Wrong response to the wrong question

WRONG RESPONSE TO THE WRONG QUESTION…. It hasn’t gotten too much attention — all things considered, that’s probably a good thing — but MSNBC picked up on the calls from some conservatives for a boycott of General Motors. (The idea also got some airtime recently on “The Colbert Report.”)

A sizable share of Americans, recent surveys show, are reluctant to buy from a bankrupt automaker. Complicating matters, the bailout is triggering a harsh reaction from the conservative end of the political spectrum, with some high-profile pundits calling for an outright boycott of what many are calling “Government Motors.”

Among the most vocal is Hugh Hewitt, who has frequently called for a boycott to protest the “Obamaization of the American car business,” both on his syndicated radio show and on his blog.

Hewitt insists that “individual Americans” must resist buying the automaker’s products because, as he wrote in one blog entry, “every dollar spent with GM is a dollar spent against free enterprise.”

I rarely agree with Joe Scarborough, but two weeks ago, he described the idea of a GM boycott as “stupid,” and the conservative proponents of the boycott “morons.”

While that’s probably an impolite way of putting it, Scarborough’s larger point is certainly true. As we talked about earlier this month, these conservative activists have the situation backwards.

The Obama administration intervened to prevent GM’s collapse, but its goal is to see the auto manufacturer get back on its feet quickly. The White House doesn’t want to hold onto GM; it wants to divest as quickly as possible. A boycott, organized by far-right activists, would work against Americans’ interests — it would undermine GM, exacerbate the company’s problems, and undercut taxpayers who obviously have a lot invested in this arrangement.

If GM’s finances improve, the government can divest, American jobs will be saved, and taxpayers can get a return on their money. That would be a good thing.

There’s been (a little too much) debate in conservative circles over the last several months about whether, in the midst of multiple crises, it’s appropriate to root for failure. But it’s even more striking to see some conservatives trying to actively ensure failure, regardless of the consequences for the country.