27 April 2012

Why Republicans No Longer Like American Cars

In 1953 President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated Charles Erwin Wilson, head of General Motors, to be Secretary of Defense. In his confirmation hearings, Wilson said he could make decisions for the sake of the country that would be bad for General Motors, but couldn’t foresee such a choice coming up “because for years I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.”

More recently, many American conservatives insisted on the value of buying American cars, criticizing politicians who drive vehicles from foreign companies. As recently as February 2009, Pat Buchanan was writing about the necessity to “Buy American!” in The American Conservative. It’s part of the basic platform of the Conservative Party USA and the “paleoconservative” America First Party.

Of course, American unions also campaigned for people to buy domestically made cars and other products. And on the right, free-market conservatives argued that products’ national origins shouldn’t matter. Buying American wasn’t therefore synonymous with the American right, but Republican politicians and pundits rarely criticized US industry and often jumped on opponents who did.

That changed after President Barack Obama threw his administration behind resuscitating the US auto companies in 2009. Since then, Republicans and their media voices have become hypercritical, and hypocritical, about American carmakers.

As I noted two weeks ago, Mitt Romney came out against Obama’s policy without being able to say how his prescription for a “managed bankruptcy” was significantly different or better. After Chrysler showed a Super Bowl commercial made by Clint Eastwood, Republican propagandist Karl Rove went on FOX News to denounce it and the bailout. As Charles Blow pointed out, Rove neglected to mention that his own creation, President George W. Bush, had started the loans to Chrysler (since repaid).

And then there’s the saga of the the Chevy Volt. General Motors introduced the Volt as a concept car in early 2007 and brought it to market nearly four years later. Its sales, like those of other cars with electric motors, have been boosted by a tax incentive. The law that included that provision passed both houses of Congress by large margins, with most Senate Republicans voting for it. George W. Bush signed that bill into law. Many other governments have similar provisions to encourage the use of non-gasoline-powered cars.

But because the Volt came out after the Obama’s administration bailout, Republicans can’t say enough bad things about the car. They even make things up. Automotive designer Bob Lutz, normally a right-wing Republican, wrote about this phenomenon in that champion of the planned economy, Forbes Magazine:
I am, sadly, coming to the conclusion that all the icons of conservatism are (shock, horror!) deliberately not telling the truth!

This saddens me, because, to this writer, conservatism IS fundamental truth. It only damages its inherent credibility with momentarily convenient fiction.

So, Mr. [Charles] Krauthammer joins the list of right-wing pundits I no longer take seriously. [Lutz had previously listed Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Lou Dobbs.] After all, how do I know they’re telling the truth when the subject is one I’m not as familiar with as the Volt?

That does leave everyone’s trusted favorite, though. The disarmingly modest, low-key, warm, fuzzy, dependable, kind of your favorite uncle when you were growing up … the Reverend [Mike] Huckabee! He wouldn’t unjustly attack the most celebrated example of American engineering of the last 30 years — or would he?

The other night on Fox, he, too, had his way with the Volt!

So who am I going to believe now? 
Lutz had spotted the symptoms of OIP Derangement Syndrome, which drastically affects how President Obama’s opponents view facts or their previous positions. Of course, at that moment their false statements were affecting Lutz’s own creation. Those same “icons of conservatism” have been “not telling the truth” about many other things as well.

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