A victory lap

A VICTORY LAP…. When President Obama intervened last year to rescue American auto manufacturers, Republicans were apoplectic, and felt they had all the proof they needed that the White House was bent on a radical, socialistic agenda to destroy capitalism. The GOP screamed that the industry rescue wouldn’t — and couldn’t — work, and that the entire scheme would be a disaster for taxpayers and our very way of life.

A year later, the president is understandably boasting about getting the policy right, and as the Washington Post noted this morning, “many of the critics have retreated from their sharpest attacks as they watch the auto industry once again turn a profit.”

With this in mind, the president used his weekly address to take a victory lap, and explain that while the industry bailout wasn’t ideal, he had to make the tough call — a decision that we now know was correct.

Recording the address at a GM plant in Detroit, Obama explained, “[I]f some folks had their way, none of this would be happening at all. This plant might not exist. There were leaders of the ‘just say no’ crowd in Washington who argued that standing by the auto industry would guarantee failure. One called it ‘the worst investment you could possibly make.’ They said we should just walk away and let these jobs go. Today, the men and women in this plant are proving these cynics wrong. Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, our auto industry has added 55,000 jobs — the strongest period of job growth in more than ten years. For the first time since 2004, all three American automakers are operating at a profit. Sales have begun to rebound. And plants like this that wouldn’t have existed if all of us didn’t act are now operating maximum capacity. ”

The president made nearly identical points in a speech to factory workers yesterday. The point wasn’t subtle, but it was accurate — if we’d listened to Republicans, the American auto industry would be left in shambles, hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost, and the backbone of American manufacturing would have been broken. At a moment of crisis, Republicans got it wrong. Again.

MSNBC’s First Read noted yesterday, “We said it at the time: As the GM bailout goes, so goes the Obama presidency. It was the bailout everyone in America could understand, and it wasn’t popular…. A year later, however, the Obama administration believes it has a good story to tell.”

There are worse things to base an election on — Republicans were prepared to let the American auto industry fail at the height of the Great Recession, but President Obama rescued it instead. If the auto bailout and Obama’s presidency are inextricably tied, the White House has reason to boast.