It's as if Mitt Romney simply can't help himself. Gripped by an irresistible obsession to become President of the United States, Romney will lie to voters on almost any issue, large or small. And on no point is Romney's compulsion to fabricate more pathological than on President Obama's successful rescue of the American auto industry. As his new ad designed to dupe voters in Ohio and across the industrial Midwest makes clear, the same Mitt Romney who was content to "let Detroit go bankrupt" now pretends to be its savior.
The text of the new Romney spot seems impressive. Of course, it would be impressive if any of it was true.
"Who will do more for the auto industry? Not Barack Obama. Fact-checkers confirm his attacks on Mitt Romney are false. The truth? Mitt Romney has a plan to help the auto industry. He's supported by Lee Iacocca and the Detroit News. Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job."
Even by Mitt Romney's standard, the lie-per-second ratio is unprecedented. While his supposed "plan to help the auto industry" remains a mystery, the truth of President Obama's auto rescue is not.
For starters, Jeep is expanding production in the growing market of China and not, as Romney pretended on Friday, "thinking of moving all production to China." It's no wonder the Detroit Free Press reported that "Romney camp silent on his Jeep-to-China gaffe." To call it a "gaffe" is an act of journalistic kindness. But given Paul Ryan's continuing fraud about President Obama's supposedly broken promise to keep GM's Janesville, Wisconsin plant open, Romney's latest fraud should come as no surprise.
Of course, Romney's claim that "Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy" is a smokescreen for his November 2008 op-ed opposing President Bush's bailout for Detroit. As he put it four years ago:
"If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won't go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed."
As it turned out, the bridge funding from Uncle Sam kept GM and Chrysler afloat until the Obama rescue of 2009. (That February, Romney warned, "What is proposed is even worse than bankruptcy-it would make GM the living dead.") The federal investments in both companies combined with the arranged marriage between Fiat and Chrysler saved the American auto industry and with it over a million U.S. jobs.
Which is what makes Mitt Romney's claim in May that "I'll take a lot of credit" for Obama's salvation of Detroit so laughable. The private funding Romney suggests could have kept Chrysler and GM out of liquidation after the economic collapse of late 2008 simply wasn't available. As Obama's auto czar Steven Rattner explained in "Delusions about the Detroit Bailout" earlier this year:
"Without government financing -- initiated by President George W. Bush in December 2008 -- the two companies would not have been able to pursue Chapter 11 reorganization. Instead they would have been forced to cease production, close their doors and lay off virtually all workers once their coffers ran dry."
Rattner wasn't alone in highlighting Romney's delusional belief in that a "managed bankruptcy" leading to an injection of capital from private markets could save Detroit without intervention from the federal government. In admitting the success of President Obama's 2009 rescue of GM and Chrysler, USA Today concluded, "On what planet would the automakers have found private lenders willing to provide tens of billions of dollars in needed bankruptcy financing at the height of a financial panic?" Even Governor Rick Snyder and Congressman Fred Upton, his highest profile GOP endorsers during the Michigan primary, acknowledged that "there was no one that could have picked up those pieces other than the federal government." In February, The Economist ("A Detroiter in his Own Mind") took Romney to task for his comically revisionist history:
Free-marketeers that we are, The Economist agreed with Mr Romney at the time. But we later apologised for that position. "Had the government not stepped in, GM might have restructured under normal bankruptcy procedures, without putting public money at risk", we said. But "given the panic that gripped private purse-strings...it is more likely that GM would have been liquidated, sending a cascade of destruction through the supply chain on which its rivals, too, depended." Even Ford, which avoided bankruptcy, feared the industry would collapse if GM went down. At the time that seemed like a real possibility. The credit markets were bone-dry, making the privately financed bankruptcy that Mr Romney favoured improbable. He conveniently ignores this bit of history in claiming to have been right all along.
Instead, Mitt Romney was wrong the start. It's no wonder Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat and Chrysler mocked Mitt's whitewashing of the impossibility of a managed bankruptcy from private investors:
"Whoever told you that is smoking illegal material. That market had become absolutely dysfunctional in 2008 and 2009. There were attempts made by a variety of people to find strategic alliances with other car makers on a global scale and the government stepped in, as the actor of last resort. It had to do it because the consequences would have been just too large to deal with."
But that's hardly the end of Mitt Romney's scheme to pull the wool over the tens of thousands of Ohio workers whose jobs are linked to the auto industry. As it turns out, the man who often professes "I love American cars" isn't very keen about the people who make them. As McClatchy explained in February, "Mitt Romney is ripping labor unions at every turn":
"Once upon a time, labor unions fought to secure important protections for American workers and help our economy grow," Romney's campaign said this week. "Unfortunately, today they too often stand as obstacles to growth and fight against the workers they are supposed to serve."
He's slamming the federal bailout of Chrysler and General Motors, calling it a corrupt bargain between Democrats and the United Auto Workers that gave the union more control in exchange for campaign donations.
"I call it crony capitalism," Romney said this week. "I've taken on union bosses before. I'm happy to take them on again because I happen to believe that you can protect the interests of the American taxpayers and you can protect a great industry like automobiles without having to give in to the UAW, and I sure won't."
As Republican pollster Whit Ayres fretted about Romney's slanders at the time, "Among Republicans, it plays fine. Down the road, there may be some issues."
Which is why as the campaign reaches its climax, Mitt Romney is putting on a full-court press to play Ohio's voters for suckers. But by now, that should come as no surprise. Romney is like a reverse George Washington, a man who simply cannot tell the truth. And to live out his White House fantasy, Mitt Romney will deny he was only too happy to strangle the American auto industry.