When the history of the 2012 presidential campaign is written, the absurdity of presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney taking credit for the rebound of the U.S. auto industry will warrant an entry all its own.
During a interview this week with a Cleveland TV station, the Michigan native and former Massachusetts governor said his advice that Detroit automakers should undergo managed bankruptcy before seeking private financing led to the turnaround in the domestic industry's fortunes.
George W. Bush gave GM and Chrysler bridge loans in the last month of his presidency, so that the companies could avoid a death spiral that would haven taken the supply chain and a large part of the nation's economy down with them.
Before that, Mr. Romney published an essay in the New York Times with the now famous headline: "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." He extolled the conservative mantra of free markets, advising the automakers to seek private financing and spare taxpayers the need to bail them out.
The next year, President Obama continued the industry bailout his predecessor began. The nation's top banks were still traumatized by the financial system's recent near-death experience.
Detroit could not gain access to the billions of dollars in private capital Mr. Romney expected automakers to get. It fell to Mr. Obama to write a check on behalf of the nation, making partners of taxpayers in the venture.
Yet Mr. Romney said this week: "I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry's come back." He can't have it both ways -- "Drop dead, Detroit" in 2008 and "I saved you" in 2012.
On this issue as so many others, the candidate needs to pick the Mitt Romney he wants to be, and stick with him.
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