In case you needed another sign of just how untenable Mitt Romney’s position on the auto bailout has become, right-leaning writers are now unloading on it, essentially demanding that he stop the nonsense and come up with a better way of dealing with the issue.
Michael Gerson, for instance, is bluntly telling Romney that his stance on the auto-rescue is akin to embracing a “conservatism that prefers ideology to reality.” Charles Lane, meanwhile, makes a strong case that Romney’s new line — that the bailout amounts to “crony capitalism” and a giveaway to “union bosses” — is stretching it.
While neither writer fully endorses Obama’s approach, their twin jabs make an important point: No president would have allowed the entire economy of the upper midwest to crater amid the meltdown.
This comes as a new report in the Times story on Romney’s auto bailout stance contained an amusing revelation. Romney has claimed that the companies should have gone through a managed bankruptcy, but Obama’s auto task force couldn’t even get the company co-founded by Romney to help finance it:
In fact, the task force asked Bain Capital, the private equity company that Mr. Romney helped found, if it was interested in investing in General Motors’ European operations, according to one person with direct knowledge of the discussions.
Bain declined, this person said, speaking anonymously to discuss private negotiations.
In his now-infamous 2008 Op ed, Romney suggested, in addition to aguing that the auto companies should go through a managed bankruptcy, that the federal government should “provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing.” But on the core question — whether only the federal government could and should have provided the billions in financing necessary for the auto companies to undergo that process — Obama got it right, and Romney got it wrong.
Yet the perceived ideological imperatives of the GOP primary require Romney to continue arguing that government intervention proved a massive failure. The only way to do this is to make the unprovable and untenable claim that things would be better still without the bailout.
* Romney’s love-hate relationships with government: As Steve Benen notes, there was a time when Romney was able to discuss government investment in cost-benefit terms, rather than in exclusively ideological ones.
* Will debt limit figure in Campaign 2012? As National Journal notes today, it’s not impossible that the debt limit will need to be raised again before the election or by the end of the year.
Assignment desk: As President, would Romney, who continues to whack Santorum for voting to raise the debt ceiling, really oppose raising it himself?
* Who is doing the actual sacrificing to cut spending? Advocates for federal workers remain angry about the payroll tax cut deal, aguing that two years of frozen wages means the country’s 2 million civil servants have now contributed over $60 billion to lowering the cost of government.
Whatever damage this fight did to Republicans, they have managed to hold the line against any higher taxes on the rich for three years now, and Dems have gone along with making federal workers bear the brunt of sacrifice.
* Another day, another Romney truth-stretch: Glenn Kessler knocks down the ubiquitous Romney-GOP talking point that Obama pledged that his stimulus plan would hold unemployment below eight percent.
Special bonus dissembling: As Kessler notes, the info to disprove this one is actually available on the Romney Web site: “given that the facts are clearly known to the Romney campaign, it is distressing that Romney would continue hype it up into such a misleading assertion.”
Distressing, perhaps, but not at all surprising, given the Romney campaign’s history of repeating previously debunked falsehoods.
* Santorum-mentum!!! Gallup finds that Santorum has expanded his national lead over Romney among registered Republicans and GOP leaners to 10 points, with the latter down to 26 percent, tying his low point from late January. Yes, I know, national numbers don’t matter to the outcome. But they do signal his inability to close the deal with key GOP consituencies.
* Romney catches Santorum in Michigan as pro-Santorum Super PAC cranks up: A new poll finds that Romney is leading Santorum by a statistically insignificant two points in Michigan after trailing in multiple other polls. Meanwhile, the pro-Santorum Super PAC is preparing to spend another $600,000 on ads there — yet another measure of how enormously high the consequences of a Romney loss in his home state would be.
* Romney spending huge money on early primaries: Guess how much the Romney campaign spent to win only two out of four early contests in January? A cool 18 million.
And that doesn’t even include the cash spent by the pro-Romney Super PAC, which spent another $14 million.
* GOP primaries growing more negative and vicious: T.W. Farnam runs the numbers and finds that some 50 percent of the ads throughout the GOP nomination process have been negative, up from single digits four years ago. It’s another sign of how volatile this race has been, thanks to the unwillingness of GOP voters to accept Romney, and of how potentially damaging this process could prove for the nominee.
* And your sorely needed Tuesday comic relief: A top Santorum adviser applies the words “radical Islamic” to ... Obama’s energy policies.
She later acknowledged she misspoke. Apparently the phrase “radical Islamic” is so ready at hand for some on the right that it can be effortlessly applied to just about anything related to Obama.