"I'm a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car company. I like American cars," said Mitt Romney on Monday night when he met with President Obama to discuss foreign policy. "And I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry."
That might be considered true — unless moving the most important American auto parts manufacturer to China counts as hurting the U.S. auto industry. But those words now stand as one of Romney's most glaring falsehoods in the final debate.
Romney's defensive statement came in response to a remark by Obama noting that the Republican nominee is "familiar with jobs being shipped overseas because you invested in companies that were shipping jobs overseas." Moments later, he added: "If we had taken your advice, Governor Romney, about our auto industry, we'd be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China."
Most viewers had little idea what Obama was talking about or why Romney felt the need to rebut him so specifically. But their coded exchange almost certainly referred to an investigative report that broke wide on the Internet, without much attention from the mainstream media so far — Greg Palast's article in The Nation magazine, exposing Romney's huge profits from Delphi, a crucial auto parts company, that moved nearly all of its jobs to China after taking billions in auto bailout money from the Treasury.
As Palast reported, the Romneys made millions from that intricate deal, put together by one of his main campaign donors, billionaire investor Paul Singer — through a "vulture fund," known as Elliot Management. Having bought up Delphi at fire-sale prices, Singer and his partners essentially blackmailed the Treasury into paying them billions so that Delphi would keep supplying parts to General Motors and Chrysler. They stiffed the company's pensioners, pocketed the bailout funds and moved all but four of the firm's 29 plants to China.
The neglect of the Delphi story by mainstream and even progressive outlets such as MSNBC has been remarkable, particularly because neither Romney nor his campaign has denied it. If anything, a statement issued by the campaign to The Hill, a Washington publication, seemed to confirm Palast's reporting by attempting to deflect blame onto the Obama administration: Romney's campaign did not deny that he profited from the auto bailout in an email to The Hill Wednesday afternoon, but it said the report showed the Detroit intervention was "misguided."
"The report states that Delphi had 29 U.S. plants before the misguided Obama auto bailout and just four after. Is this really what the president views as success?" Romney spokeswoman Michele Davis said.
"Mitt Romney would have taken a different path to turning around the auto industry," Davis continued. "As president, Mitt Romney will create jobs and give American workers the recovery they deserve."
Taking Delphi bankrupt under the management of Singer and Romney's other partners didn't create jobs or security for Delphi's American workers. After taking nearly $13 billion in bailout financing from the Treasury — with the support of Rep. Paul Ryan, who has also received generous support from Singer — the new Delphi management abrogated the company's pensions, closed all those U.S. plants and moved production to China. And so far, Romney has escaped any questions about why he and Ann Romney invested their millions with vulture investors who used taxpayer funds to destroy American jobs.
To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.