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Why Michigan will not forgive Mitt Romney for his "auto bailout" opposition

FARMINGTON HILLS, MI - FEBRUARY 16: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to supporters at The Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon February 16, 2012 in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
FARMINGTON HILLS, MI - FEBRUARY 16: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to supporters at The Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon February 16, 2012 in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
(Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)

If Mitt Romney really understood his home state of Michigan, he would have either supported the bailout of the automobile industry, or kept quiet. Because of his vocal stance, he is now in deep trouble there. Tracey Harmon told Bloomberg News why.

Don’t tell Tracey Harmon that the $82 billion federal auto bailout was a bad idea.

Harmon and her sister moved from Ohio in the past two years to work at Chrysler Group LLC plants in Michigan (STOMI1) after President Barack Obama completed the rescue of the company and General Motors Co. (GM)

“That saved a lot of jobs,” Harmon, 40, said during lunch at a restaurant near the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, where she puts together doors for the Chrysler 200. Before the bailout, the plant had been scheduled to close.

The Michigan Republican primary will be held on February 28th and it was always assumed that the state was a "gimmie" for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. After all, Romney was raised in Michigan. But there are hundreds of Tracey Harmons in Michigan and they have family and friends and long memories.

In 2008, Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."That piece may come back to haunt Romney and he now knows it. He is trying to make up for it by posting a piece in the Detroit News.

I am a son of Detroit. I was born in Harper Hospital and lived in the city until my family moved to Oakland County.

I grew up drinking Vernors and watching ballgames at Michigan & Trumbull. Cars got in my bones early. And not just any cars, American cars.

When the president of American Motors died suddenly in 1954, my dad, George Romney, was asked to take his place. I was 7 and got my love of cars and chrome and fins and roaring motors from him. I grew up around the industry and watched it flourish. Years later, I watched with sadness as it floundered.

So far so good for Mitt Romney, until he tries to explain away his opposition to the "auto bailout."

Instead of doing the right thing and standing up to union bosses, Obama rewarded them.

A labor union that had contributed millions to Democrats and his election campaign was granted an ownership share of Chrysler and a major stake in GM, two flagships of the industry.The U.S. Department of Treasury — American taxpayers — was asked to become a majority stockholder of GM. And a politically connected and ethically challenged Obama-campaign contributor, the financier Steven Rattner, was asked to preside over all this as auto czar.

This was crony capitalism on a grand scale. The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse. I believe that without his intervention things there would be better.

"I believe that without his intervention things there would be better," says Romney and that is where he loses us. The fact that Mitt Romney is even writing and discussing, is an acknowledgement he screwed up on the bailout.

I say "Would be better?" In what way better. The big three automakers would have sold even more cars. Would Romney had busted the unions instead. Is that what he means by "Would be better?'

Disappointing from a man with such a working class background. His father, a real Horatio Alger figure. His father, George Romney was the CEO of American Motors Corporation from 1954 to 1962, the 43rd Governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969, and the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1969 to 1973.

His dad achieved this from a classic "rags to riches" story.

This time Michigan will vote differently. The automobile industry is closely identified with the state.

Mitt Romney won the 2008 Michigan Republican primary against the eventual nominee, John McCain. Romney won by a wide margin. Mitt Romney has deep roots in Michigan.

Yet at the end of 2008, Mitt Romney abandoned the state of Michigan, a state that he was closely aligned. Mitt Romney wrote a piece in the New York Times that was coldly titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."

If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.

Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself. With it, the automakers will stay the course — the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.

I love cars, American cars. I was born in Detroit, the son of an auto chief executive. In 1954, my dad, George Romney, was tapped to run American Motors when its president suddenly died. The company itself was on life support — banks were threatening to deal it a death blow. The stock collapsed. I watched Dad work to turn the company around — and years later at business school, they were still talking about it. From the lessons of that turnaround, and from my own experiences, I have several prescriptions for Detroit’s automakers.

Enough! On all points Mitt Romney was wrong. The most glaring is the first statement that with a bailout, you can "kiss the American automotive industry goodbye." Romney guaranteed (virtually) it. So much for Romney's guarantees.


The "suicidal course of declining market share." Hogwash.

The American car makers have increased market share. "Insurmountable labor and retiree burdens." Fixed.

"Technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses." We are leading the way technologically, our products are top-notch, and the job losses have stopped.

Mitt Romney could not be trusted on his vision for the auto industry. How can he be trusted on his vision for our country? Does he have a vision for the nation?

Here is how he ended his piece.

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

When you read that statement, Mitt Romney is not thinking like the President of the United States. He is thinking like the CEO of Bain Capital. America needs a President to run this country for the benefit of all Americans, not for the benefit of a hedge fund manager.

I say, "Let the Romney campaign Go Bankrupt."


Send John Presta an email and your story ideas or suggestions,

John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African-American studies, published by The Elevator Group Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots: How Barack Obama, Two Bookstore Owners, and 300 Volunteers did it. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books


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