Fact-check: Text of 2008 Romney op-ed debunks Obama’s auto-bailout attack

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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The text of a 2008 op-ed on the auto bailout by Republican nominee Mitt Romney debunks attacks by President Barack Obama, who accused Romney of changing his position during the third and final presidential debate on Monday night.

“If we had taken your advice, Gov. Romney, about our auto industry, we’d be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China,” Obama said.

“But what we also have been able to do is position ourselves so we can start rebuilding America, and that’s what my plan does,” Obama said later. “Making sure that we’re bringing manufacturing back to our shores so that we’re creating jobs here, as we’ve done with the auto industry, not rewarding companies that are shipping jobs overseas.”

Toward the end of the debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney hit back against Obama’s auto bailout statements.

“I just want to take one of those points, again, attacking me as not talking about an agenda for, for getting more trade and opening up more jobs in this country,” Romney said. “But the president mentioned the auto industry and that somehow I would be in favor of jobs being elsewhere. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“I’m a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car company,” Romney added. “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 [George W.] 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.”

As Romney was starting his next sentence, Obama cut across him, saying, “Gov. Romney, that’s not what you said.”

“You can take a look at the op-ed,” Romney replied.

Obama replied, saying, “You did not say that you would provide government help.”

Romney then fired off: “I said that we would provide guarantees, and — and that was what was able to allow these companies to go through bankruptcy, to come out of bankruptcy. 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.”

Still unsatisfied with Romney’s answer, Obama told Romney and Schiffer, “Let’s check the record.”

After more back-and-forth between Obama and Romney, Obama took the mic back. “I think anybody out there can check the record,” Obama said. “Gov. 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.”

The Romney op-ed both candidates were referring to ran in The New York Times on Nov. 18, 2008 under the headline “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” and appears to support Romney’s position.

In the op-ed, Romney said he thought the government should play a role in handling a managed bankruptcy. “The American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing,” Romney wrote in the op-ed. “A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs. The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.”

“In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check,” Romney added.

Under the Obama administration, Detroit still went bankrupt. General Motors and Chrysler sank into bankruptcy, but instead of having open bankruptcy proceedings in a court, the Obama White House ran the proceedings. Many people won as a result of the bailout, but many others lost, too. Perhaps the biggest loss was that of the 20,000 non-union Delphi salaried retirees, who lost their pensions and benefits programs as they were headed into retirement as a result of a Treasury Department and White House decision.

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