Before we abandon the auto bailout as a topic, I’d like to focus a little more tightly on the interplay it has inspired between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, because there’s something about it that seems strangely familiar.
With the bailout now acknowledged as a rather remarkable success, Romney’s staff is trying to claim credit by pointing to an op-ed piece written by the former Massachusetts governor back in November 2008. As the New York Times reports:
“Mitt Romney had the idea first,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney spokesman, citing the Times opinion article. “You have to acknowledge that. He was advocating for a course of action that eventually the Obama administration adopted.”
If you read the op-ed in question, you find there’s actually some truth to Fehrnstrom’s claim.
“It is not wrong to ask for government help, but the automakers should come up with a win-win proposition,” Romney wrote back in ‘08, stressing the need to tear up old labor contracts, install new management, put more money into research and development of new products and make sure that investors pay the price for their bad decisions.
“Don’t ask Washington to give shareholders and bondholders a free pass — they bet on management and they lost,” Romney wrote.
In broad terms, that’s pretty much the course that Obama followed. But of course, the story doesn’t end there. Let’s briefly review the chain of events:
1.) Romney lays out broad outlines of a plan to rescue American auto industry.
2.) Obama implements a plan that follows general contours of Romney plan.
3.) Conservative Republicans erupt in fury at Obama plan, condemning it as a government takeover of industry and accusing Obama of being a socialist Marxist Kenyan secularist Muslim, or something like that.
4.) Romney joins the withering condemnation of the Obama plan, ignoring the fact that it’s quite similar to his own. He says it’s “a very sad circumstance for this country … really tragic in a lot of ways.”
5.) The plan works, inspiring Romney to try to reclaim authorship of a plan that he earlier attacked as “really tragic” and “very sad.”
Now, is it just me, or have I heard this same storyline before? There’s just something about that narrative that rings a bell. Anybody help me out here?
– Jay Bookman