Republicans are conflicted about the auto bailout. On the one hand, this is a federal intervention that is harder to justify on credit-crunch grounds than the Wall Street bailout. As written, it doesn’t require nearly enough concessions from labor or management to make these companies potentially viable, as opposed to merely throwing good money (that we don’t really have) after bad for a few more months. And they know that most polls show the public broadly against the idea of bailing out the Big Three using taxpayer dollars.
Yet the Republicans also fear being blamed for any economic dislocation that results from a disorderly bankruptcy proceeding, in the unlikely event that the federal government does nothing. They worry in particular about taking an enduring hit in the Rust Belt — Pat Buchanan has warned them they can kiss the Reagan Democrats goodbye forever if the Big Three go under — where there is still a lingering GOP presence in some areas. Finally, autoworkers and others dependent on that industry are more sympathetic figures than the bankers who received a bailout with a much bigger price tag. While most Republicans, at least in the House, opposed that bailout, the party’s leadership did not.
In rides Bob Shrum to tell Republicans what to do: for the GOP, he argues, it’s bailout or bust. Relevance or Herbert Hoover time. This input is more helpful than it initially appears. Since when has Shrum been so concerned about Republicans? Moreover, the record of his advice to Democrats has been spotty at best.