Romney drives Jeep off cliff

How much can Mitt misrepresent Obama's Chrysler bailout? Let us count the ways

Published October 30, 2012 7:32PM (EDT)

Mitt Romney  (Reuters/Brian Snyder)
Mitt Romney (Reuters/Brian Snyder)

We've come to expect that the last week of a presidential campaign is a time for ratcheting up all the nastiness and lies and sleaze to maximum insanity. There's a lot at stake, after all. But there's something special about what Mitt Romney is up to right now, as he makes a last gasp grab for Ohio's voters.

Undissuaded by the facts, media derision, or the vociferous denials of Chrysler's CEO, the Romney campaign is continuing to run new advertisements in Ohio claiming that Obama is responsible for a supposed Chrysler plan to outsource Jeep production to China at the cost of U.S. jobs. Talk about chutzpah: Romney's campaign is attempting to turn its greatest Rust Belt weakness -- "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" -- into an electoral advantage.

Here's some text from Romney's newest ad, released Tuesday morning:

Barack Obama says he saved the auto industry. But for who? Ohio or China?

Under President Obama, GM cut 15,000 American jobs, but they are planning to double the number of cars built in China, which means 15,000 more jobs for China. And now comes word that Chrysler is starting to build cars in, you guessed it, China.

What happened to the promises made to autoworkers in Toledo and throughout Ohio? The same hard-working men and women who were told that Obama’s auto bailout would help them.

Mitt Romney grew up in the Auto Industry. Maybe that’s why the Detroit News endorsed him, saying, ‘Romney understands the industry and will shield it from regulators who never tire of churning out new layers of mandates.

Mitt Romney – he’ll stand up for the auto industry. In Ohio, not China.

Where to begin? First, Jeeps have been manufactured in China since the late 1980s, a fact that has nothing to do with Obama's bailout and everything to do with the fact that even 15 years ago, it was obvious that China would eventually become the largest automobile market in the world. Every major auto manufacturer outside of China is either already making cars in China for the Chinese market or has plans to do so. You could argue that to not be making plans to expand production in China would be a dereliction of corporate duty. The original news item that the Romney campaign is misrepresenting actually referred to a potential reopening of Jeep production in China. This is probably better interpreted as a sign of corporate health, rather than a betrayal of Ohio workers.

Because the truth is that Chrysler has been boosting employment and investment in its North American Jeep factories. And there's no way of getting around the fact that there wouldn't even be a Chrysler around to hire new workers at its Toledo Jeep plant (or in China) without Obama's bailout. The notion that the guy who opposed direct government assistance to Chrysler and GM is the guy who will "stand up for the auto industry" is laughable.

Unless you're an employee at the Toledo Jeep plant. In which case it's just inexecusable fearmongering.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2012 Elections Auto Bailout Business China Chrysler Globalization Offshoring Ohio Outsourcing