In the words of the patron saint of the Republican Party, Ronald Reagan, “There you go again” — Governor John Kasich.
In 1980, Reagan, the Republican nominee for president, used that phrase numerous times in his debates with Democratic President Jimmy Carter. It was a strategy designed to disarm Carter whenever the president tried to point out his challenger’s shortcomings.
Today, the phrase is being applied to Republican Kasich in a similar effort: To disarm him in his continuing attempt to denigrate his predecessor, Democrat Ted Strickland, with regard to the auto industry in Ohio.
Last week, in announcing that Chrysler Corp. will invest $365 million in the expansion of its Toledo Assembly complex and that Republic Steel will shell out $85 million to upgrade its manufacturing plant in Lorain, the first-year governor couldn’t help himself.
“I went up to Detroit after the election and I had one of the big car executives shaking his finger at me about how Ohio is failing, Ford is going to invest a billion in Ohio, $2 billion in Michigan. Everybody else is beneath us.
“Chrysler is going to have more things to say. Stay tuned. And General Motors, they like their plant. They upgraded it. Advanced manufacturing may be alive and well in the state of Ohio. We need to focus on it, and we need to bring it back.”
Kasich’s comments appeared in a story by Jim Provance, chief of the Toledo Blade’s Columbus bureau.
Thus, the reaction from this writer, “There you go again” Mr. Kasich.
Nine months ago in this space, Strickland all but called his successor a liar for saying that top executives of General Motors, Chrysler and Ford told him they weren’t happy with the way they were treated by the previous administration.
“I heard words like noncompetitive,” the governor said in January after his meeting in Detroit with officials of the three companies. “I heard words like non-cooperative. I heard words like created a bad attitude and a bad impression. We are not viewed in that community as the most forward-looking state.”
Asked to respond, Strickland, who lost his bid for second four-year term in November 2010, didn’t hold back.
“I question his honesty in the way he’s presenting this. I just think it’s so inconsistent with my experience, my personal relationship I had with these individuals.”
And as was pointed out in the column of Jan. 30, the facts on the ground in the Mahoning Valley certainly don’t back up Kasich’s claim about the auto industry’s negative impression of Ohio.
During Strickland’s tenure, General Motors chose its Lordstown assembly plant over several around the country to manufacture the Chevrolet Cruze, its latest offering in the highly competitive compact car market. The company spent more than $350 million upgrading the plant. This, after it had invested $1 billion several years ago to prepare the plant for the highly successful Chevrolet Cobalt and the Pontiac G5.
The decision to build the Cruze in the Valley has paid off handsomely for General Motors. It is the top selling compact car in the nation, and the auto maker is so confident of the continued performance of the plant that it has decided to build the diesel version of the Cruze in the Valley.
Likewise, during Strickland’s tenure, the French multinational corporation, Vallourec, announced a $650 million investment in the Valley for a state-of-the-art steel pipe-making facility adjacent to its V&M Star plant in Youngstown.
The brand spanking new manufacturing plant along Route 422 certainly challenges the governor’s notion that nothing good was going on in Ohio before he took office in January.
Kasich, like other Republican politicians in Ohio and in Washington, opposed the federal government’s financial investment in General Motors and Chrysler to prevent them from total collapse.
It’s time for the governor and his GOP cohorts, at least in Ohio, to admit that they were wrong about the bailout.
As for the car company executives who gave Ohio such a negative review — pre-Kasich, of course — he should man up and identify them.