Team Obama’s chief strategist stammered out a contradictory and evasive defense of the White House’s role in the Delphi bankruptcy settlement, which has left up to 20,000 older workers in Ohio with reduced or minimal pensions.
The 2009 bankruptcy of the auto-parts maker “was not the decision of the president,” David Axelrod first told reporters during an Oct. 23 midday press conference, after he was asked about a Delphi-related rally that Gov. Mitt Romney held in Ohio.
“This was a consequence of steps that were taken by the company [Delphi] itself to rationalize, so it could exist,” he insisted.
But Axelrod next seemed to admit that President Barack Obama played a role in the lopsided deal, which drained the retirement accounts of non-union workers while boosting the pension of workers in unions allied to the Democratic Party.
“Obviously we’re concerned about the workers there, but the policy that the president undertook was one that was designed to save the larger, you know, universe of people relying on the auto industry,” he claimed.
Emails obtained by The Daily Caller in August showed that the Treasury Department, led by Secretary Timothy Geithner, pushed for the cutoff of the non-union Delphi pensions, even as Treasury publicly said that the independent Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation made the decision.
The deal also boosted investors in Wall Street.
Axelrod next tried to delegitimize Romney’s continued criticism of the settlement during his campaign tours through the critical battleground state of Ohio.
The Delphi issue is important, because Obama’s campaign in Ohio consists of claiming credit for the auto-industry bailout. The Delphi deal damages Obama’s claim, because it took expected retirement funds from many older and vulnerable workers in Ohio neighborhoods.
“One thing that I would point out on this as the Romney campaign moralizes on this, is that Gov. Romney himself had financial interests related to Delphi,” Axelrod claimed. But Axelrod coupled this criticism with an apparent admission that Obama is also vulnerable to criticism on the Delphi settlement when he said that both Obama and Romney have “exposure on this.”
Romney “made more than $1 million investing in a hedge fund that swooped in and bought a stake in during its bankruptcy, so he has exposure on this issue as well,” Axelrod said.
Romney’s investment-managers invested some of his wealth in the massive New York hedge fund, which in turn, tried to make money from the Delphi bankruptcy.
But there’s no evidence that Romney sought to gain from Delphi’s bankruptcy.
Axelrod also argued that Romney’s criticism was made invalid by what he claimed was Romney’s opposition to federal support for the auto industry in 2009.
Listen to Axelrod:
“He has no standing to raise this point,” Axelrod said. “This a smoke-screen to try and cover up his own glaring missteps and deficiencies on this issue.”
In fact, in 2008, Romney used a New York Times op-ed to endorse federal support for the auto industry during a likely court-supervised bankruptcy reorganization during 2009.
“I said that we would provide guarantees … to allow these companies to go through bankruptcy, to come out of bankruptcy,” Romney told Obama during the Oct. 22 presidential debate.
“Under no circumstances would I do anything other than to help this industry get on its feet. And the idea that has been suggested that I would liquidate the industry, of course not. Of course not,” he said.