President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden both accused
Republican Mitt Romney yesterday of inaccurately portraying his stance on the
American auto bailout during Monday's debate.
"Gov. Romney looked you right in the eye, looked me in the eye, trying to pretend that he never said let Detroit go bankrupt," Obama told 9,500 at a joint rally with Biden in Dayton. "Tried to pretend that he meant the same thing I did when we intervened and worked to make sure that management and workers got together to save the U.S. auto industry -- pretended like somehow I had taken his advice.
"If Mitt Romney had been president when the auto industry was on the verge of collapse, we might not have an American auto industry today."
The accusations stemmed from the third and final debate between Obama and Romney. It was supposed to be about foreign policy, but the two candidates tussled over whether Romney supported offering billions in federal loans to General Motors and Chrysler in late 2008 and 2009.
Obama incorrectly accused Romney on Monday night of having never stated support for government aid to the auto companies, but it's more complicated than that.
Romney wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times in November 2008 with the headline "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." He didn't write the headline, but in the article argued that if the "bailout" took place, "you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye."
In the same piece, Romney argued for the auto companies to first go into a managed bankruptcy, and "the federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk."
When the subject came up toward the end of the debate, Romney rejected any contention that he would have let the auto industry fail -- citing his heritage as the son of a former auto executive. He reiterated his idea for a managed bankruptcy, but then said "in that process, they can get government help and government guarantees."
After the debate, Romney's debate practice partner, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, said Romney "advocated government help for the auto companies to get them back on their feet" and denied that Romney opposed the bailout.
The difference, and the crux of the argument over the bailout for virtually the entire presidential campaign, is when the loans should have been offered.
They were provided to the two companies first by President George W. Bush and then by Obama -- totaling more than $80 billion -- under the premise that the companies did not have enough cash on hand to avoid liquidation and that there was no private financing available to float the companies into bankruptcy.
Until Monday night, Romney and his supporters had made it clear they believed government aid should have followed bankruptcy. Biden said Romney "tried to rewrite the history of his position on rescuing the automobile industry."
Romney spokesman Chris Maloney said the Obama-Biden "attack ... is clearly designed to hide his failed record and lack of an agenda," and that Romney "proposed the right course for the automakers."
At a Biden rally earlier yesterday at the University of Toledo, auto-parts-supply worker Corey Humbarger, 41, of Wauseon, said Romney was trying to mislead the public on the bailout.
"He knew where he was on the loans," Humbarger said.
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