Join The Times' book club. This month's selection: "Cadillac Desert"
Opinion Top of the Ticket

Limbaugh freaks as Romney lays claim to Obama's bailout

Rush Limbaugh is freaked out by Mitt Romney giving backhanded praise to President Obama for saving the American auto industry.

This week, in an interview on CBS, Romney defended himself against critics of his work at Bain Capital by equating what he did as a corporate restructuring specialist with Obama’s temporary takeover of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009. “In the general election,” Romney said, “I’ll be pointing out that the president took the reins at General Motors and Chrysler – closed factories, closed dealerships, laid off thousands and thousands of workers – he did it to try to save the business.”

Limbaugh has gotten his voluminous knickers in a twist because Romney is essentially acknowledging that what Obama did was a good thing. Limbaugh and his legion of cranky followers believe Obama’s action was a frightening display of big government socialism aimed at preserving union pensions and union jobs. To them, Romney’s words are capitulation, if not treason.

In fact, the Republican front-runner’s comments amount to something else: another huge flip-flop. In a New York Times op-ed piece in 2008, Romney wrote, “If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye."

What Romney wanted for the car companies was a structured bankruptcy that would have, in Bain Capital style, slashed pensions and jobs, undercut the unions and mollified investors. What the companies got, instead, was an infusion of federal money and a brief period of government oversight.

The result? Two years later, the U.S. automakers are one of the rare success stories of these dismal economic times. General Motors has added thousands of jobs and invested $2 billion in 17 manufacturing plants. Chrysler has done so well that the company paid off the federal loan six years ahead of schedule. And despite Limbaugh’s nasty assertion that Detroit had been rescued only to “market a stupid-ass car that nobody wants,” there are some stylish, innovative new products rolling off those American assembly lines.

Amazingly, Romney now claims this was all his idea. A Romney spokesman told the New York Times, “You have to acknowledge that he (Romney) was advocating for a course of action that eventually the Obama administration adopted.”

Michigan’s former Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, told MSNBC that Romney is performing “circus-like contortions” on this issue. “If this had gone the way Mitt Romney had wanted it to go and there was no rescue of the auto industry,” she said, “then we would have seen 1.4 million people unemployed. In Michigan alone, it would have been a 20% unemployment rate.… The guy is shameless.”

Limbaugh huffs and puffs and fumes because Obama’s approach put workers ahead of bondholders. Romney’s original plan would have been much more to Limbaugh’s liking in that regard. Now, it’s not exactly obvious where Romney, the son of a former auto executive, stands on this issue.

Does Romney favor government intervention to save American industries? If so, he’s anathema to Limbaugh’s "dittoheads" and most of the tea party. If not, how can he claim any share of credit for one of Obama’s biggest bragging points? 

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Don't hide L.A. County's legal bills

    Don't hide L.A. County's legal bills

    Los Angeles County pays a lot of money to private law firms to defend against lawsuits brought by people who assert they were beaten, mistreated or abused while in custody, especially in the county's notorious jails. In order to adequately assess how well the county's sheriff and Board of Supervisors...

  • The false populism of George Pataki

    The false populism of George Pataki

    I keep thinking we're done with George Pataki — but like an order of bad clams, he keeps coming back up on me.

  • A hazy ruling on abusive speech from the Supreme Court

    A hazy ruling on abusive speech from the Supreme Court

    In overturning the conviction of a man who posted violent "rap lyrics" about his estranged wife and others on Facebook, the Supreme Court on Monday rightly made it harder to criminalize hateful speech. But the decision stopped short of requiring that prosecutors prove that a defendant intended...

  • Will Gawker go union?

    Will Gawker go union?

    As union membership declines, even modest unionization efforts take on symbolic importance. Each case seems like a sign of things to come. Success or failure at the individual level seems to portend success or failure for the broader movement.

  • California agriculture: It's worth the water

    California agriculture: It's worth the water

    Pundits here in drought-stricken California have become fond of proclaiming that farms consume 80% of the state's water and generate only about 2% of its gross domestic product. "Why devote so much of our water to an industry that contributes so little fuel to our economic engine?" they ask.

  • Legalize lane-splitting, with some caveats

    Legalize lane-splitting, with some caveats

    On the face of it, it seems absolutely insane to allow motorcycles to ignore the lanes on the road and to whiz past cars by going between them. What if the biker misjudges and hits a car because he's too close on one side or another? What if a car moves a little to the left or right — still staying...