Last Sunday’s column in this space headlined, “Will Ohio autoworkers back prez?” prompted an email from Gov. John Kasich’s press secretary, Rob Nichols, that led to an exchange about Kasich’s stand on the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler.
Here’s what Nichols, a pretty decent chap as political mouthpieces go, wrote:
“Can you send me your source for this line please? To do so, Kasich would have had to acknowledge that he was wrong in opposing the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler.”
The gist of the column was that Kasich’s opposition to President Obama’s commitment of billions of federal dollars to keep the two auto giants from going under could affect the outcome of the presidential election in the swing state of Ohio. It was also noted that the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney, had strongly advised against federal intervention, saying “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” in an opinion piece published in the New York Times.
Romney has not backed down from that position.
In response to Nichols’ query, this writer sent the following email:
“After President Obama’s slam at the governor for not mentioning the auto bailout in his (Republican convention) address, I did a Google search and found numerous references to Kasich’s position on the auto bailout (which confirmed my recollection) including this: When first asked about the financial aid for the auto industry in 2008, Kasich dismissed the idea, saying, “If they’re not going to be viable, we shouldn’t throw good money after bad.”’
To which Nichols replied: “That’s a far cry from saying that he opposed the bailout, and it is hinged on the concept [of] their viability — and they turned out to be viable. After four years and thousands of man hours searching for something, that’s the only thing the Democrats could find — paper thin weak. He never opposed the bailout.”
To which this writer wrote:
“Given that the issue of the auto bailout will loom large in the waning days of the presidential election, what is Kasich’s position? I was not able to find any definitive statement from him saying he supported the bailout. If he did not oppose it — I saw a recent story pertaining to his appearance on CNN in which he ducked a question about Romney’s opposition — what was/is his position? Does the governor believe that the Republican presidential nominee was wrong in saying, ‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt?’”
But Nichols is unwavering in his contention that Kasich’s comments about the bailout cannot be interpreted as his opposing it.
“The governor wasn’t in Congress when the bailout was passed and he did not weigh in on it while he was working in the private sector, so he neither takes credit for its effects nor does he — and nor did he — criticize it,” the press secretary wrote. “Make no mistake, he’s thrilled that the industry is rebounding, appreciates the size of its economic footprint in Ohio, and is proud that during his administration the state has worked with both bailout and non-bailout companies (Chrysler, Ford and GM) to incentivize new investments and job creation.”
Democrats nationally aren’t about to give Ohio’s governor a pass.
According to the Toledo Blade, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, addressing the Ohio delegation at the Democratic National Convention, said, “President Obama’s turnaround of the auto industry is so important to the country’s economy and more important to the people of Ohio. That’s something John Kasich opposed. Mitt Romney opposed it. They said we should have let the auto industry go bankrupt.”
There’s no doubt that the Obama campaign will keep pounding away at Romney for opposing the bailout and will keep the issue front and center in Ohio.
Straddling the fence
And that raises the question of Gov. Kasich’s position. If he did not oppose the federal government’s intervention, he certainly did not support it. Does straddling the fence on an issue of such great importance give him cover?
“We had a million jobs at stake in places like Ohio and Michigan, and we needed to make sure we acted quickly,” the president has said, noting that the bailout was very unpopular with the American people.
But the successful turnaround of GM — the Lordstown plant and its highly successful Chevrolet Cruze is a prime example — and Chrysler in Ohio has vindicated the Democrats and has put Kasich in an untenable position.