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President Obama Defends Auto Industry Aid

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US President Barack Obama speaks at the United Auto Workers (UAW) conference in Washington, DC, February 28, 2012 (credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama speaks at the United Auto Workers (UAW) conference in Washington, DC, February 28, 2012 (credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

jeffgilbert Jeff Gilbert
Automotive reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBS Radio News....
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WASHINGTON (WWJ) – President Barack Obama says those who opposed government aid to the auto industry are “rewriting history.”

The President, speaking to the UAW Community Action Program Legislative Conference in Washington, never mentioned any of the Republican candidates by name. But, he left no doubt about his target.

“Some even said, we should ‘let Detroit go bankrupt,” Mr. Obama said, in reference to a 2008 commentary by Mitt Romney. “You remember that. Y’know, think about what that choice would have meant for this country.”

The President said that the failure of General Motors and Chrysler would have brought down Ford and auto suppliers. That, he said, would have cost a million jobs.

The speech coming as Republicans were going to the polls in the Michigan Primary. All four remaining GOP candidates opposed the bailout.

While Republican candidates said the auto companies should have taken a more traditional bankruptcy route, Mr. Obama said there was no private money available.

He also responded to criticism that the bailout was structured to help the UAW, at the expense of other stakeholders.

“To say saving the auto industry was just about paying back the unions,” said Mr. Obama. “Really? Even by the standards of this town, that’s a load of ‘you know what.”

The President spoke of seeing the recovery first hand, in several visits to auto plants. He received his loudest applause when he talked of visiting the Chevy Volt assembly line in Hatramk, and having to ride in, not drive, a vehicle off the assembly line.

“It was nice. I bet it drives real good. Five years from now, when I’m not president anymore, I’ll buy one and drive it myself.”

Mr. Obama praised the turnaround of all three auto companies, which have resulted in more hiring, and profits, including record 2011 earnings for General Motors.

Workers, he said, were responsible for the auto industry’s turnaround, not management or the government.

“I believed in you. I placed my bet on the American worker. I’ll make that bet any day of the week.”

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