In the days leading up to the Michigan presidential primary, Mitt Romney cast himself as the savior of the beleaguered auto industry.
"I will roll up my sleeves in the first 100 days I'm in office, and I will personally bring together industry, labor, congressional, and state leaders and together we will develop a plan to rebuild America's automotive leadership," he said in Detroit.
And when rival John McCain gave some "straight talk" in Michigan that "Some of the jobs that have left the state of Michigan are not coming back," Romney jumped all over him and declared that he would not let the "one-state recession" continue.
Romney, whose father helped turn around American Motors Company in the 1950s, won the January primary to keep alive his ultimately unsuccessful presidential bid. George Romney stepped down as chairman and CEO of AMC in 1962 to run successfully for governor of Michigan, and served three terms.
Fast forward 11 months, and Romney is speaking out against a federal bailout of the auto industry as its leaders go to Capitol Hill for $25 billion in loans.
"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," the former Massachusetts governor wrote in an opinion piece published in today's New York Times.
"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."
That includes new labor deals so the companies can be more competitive, new management that will be more collaborative with labor, and big investments in new technology, says Romney, who made similar points in an interview this morning on CNN.
Romney, who is staying active in national GOP politics and could be positioning himself for another run in 2012, advocates a "managed bankruptcy" instead to save the industry.
"The American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing," he writes. "A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs. The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.
"In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.