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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Stumping across the industrial Midwest as early voting begins, Mitt Romney is still misleading voters about the auto industry. At a rally near a GM plant in Defiance, Ohio, on Thursday evening, the Republican nominee stooped to repeating a rumor that had appeared on several right-wing blogs.

“I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep— now owned by the Italians—is thinking of moving all production to China,” he told the crowd.

Yet there was simply no basis for Romney’s claim, beyond a wildly misinterpreted Bloomberg News article about Chrysler’s plans to open factories in China to make Jeeps for sale in the Chinese market. A Chrysler spokesman mocked the rumor and offered a firm assurance: “Let’s set the record straight. Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China.” Indeed, Romney had the facts exactly reversed, because Chrysler is planning to add 1,100 new  jobs in a third shift at its Jeep Cherokee plant in Detroit next week, according to Motor Trend magazine.

The Romney campaign declined comment on the candidate’s ridiculous assertion, but nobody should be surprised to hear him talking down the automobile industry’s recovery. He hopes to win over working-class voters in crucial Ohio by sowing confusion about the Obama administration’s auto rescue — and his own opposition to the Obama plan. That is precisely what he did during the final debate with President Obama, who derided his attempt to “airbrush” his position against the bailout.

But the best evidence against Mitt Romney’s prevarications is provided, as it is so often, by Mitt Romney himself.

Arguing over Romney’s record on the bailout, both candidates agreed only that viewers should “look it up.” The best place to look is No Apology, the book Romney published in 2010, specifically designed to lay out his positions for the current presidential campaign.

In his book, Romney excoriates the bailout in the starkest terms, contending that “the rule of law was ignored in order to reward the auto workers union at General Motors.” He cites it in a list of a half -dozen examples during Obama’s first 18 months in office of what he describes as “actions that demonstrate” the administration’s “distrust in free enterprise.” On page 8 of his 325-page treatise, Romney insists that when liberals are in power, “they take action” like the bailout “that is consistent with socialism but call it by a more plausible name.”

That is an odd claim, considering that the rescue of the industry was actually structured by Steven Rattner, the Wall Street superstar Obama named as his “auto czar.”

At another point in the book, Romney wrote: “I opposed Washington’s bailout for the industry in 2008 because it enabled GM and Chrysler to avoid the restructuring and productivity improvements essential for their success. The managed bankruptcy that I proposed ultimately occurred, but only after tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money had been wasted, and only after sweetheart deals and paybacks for favored interest groups had been engineered with the public’s money. The question now is whether or not the administration’s heavy hand has protected political and UAW interests in such a way that the industry’s burdens persist.”

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