Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm never met a stage she didn’t like. But she might have finally landed on one that got the best of her.
In a wild and rambling speech Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention, Granholm winked and swayed and waved her way through a series of statements that excited an audience of loyalists but was short on facts.
We can forgive DNC organizers for introducing her as the “governor of Michigan” and even bypass the Canadian and former governor’s amnesia about her lineage when she claimed she was “from the great state of Michigan.”
Those are just nuances built in to a speech to help establish some connection with the people in the cheap seats.
But her claims about the auto industry were as off-base as was her over-hyped delivery.
“President Obama? With the auto rescue, he saved more than one million middle-class jobs all across America,” she said before rattling off a list that is neither real nor able to be confirmed because it uses the false and ambiguous “saved” jobs claim.
Additionally, the claim that 1 million jobs were saved is dubious. This assumes that the collapse of GM and Chrysler would have taken down all automakers. GM employs about 77,000 people in the United States; about 48,000 hourly and 29,000 salaried. Her math simply doesn't work.
It was Barack Obama, she said, who “organized a rescue, made the tough calls and saved the American auto industry.”
Only it wasn’t. Former President George W. Bush was the first president to step in and provide money to General Motors and Chrysler to keep them afloat. He allocated $17.4 billion to the companies in December 2008. Obama took office in January 2009 and provided further relief, which helped the United Auto Workers at the expense of secured creditors, non-union pensioners at Delphi and others.
In another tall tale repeated at the convention by a litany of speakers, President Obama kept GM and Chrysler from going bankrupt. Except that they did go bankrupt. Obama forced them into Chapter 363 filings.
Granholm chided Mitt Romney for saying he wanted to “Let Detroit go bankrupt,” a reference to a headline written by the New York Times – not Romney – and said his suggestion of a structured, traditional bankruptcy filing would have devastated workers.
All this from a former governor who saw double-digit unemployment numbers during her terms as governor and had to use gimmicks to balance the state’s budget.
Left out of all the cheerleading for President Obama, Granholm conveniently ignored the thousands of auto dealers across the nation who were forced out of business and the tens of thousands of auto dealer workers who lost their jobs when the dealerships were shut down.
The fact is that much of the auto industry was bloated and inefficient. And GM and Chrysler were in desperate need of intervention by their boards of directors.
Instead, President Obama orchestrated a deal that helped the UAW and kept GM and Chrysler from liquidating. But GM is still in trouble and its stock will have to hit $55 a share (it closed at $23 on Friday) so that taxpayers won’t lose any of their investment in the bailout.
That kind of math doesn’t add up to success.
(Editor's note: This commentary has been slightly edited for clarity.)