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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Romney's lullaby can't soothe Detroit

Mitt Romney can't go home again.

Compelled in Detroit to simultaneously defend his call for a "managed bankruptcy" of GM and Chrysler in November '08, lambaste the Obama administration for essentially following his prescription six months later, and deny that he favored a federal "bailout", the contorted candidate has squeezed out a quintessence of his characteristic casuistry. Generally, this boils down to
  • what I did/said before was fundamentally in line with what I'm saying/recommending now, and
  • what my opponent did/said is fundamentally opposed to what  to what I'm saying/recommending now,
when in fact the opposite is closer to the truth.

I like to compare Romney's offerings to the electorate with the paradoxical gifts bestowed by the lover in an old folk song:
I gave my love a cherry that had no stone,
I gave my love a chicken that had no bone,
I gave my love a story that had no end,
I gave my love a baby with no cryin'.
 In this case, as Benji Sarlin at TPM explains, the baby with no cryin' is a bailout with no fundin':

At issue is confusion over just what the “bailout” was. Romney, who even in his “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” days in 2008 hinted that the government would need to provide help to keep the car companies alive, can’t fully embrace the idea that taxpayer money should have gone to GM and Chrysler without angering the right. So instead he keeps winking at Michigan voters that the Obama administration’s managed bankruptcy solution in mid-2009 was exactly what he would have recommended himself and GM would still be posting record profits if they had just taken his advice sooner without all those bailouts beforehand. Left unsaid is that in order to make that managed bankruptcy work without destroying the companies, the government had to step in with tens of billions of additional dollars in loans to keep them afloat.


Romney doesn’t like to talk about this part, alluding only to vague “help” from the federal government that he would have provided as president (and driving Detroit columnists insane in the process) [and do check out that 'insanity link' - xpost].
The impossible task of reconciling moderate Mitt with Tea Party Mitt has generated a platform full of self-cancelling policies: self-deportation for the undocumented, individual mandates for states but not the federal government, balanced budgets with no new taxes, and bailouts without financial resources.

But back home, where straight talker and one-company-at-a-time capitalist George Romney rescued one ailing auto company, the cherry with no stone ain't going down very smooth.

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