[h/t Heather at VideoCafe]
Mitt Romney's rewrite of the auto bailout and China investments in the debate gave President Obama a wide-open door to employ the Reagan "there you go again" strategy on Mitt Romney, particularly in this exchange (though there were many) about China and Detroit. The scene opens just after Mitt has made a particularly specious attack on the president, claiming once again that Obama's China policies haven't worked, and in probably the most cynical statement of the evening, they're causing jobs to be shipped overseas. Yes, he actually said that, and the president wasn't going to let him get away with it.
OBAMA: Well, Governor Romney's right, you are familiar with jobs being shipped overseas because you invested in companies that were shipping jobs overseas.
And, you know, that's -- you're right. I mean that's how our free market works. But I've made a different bet on American workers.
If we had taken your advice Governor Romney about our auto industry, we'd be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China.
Mitt was not amused, and then made a typically cynical play on the assumption that people in Ohio and Michigan would be stupid enough to believe this:
I'm a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car company. I like American cars. And I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry. My plan to get the industry on its feet when it was in real trouble was not to start writing checks. It was President Bush that wrote the first checks. I disagree with that. I said they need -- these companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy. And in that process, they can get government help and government guarantees, but they need to go through bankruptcy to get rid of excess cost and the debt burden that they'd -- they'd built up.
Yeah, no. He said nothing of the kind. Nothing like that whatsoever. He objected from the get-go to any government guarantees of any kind, which President Obama tried to point out, only to get the usual Romney smackdown tossed at him: "I'm still speaking." That's code for shut up and sit down, oh you're already sitting then shut up already. In case you didn't know.
When President Obama was finally able to speak, no thanks to Bob Schieffer, the worst moderator of the four, he said this:
OBAMA: The -- look, I think anybody out there can check the record. Governor Romney, you keep on trying to, you know airbrush history here. You were very clear that you would not provide, government assistance to the U.S. auto companies, even if they went through bankruptcy. You said that they could get it in the private marketplace. That wasn't true. They would have gone through a...
Airbrush history = There you go again. Perfect frame for this bit of nonsense.
As for the facts, President Obama promised they would be checked, and indeed they have been checked. Here is Mitt Romney, in his own words:
It is not wrong to ask for government help, but the automakers should come up with a win-win proposition. I believe the federal government should invest substantially more in basic research — on new energy sources, fuel-economy technology, materials science and the like — that will ultimately benefit the automotive industry, along with many others. I believe Washington should raise energy research spending to $20 billion a year, from the $4 billion that is spent today. The research could be done at universities, at research labs and even through public-private collaboration. The federal government should also rectify the imbedded tax penalties that favor foreign carmakers.
But don’t ask Washington to give shareholders and bondholders a free pass — they bet on management and they lost.
The whole point of his op-ed was to say that automakers should go through a managed bankruptcy to bust unions and the only government guarantees post-bankruptcy should be to cover warranties at risk. He even said the industry should shed excess jobs!
'Airbrushing history' might be a little bit too kind, but it had the right effect -- gently reminding viewers that yet again, Mitt Romney was lying to them on a matter of great importance.