Eric Fehrnstrom — the Romney campaign adviser best known for saying that the former Massachusetts governor’s right wing primary positions could be erased like an Etch a Sketch — is making news again with another dubious claim.
Fehrnstrom told a Washington Post panel on Saturday that President Obama’s decision to bail out the American auto industry was actually Mitt Romney’s idea.
“[Romney's] position on the bailout was exactly what President Obama followed. I know it infuriates them to hear that,” Fehrnstrom said. “The only economic success that President Obama has had is because he followed Mitt Romney’s advice.”
Fehrnstrom may be right that his claim will infuriate liberals, but the rest of his statement is false. Romney, who famously penned a November 2008 op-ed in the New York Times titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” cannot credibly claim to have advised President Obama to keep Chrysler and GM from going under.
In the op-ed, Romney argue that the two auto giants go through a managed bankruptcy where the only funding would come from the private sector — even though, as the Obama administration’s “car czar” Steven Rattner has pointed out, “in late 2008 and early 2009, when G.M. and Chrysler had exhausted their liquidity, every scrap of private capital had fled to the sidelines.”
Romney’s comments in the days before Michigan primary further undermined his ability to both win his father’s home state and to take credit for the bailout. In a February op-ed in the Detroit News, Romney slammed the bailout as “crony capitalism” and wrote that “all the defects in President Obama’s management of the American economy are evident in what he did.”
“The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse,” Romney wrote. “I believe that without his intervention things there would be better.”
It’s not surprising that the Romney campaign would want to take credit for the auto bailout, which is now both popular and successful. Given Romney’s long history of attacking the policy, however, no amount of Etch a Sketch shaking would be likely to erase voters’ memories of his true position.