On Granholm and the Auto Bailout

Reader J. H. writes in:

I lived in Michigan for 12 years.  Most of those years I suffered through the governorship of Jennifer Granholm.  Besides looking like a lunatic in her speech at the DNC, she also demonstrated her greatest strength as a politician, her ability to utterly obfuscate the truth.  Her main point of emphasis, appropriately, was the auto bailout in which she argued that President Obama “saved” the auto industry.

This argument is not only tired, but is also one that simply isn’t true.  I know that Republicans don’t want to hear this, but it was actually George W. Bush who “saved” the auto industry by giving them the bridge loans.  President Obama didn’t save the auto industry, he saved the UAW from a bankruptcy judge.This argument becomes further clouded in dishonesty by the claim that Mitt Romney said to let the companies go bankrupt.  Somehow, this is seen as something different than what actually happened.  The auto industry did, in fact, go bankrupt.  Had the government not intervened, the auto companies would have had to file bankruptcy and go before a bankruptcy judge.  The administration merely bypassed standard bankruptcy proceedings and acted as the bankruptcy judge.  The only difference in the result has nothing to do with survival, but rather the re-distribution from bond holders toward union members.

What bothers me, however, is not that she says these things (she said far more idiotic things during her tenure as governor), but rather than this reasoning goes utterly unquestioned.  While I don’t expect the media to look at anything that doesn’t involve birth control or the Kardashians in depth, I do expect more from the Republican party.  The only argument that Republicans seem to make is that this was a government takeover of the auto industry.  The problem is that while that argument appeals to conservatives, it doesn’t appeal to everyone else.  The mere mention of more government intervention is not necessarily bad for non-ideologues in the electorate.  The general public only notices what is seen, not what is not seen.  They don’t observe the counterfactual.  Thus, they see that auto workers got to keep their jobs and the only notion of a counterfactual is when folks like Granholm tell them that had they not done exactly what they did, the world would have imploded.  (The “catastrophe” straw man is a Granholm specialty.)

The Republicans have a strong argument here:  President Obama and his administration violated the rule of law for political gain.  I understand if the Republicans don’t want to make the auto bailout a big issue, but they could at least make sensible arguments in response.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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