GWEN IFILL: Ray there’s been so much recurring debate here about weather. But another policy recurring debate has been ‘auto bailout’ or ‘auto rescue’? It depends which party you belong to which one of those terms you embrace.
Democrats tonight will make the case that the president saved jobs.
We’re joined by two of them, Michigan Senator Carl Levin, and Tim Ryan, a member of the House from Ohio.
Both of you come from districts that represent autoworkers.
Which term do you use, Senator?
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-Mich.): We saved the auto industry. The president helped save the auto industry. It was critically important that that be done. A million jobs have been saved.
No auto-producing country in the world didn’t support its auto industry during this recession. The idea that we would let it go under — and the Romney statement, let Detroit go bankrupt, his definition of bankruptcy meant real bankruptcy, not just restructuring.
So, it’s going to hurt him in Michigan and Ohio, what he has said about letting the auto industry go under. I think it will hurt him in the country. I find the reaction to that slogan “imported from Detroit” having an amazing impact everywhere in the country, by the way.
When that commercial hit that Chrysler put on, it brought pride, not just to Michigan, not just to Ohio. I’m telling you, I found it all over the country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Go ahead.
GWEN IFILL: Congressman, I wanted you to ask you to tell the story of the Lordstown plant.
REP. TIM RYAN (D-Oh.): Yes, it’s an amazing story.
Three shifts there, they started making the Chevy Cruze, which are selling like hotcakes all over the globe. And just last week, we got an announcement that General Motors was going to invest another $200 million into the Lordstown plant, 20 million into the Parma plant just outside of Cleveland, which is going to solidify the next generation of Cruze to be in Northeast Ohio, 4,500 jobs.
And that’s not even talking the supply chain, as the senator knows very well, the seat manufacturers, the trucking company, the logistics companies. Many of those are union — good-paying union jobs. So it has been a huge success story, and one of every eight jobs in Ohio is directly or indirectly related to that auto industry.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Levin, I want to go back to what you said about Governor Romney, because he says it’s wrong to say that he was just for bankruptcy. He says what he wanted was what is called a managed bankruptcy, and he said that’s what he recommended, and he said President Obama followed his advice, and that’s what happened.
SEN. CARL LEVIN: No, President Obama didn’t follow his advice.
As a matter of fact, if we had followed Romney’s advice, it would have been go to the private sector and borrow your way. GM could not, Chrysler could not have borrowed from the private sector. Credit had been stopped up. And so they had to have the government guarantees, the government loans for this to have worked.
Now, Romney can try to fiddle around with words if he wants to, but the rhetoric which he used and the position that he’s taken is a very anti-manufacturing position. It’s an anti-government partnership position with an auto industry, but it’s more than autos. It’s manufacturing in America, made in the USA.
He doesn’t care. He has spent a good part of his life offshoring, working with companies and his hedge fund to ship jobs overseas. He doesn’t care if jobs go overseas. He’s helped send jobs overseas.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Ryan, how do you see this question of what Governor Romney says about what actually happened?
REP. TIM RYAN: Well, he was on the wrong side. He got caught. He was in a Republican primary. He’s trying to appease the Tea Party.
His life has been based on these kind of decisions of not caring. And it took action by the government, and he’s representing a very anti-government wing of the party, which is an extreme wing. And when you look at the families that are there working, the tax base that’s now established in Ohio, it’s not a coincidence.
For John Kasich to address the nation last week and not even mention the auto bailout shows how politicized this has actually become.
GWEN IFILL: One of the stories that came out of Tampa last week was the constant conversation about what the president had not done. And even on this floor last night, we heard speakers say the story hasn’t been told.
So, on the case — specifically on the case of the auto rescue/bailout, where have the unions been in this argument, the people who could tell the story?
SEN. CARL LEVIN: Where the unions have been is very strongly supporting what President Obama did.
And it was mixed advice, by the way, in the White House. There was a fear that people might hold it against him that he was going to help a private sector industry survive. And there’s a philosophical opposition in the Republican Party, now dominated by the Tea Party, to have a government partnership in the private sector.
But in a global economy, you better have a partnership in the private sector, or else you’re not going to make it.
GWEN IFILL: What do you mean by mixed discussion in the White House?
SEN. CARL LEVIN: Well, there was apparently debate in the White House, according to a number of books, as to whether or not the president should make the decision he ultimately did.
He made a tough call to put the government in a partnership position and it has paid off handsomely with millions of jobs in America.
REP. TIM RYAN: I think it’s important, too, just to say it wasn’t politically a popular decision to make. It was Obama motors. It was government motors.
It was a tough political call. And I think in these trying times, we need a leader that is going to make the tough call. And here we are in my district alone with 4,500 jobs in the supply chain because the president was willing to lead.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, Congressman Ryan — and, by the way, no relation to Paul Ryan, right?
REP. TIM RYAN: No. I traced it all the way back to the motherland. I’m clear.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What about, though, just quickly the broader Republican argument that the president has not done enough to support small business, and that’s why we just don’t have the job growth that we should be having in this country?
REP. TIM RYAN: Well, clearly, come to Ohio. You will see we have very low unemployment in part because of where auto is.
And all of those suppliers that I mentioned, many would be considered small businesses, and all of the restaurants, the good Italian food in Northeast Ohio, they’re all doing very, very well because of that auto rescue bailout package.
And then in addition to that, the investments he’s making in education, the tax credits, right down the line that were in the stimulus package that we need to continue, have all been benefiting — the Make Work Pay, for example — all of these things have benefited small businesses.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Congressman Tim Ryan, Senator Carl Levin, we thank you both. It’s good to have you with us.
SEN. CARL LEVIN: Great to be with you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.
REP. TIM RYAN: Great to be with you. Thank you.