The auto czar who led the bailout, Steve Rattner, has a simple challenge to Mitt Romney’s claim that private investors could have rescued Detroit: find me one.
Rattner, writing in the New York Times, wrote on Friday that Romney’s contention that American automakers didn’t need federal loans to move them through a managed bankruptcy intact is ludicrous given that the only financiers big enough to step in were barely hanging on for dear lives themselves.
“I know this because the administration’s auto task force, for which I was the lead adviser, spoke diligently to all conceivable providers of funds, and not one had the slightest interest in financing those companies on any terms,” he wrote. “If Mr. Romney disagrees, he should come forward with specific names of willing investors in place of empty rhetoric. I predict that he won’t be able to, because there aren’t any.”
Without money to keep the doors open and reorganize their companies, the auto industry would have ended up being liquidated, according to Rattner, a view echoed by Romney’s top Republican supporters in Michigan. Romney has hinted that some federal support might have been necessary, but is extremely vague about the details, angering bailout opponents and supporters alike with his confusing position.
Rattner accused Romney of playing politics with his position, since polls suggest a majority of Republicans in Michigan, which holds a primary on Tuesday, oppose the bailout.
“Mr. Romney may have the primary politics right — though with a majority of Michigan voters supporting the rescue, he may want to pivot deftly before the general election in November,” he wrote. “But on the substance he’s dead wrong.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.