WASHINGTON -- The Mitt Romney campaign, still attempting to turn the politics of the auto bailout in its favor, is out with a new television ad that dramatically bends both historical record and current news to fit its narrative.
The ad, which was not announced by the campaign, makes no direct claim that can be called a lie. But that's primarily because it's so clever with its wording.
For starters, the ad's narrator says that President Barack Obama "took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy." That's true. But that was also the plan that Romney prescribed at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. The difference is that Obama supported a bridge loan from the government to help the auto companies go through bankruptcy, while Romney wanted the private sector to pick up the tab. But as basically every principal involved in rescuing the auto industry said at the time, there was no money available from the private sector during the height of the recession. When Dan Akerson, CEO and chairman of General Motors since September 2010, was asked what would have happened had Romney's plan been followed, he responded that GM "would have been in bankruptcy for years and I think you could have written off this company, this industry and this country."
The Romney ad also cites his endorsement from the Detroit News without noting that that same endorsement accused him of "wrong-headedness on the auto bailout."
Finally, the ad accuses Obama of selling "Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China." Again, this is technically true, but only according to a narrow reading of the language. Fiat, the Italian company that now owns Chrysler, is building Jeeps in China. But the company is not moving jobs from America to do it. Instead, Fiat is expanding current production in China for the purposes of catering to a growing Chinese market.
Where the ad goes from misleading to something more nefarious is in the text it shows. At one point, it displays a line from a Bloomberg story stating that Chrysler "plans to return Jeep output to China," the implication being that the company is moving operations there as opposed to expanding operations that are already there. Romney has cited this report on several occasions while campaigning and has been summarily criticized for doing so. Chrysler has denied the report, and multiple news outlets have called out the Romney campaign for using it in on the stump.
So what rationale is there for using it in an advertisement? The Huffington Post reached out to the Romney campaign on Sunday morning to get its side of the story. The campaign sent back a sheet of data points, including press reports showing that Obama did force Chrysler and GM into federal bankruptcy. No one, of course, is disputing that.
In response to the claim about Chrysler building Jeeps in China, the Romney email again cites the Bloomberg article. A Romney campaign official would not add anything more on the record, save to repeat, on condition of anonymity, the same exact text from the Bloomberg report.
The campaign's defense, in the end, rests on the fact that the ad never technically says that Chrysler is moving production to China -- just that it is going to build Jeeps there.
“Mitt Romney’s new ad is a sure sign that he knows he’s in trouble in Ohio," Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith said in a statement. "When the American auto industry and a million workers’ jobs were on the line, Mitt Romney turned his back. Now he’s pretending it never happened and is trying to scare Ohioans by repeating a blatant falsehood that Chrysler is moving its Jeep operations to China. Even the Detroit News, which this ad cites, condemned his plan that would have let Chrysler and GM go under and praised the President for his ‘extraordinary’ rescue of the industry. Mitt Romney might be willing to do anything to close the deal, but Ohioans know where he stood when it mattered most and won’t be fooled by his dishonest ads in the final days of this campaign."