Boehner flubs auto policy — twice

In 2009, with the American automotive industry on the verge of collapse, and with at least a million American jobs on the line, President Obama unveiled a rescue strategy. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), like the rest of his party, predicted the policy would fail miserably. Two years later, we now know Obama was right and Boehner and the GOP were wrong.

It takes a mature and responsible adult to admit when he’s wrong. It takes a Republican leader to screw up the same fight twice.

…Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) would rather have seen those jobs disappear, as his spokesman said yesterday that the auto industry’s revival is “nothing to celebrate”:

“The administration’s auto bailout is nothing to celebrate,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican. “The model the White House should be touting is Ford, which, instead of relying on a taxpayer-funded bailout, saw trouble coming and made the tough decisions necessary to preserve jobs and weather the storm.”

There are two key angles to this to keep in mind. The first is the notion that the rescue of the industry is “nothing to celebrate.” President Obama explained yesterday, “Today, each of the Big Three automakers — Chrysler, GM, and Ford — is turning a profit for the first time since 2004. Chrysler has repaid every dime and more of what it owes American taxpayers for their support during my presidency — and it repaid that money six years ahead of schedule…. Most importantly, all three American automakers are now adding shifts and creating jobs at the strongest rate since the 1990s…. That’s remarkable when you think about where we were just a couple of years ago.”

If you have America’s best interests at heart, and you consider these developments “nothing to celebrate,” then maybe your celebratory standards are in need of revision.

Second, Boehner’s office touting Ford is consistent with Republican Party talking points, but it overlooks the most relevant possible detail: Ford supported the Obama administration’s policy, and even though the company wasn’t directly part of the rescue, Ford has said many times the “bailout” was vital to Ford’s success.

Late last year, Ford CEO Alan Mullaly explained, “The government’s intervention was absolutely key to helping create a chance for GM and Chrysler going forward. That’s why I testified on behalf of GM and Chrysler, as you know. The reason we did was that we believed — like two presidents [Bush and Obama] — that if GM and Chrysler would have gone into freefall bankruptcy, they would have taken the supply base down and taken the industry down plus maybe turned the U.S. recession into a depression.”

This isn’t complicated. Ford didn’t get federal funds, but the company, like its American rivals, was struggling badly. If GM and Chrysler had collapsed, there’s absolutely no doubt that Ford wouldn’t have had the suppliers it needed to survive. Ford’s executives have already acknowledged this; it’s not exactly a contentious point.

I don’t really expect Boehner’s office to pat the president on the back for a job well done, but the public should realize that if we had followed the Speaker’s preferred course last year, this industry and American manufacturing in general would have been devastated — to a point from which there could have been no recovery.

The fact the nation chose a wiser path is absolutely something to celebrate.