Imagine if in December George W. Bush and his administration had:
- Decided to issue the initial bailout billions to General Motors but not Chrysler, thereby forcing Chrysler into bankruptcy.
- Had his advisers get on the phone with elected officials in towns and states where Chrysler has plants and told them that the bankruptcy was about to happen.
- Said that the Chrysler bankruptcy "will not disrupt the lives of the people who work at Chrysler or the communities that depend" on them.
Now imagine if, 24-36 hours later, Bush's advisers disclosed that many Chrysler plants would close.
Does anyone reading this think that such an obvious betrayal would have gone unreported by the major TV networks or newspapers of record?
Well, on Wednesday and Thursday, April 29 and 30, Barack Obama and his administration did exactly what I described above. Then, on May 1, Obama's car guys and Chrysler announced the closings of plants in Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Michigan. Yet this shocking deception, acknowledged as such by well-known names in both major parties, has only been news in the metro areas affected.
In a May 10 column in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, reporter Stephen Koff did a fine job of laying out the details of the story. It's a definite read-the-whole-painful-thing piece, but here are some of Koff's key paragraphs (bolds are mine; the Plain Dealer has a separate detailed timeline here):
Late in the morning on Thursday, April 30, three officials serving under President Barack Obama got on a telephone conference call with members of Congress and Capitol Hill staffers. ....
These are smart people, and they listen carefully. They all took notes on what was said by Larry Summers, Ed Montgomery and Ron Bloom, three of the advisers Obama had tapped to rescue the American auto industry. And what these and other Congress members heard in this private telephone conference was consistent with the message that President Obama publicly made a few minutes later in the White House grand foyer: Chrysler, the storied American automaker, was entering a short, government-assisted Chapter 11 bankruptcy and would merge with Fiat, the Italian car maker.
But this "will not disrupt the lives of the people who work at Chrysler or the communities that depend on it," Obama said.
That seemed straightforward enough, and it mirrored the statements the Congress members had just heard from the top task force officials -- that there would be no plant closings and no layoffs, with only short-term plant idling to restructure and move excess inventory off the lots. It also followed a telephone briefing with reporters little more than an hour earlier, in which a senior administration official was asked about the potential loss of Chrysler "head counts." The administration official, talking with reporters on the condition that he and others not be named, responded that "there are no plans to have any immediate plant closings or major white- or blue-collar head-count reductions."
Maybe someone should have asked what the White House meant by "no plans" and "disrupt."
Congress members say they were blind-sided by the news the next day, May 1, that Chrysler in fact intended to permanently shutter five plants: one each in Ohio, Wisconsin and Missouri, and two in Michigan.
The news was embarrassing as well as shocking, since many members, like LaTourette, had issued statements applauding, for instance, the report that no jobs would be cut at the 1,250-worker Twinsburg Stamping Plant. Candice Miller, a Republican congresswoman representing Sterling Heights, Mich., home of a 1,400-worker Chrysler plant, even went on the House floor soon after Obama's announcement, saying it meant, "most importantly, no plant closures or new job losses."
Wrong. Sterling Heights, like Twinsburg, would be sucker-punched the next day with news of a plant closing.
Were Congress members duped? If so, by whom and why?
The short answers appear to be yes, by both Chrysler and the White House.
Koff's very plausible theory is that the administration made its risible claims early Thursday that jobs would be saved to get all-day TV and online media plaudits and no blowback from localities they knew darn well would be affected. Then it sent Chrysler into bankruptcy on Thursday afternoon to ensure that the press didn't have enough time to adequately scrutinize the voluminous filing ahead of their Friday print runs. Koff says that only the Detroit Free Press was able to beat their print deadline. By the time anyone caught on to the ruse, the slow-news weekend arrived, while the attention of the national press went on hiatus.
As Koff says, "If it was, in fact, a media strategy, it worked."
A further appalling aspect in all of this is the unwillingness of virtually every Democrat involved except Dennis Kucinich to go on the record to criticize the administration's self-evident deception. Read the rest of the story, and you'll see pathetic cop-outs or stone silence from the likes of Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, Ohio Congressperson Betty Sutton, and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.
After the fact, the Obama administration is trying to claim that the closure of the affected plants was already envisioned in Chrysler's February viability plan. That doesn't even pass the stench test, let alone the smell test. A different Plain Dealer reporter and Ohio Republican Congressman LaTourette have separately shown that "Chrysler's Feb. 17 restructuring proposal never mentioned plans to close additional plants, whether unidentified or not."
A May 6 Plain Dealer story notes that "Chrysler acknowledges it failed to inform Twinsburg and other communities of imminent plant closures." I'm not aware of any such acknowledgment by the government, let alone anything resembling an apology from President Barack ("[it] will not disrupt the lives of the people who work at Chrysler or the communities that depend on it") Obama.
I wonder how the employees affected feel, knowing that they're being left jobless while their union's health plan controls half of the new company, and that they were further treated like mushrooms (kept in the dark and fed horse manure) until the attention of the nation's press disappeared?
If the national establishment media are offended at being used, and duped, I sure haven't seen it. I don't expect that I ever will.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.