For a while now, I have been suggesting that a campaign built on the car-company bailout is, to put it mildly, dumb. “Bailout” is not a positive word with the public, and this bailout was not a success. Adding his considerable weight to the latter point, Glenn Kessler writes:
We take no view on whether the administration’s efforts on behalf of the automobile industry were a good or bad thing; that’s a matter for the editorial pages and eventually the historians. But we are interested in the facts the president cited to make his case.
What we found is one of the most misleading collections of assertions we have seen in a short presidential speech. Virtually every claim by the president regarding the auto industry needs an asterisk, just like the fine print in that too-good-to-be-true car loan.
For starters, Chrysler has not paid back all the money. (“Obama is counting only the $8.5 billion loan that he made to Chrysler, not the $4 billion that President George W. Bush extended in his last month in office.”) And it’s also not the case that GM hired back all its laid-off workers. (“Obama is only talking about a sliver of workers — the 9,600 workers who were laid off in the fourth quarter of 2008.”)
And what would an Obama speech be without a strawman? Kessler debunks the argument that the choice was between the bailout and “doing nothing”:
This is quite a straw man — that many people wanted to do nothing. It was never so black and white. The debate was over the right course to take in the bankruptcy process.
Thus, the president gets three Pinocchios.
This is rather devastating considering that the success of the bailout was supposed to be one of the centerpieces of Obama’s reelection message. The best he can do is a series of exaggerations and out-and-out misrepresentations about a policy most Americans don’t like anyway?
In the absence of coherent and successful policies, the administration again and again resorts to spin and untruths. Obamacare will cut health-care costs. The car bailout is a success. Paul Ryan wants to throw Granny to the wolves. But the serial novelization of Obama’s “successes” should tell us something; the nonfictional version of his record is not going to be a best seller.