he arranged for both GM and Chrysler to go through the bankruptcy process.

When asked by the Fact Checker about Obama’s baseless utterances, the White House did not provide any quotes from Romney thus trying to give the appearance Romney was not Obama’s intended target. Instead, they provided a seven-page document highlighting 30 Republican lawmaker statements criticizing both the Bush and Obama efforts to stabilize the auto industry but virtually all of these comments were questions of tactics, such as not enough pressure had been put on auto industry unions. It is clear that Republicans were pressing for an immediate auto industry bankruptcy to break the United Auto Workers.

One of the quotes supplied by the administration was made by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who was central to crafting the conditions for the Bush loan. Corker said on 31 March 2009, that “Chrysler was toast” but top Obama administration officials were split 4-4 at the time on whether it made sense to keep supporting Chrysler. Only days before Crocker made his statement Austan Goolsbee (one of Obama’s top economic advisors) appealed to Obama to let Chrysler die on the grounds that a Chrysler demise would enhance GM’s chances of survival but Obama rejected his advice. So it appears Obama unfairly criticizes Republicans for echoing sentiments expressed within his administration and should be crediting Bush for laying the groundwork for his eventual intervention.

The Pinocchio Test
So what is the WaPo bottom line, the evidence for Obama suggesting that GOP lawmakers were willing to let the auto industry collapse is not very strong. The quotes the Fact Checker received from Obama and others they researched were mostly questions of tactics. As the administration’s internal debate suggests, the answers were not clear and certainly several top Obama officials thought at least one car company should die.

Building on difficult decisions by George W. Bush, Obama made some tough calls and a good chunk of billions of taxpayer dollars may never be recovered but both GM and Chrysler are still in business so there is no need for such rhetorical overreach by the Obama Administration.

The WaPo only awarded Obama 2 Pinocchios so this is just a mini-Whopper and definitely not up to his usual 3 or 4 Whopper standard.