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Obama eyes Camaro, touts success of bailed-out auto industry

January 31, 2012|By Christi Parsons
  • President Obama visits with Ed Welburn, right, of General Motors, and Gerard Murphy, left, president of the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Assn., at the Washington Auto Show.
President Obama visits with Ed Welburn, right, of General Motors, and Gerard… (Pablo Martinez Monsivais…)

Reporting from Washington — Lest anyone doubt his solidarity with the American blue-collar worker, President Obama left the office Tuesday afternoon and spent some quality time with a Camaro.

He never cranked up the stereo and took it for a spin, of course, but rather admired it on the showroom floor of the Washington Auto Show.

But the photo op with the classic American muscle car gave Obama the chance to brag that the 2009 bailout he pushed through Congress ended up saving the big automakers.

“The U.S. auto industry is back!” Obama declared after touring the showrooms at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. “The fact that GM is back, number one, I think, shows the kind of turnaround that’s possible when it comes to American manufacturing.”

The cars are becoming a regular talking point for Obama as he talks up his record on the economy. Though the bailout was assailed by critics at the time, administration officials estimate it saved 1 million jobs throughout the Midwest.

As he checked out the new electric and hybrid models from Ford, Dodge and General Motors, Obama also seized the moment to mention –- albeit indirectly -– the Republicans who opposed an outright bailout.

“It’s good to remember that [despite] the fact that there were some folks who were willing to let this industry die,” Obama said, “because of folks coming together, we are now back in a place where we can compete with any car company in the world.” 

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed column in November 2008 that appeared under the headline “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

Romney says bankruptcy wouldn’t have meant the companies went under and lost jobs and that the administration ultimately did what he suggested by going through a managed bankruptcy process.

“I believe the market works better than a president stepping in to take care of his friends,” Romney told a crowd in New Hampshire earlier this month.

But Obama’s remarks were brief, as most of his time at the auto show was spent inspecting the cars.

His favorite -- or at least the only one he mentioned in his brief comments to reporters -- was the Chevy Camaro.

“That Camaro with the American eagle and the American flag,” he said, “that helps tell the story.”

According to a pool reporter who was present, though, Obama climbed behind the wheel of a Ford C-Max Energi, the Ford Fusion and the Dodge Dart -- not the Camaro.

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