News Column

Bill and Joe Go Trucking for Obama

Oct 30, 2012

James O'Toole


Pinch-hitting for President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden assailed Mitt Romney on Monday, charging that a new Republican ad aired here is deceptive in suggesting that Chrysler planned to move its Jeep production to China.

Mr. Clinton told a crowd at Youngstown State University that the claim was "the biggest load of bull in the world," pointing to a Chrysler Corp. statement that said that the firm was considering ramping up production in China but not at the expense of its North American operations.

The vice president echoed Mr. Clinton's indictment of the commercial. "Ladies and gentleman, they have no shame," he said. "Mitt Romney will say anything to be elected."

The criticisms were part of a broader assault on the former Massachusetts governor's position on the auto industry rescue, a pivotal issue in a state whose improving economy is heavily dependent on auto manufacturing. For more than a year, the Obama campaign has been reminding Ohio voters that Mr. Romney wrote a New York Times essay headlined, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."

"In defending the controversial essay," Mr. Clinton said, "[Mr. Romney] has tied himself up in more knots than a Boy Scout in a knot-tying contest."

As he did in the last debate, Mr. Romney has repeatedly contended that the headline distorted his plan, saying that he was in favor of a managed bankruptcy for Chrysler and GM that would not have been substantially different from the one presided over by the administration.

Mr. Biden joined the Democratic chorus of denunciations of that explanation by the Republican presidential candidate. He and his allies reject the notion that the industry could have avoided liquidation without the government aid provided by the Bush administration, and, on a larger scale, by Mr. Obama's team. Mr. Romney's article did include a call for a managed bankruptcy along with federal backing of loan guarantees for the firms. The administration argues, however, that the Romney proposal was unrealistic and would in fact have led to liquidation of the auto firms as well as their suppliers in that the collapse of the credit markets at the time of the bailout would have made such loans unattainable.

Mr. Biden denounced what he called Mr. Romney's "bizarre claim about the auto industry," contending that "this guy pirouettes more than a ballerina."

A spokesperson for the GOP campaign stood by the ad.

"It appears the Obama campaign is less concerned with engaging in a meaningful conversation about his failed policies and more concerned with arguing against facts about their record they dislike. The American people will see their desperate arguments for what they are," said Kate Meriwether of the Romney campaign.

Mr. Clinton and Mr. Biden were the headliners in an event that originally was to have featured the president. It was one of several campaign appearances that the president, like Mr. Romney, canceled in deference to Hurricane Sandy.

But the crowd of roughly 4,800, according to the fire marshal's estimate, didn't show any disappointment as they repeatedly cheered Mr. Clinton's dissection of Mr. Romney's plans, an assault coupled with an emphatic defense of the incumbent's record. The half-hour address -- nominally an introduction of the vice president -- echoed the Charlotte convention speech that earned him praise for a more persuasive defense of the administration than the president himself had managed.

Referring to the economic collapse that greeted the new administration in 2009 Mr. Clinton said, "Not a single person who has ever served as president could have repaired all that damage in four years -- it just couldn't be done."

Clearly enjoying himself, Mr. Clinton analyzed the spending implications of the budget plan shepherded by Rep. Paul Ryan, Mr. Romney's running mate, and of cuts that said would be inevitable to balance a spending plan that included Mr. Romney's tax cuts.

He said Romney's plan would mean a 33 percent cut in Medicaid over 10 years. He reminded the crowd that the program paid for health care for lower income citizens as well as nursing-home care that's a crutch to many middle-class families

Mr. Obama has enjoyed a persistent if slim lead in Ohio, exceeding his performance in national surveys. But Monday's rally was in a region that's been a challenge to the president, even in his successful 2008 campaign. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton won the Democratic primary here over Mr. Obama by the daunting margin of 54 percent to 45 percent. In Mahoning County, he met an even more severe drubbing as Ms. Clinton defeated him by a margin of nearly 2-to-1 -- 50,996 to 27,694.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

For more coverage on the automotive industry, please see HispanicBusiness' Auto Channel

Source: (c) 2012 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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