[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/02/intv.steele.art.jpg caption="RNC Chairman Michael Steele blasts President Obama's GM plans as 'government intrusion.'"]
To date, General Motors and Chrysler have been given some $85 billion in taxpayers’ money and now they have to explain to Congress how they’re going to use it and eventually pay it back. Meantime, President Obama is defending the move by the federal government to step in and try to save the auto industry.
“In the midst of a deep recession and financial crisis, the collapse of these companies would have been devastating for countless Americans and done enormous damage to our economy beyond the auto industry.”
The GOP is now firing back. They have a web ad out dubbed “GM: Government Motors” and called President Obama “America's new CEO.” Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Tuesday.
Kiran Chetry: President Obama says he has no interest in actually running General Motors, but U.S. taxpayers now hold a 60% stake in the company. You called it a “government grab of a private company and another handout for the union cronies…” If not the president's plan, what do you think we should have done when it comes to the auto industry?
Michael Steele: I think you let happen what has happened with major corporations like GM before. They go into the market, they work out their situation in the market, they go through bankruptcy. Look. We spent $20 billion to keep them from going into bankruptcy, so I'm sitting here now and asking myself, why did we spend $20 billion if that’s ultimately where they were going to end up. Everyone stood in the doorstep…preventing GM from declaring bankruptcy six, eight, ten months ago. And now this is where we are.
So the reality for me was this is very short sighted planning by the administration, that clearly, you know, the ultimate goal was bankruptcy. So why are we doing it now as opposed to earlier in the process? Let it work itself through. Get rid of the bad assets, streamline the product, get a competitive business plan in place and go back into the marketplace very much like Harley Davidson did and very much like Chrysler did 20 years ago. And make yourself a competitive force. But this government intrusion to me is just offensive to the market.
Chetry: If we spent the billions as you said, it's already gone. With the banks as well the bailout money is already gone. Is it better at least that the government will have some oversight?
Steele: Tell me what we're driving. What are we driving towards? We're driving towards a government telling us what kind of car we need to buy, what kind of car GM is going to make. What are we driving towards? I don't know what the plan is here. And the more important question for me is, you know, we had a rush by the administration to put a timeline in place to get out of Iraq. I want to know what the timeline is to get out of GM. What is the timeline to get out of our bank accounts and the timeline to get out of the business, the private sector business of this economy and let the small entrepreneur, the small businessman and woman who create the wealth in this nation and employ 70% of this nation's work force, let them get their hands around this economy and put it back to work.
All we need the government to do is to create the appropriate incentives so that availability of capital and credit is in place. We don't need any other intrusions, certainly not to the degree that we've seen. I just think if I'm a bondholder or a shareholder of GM, I've been diluted out of business here. What do I have? I have worthless stock. Unions have a greater stake in GM than a bondholder or shareholder. This is the new economy that we're trying to create? I don't think so.
Chetry: I want to ask you about comments former Vice President Dick Cheney said yesterday. He was speaking at the National Press Club. Here is what he said when it comes to supporting gay marriage.
“Freedom means freedom for everyone and as many of you know, one of my daughters is gay and something that…we've lived with for a long time in our family. I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish, any kind of arrangement they wish.”
Chetry: He went on to say, you know, gay marriage is okay, as long as it's up to the states - individual states to decide, not the federal government. It seems to go further than even President Obama who says he supports civil unions, not gay marriage. What do you think of Cheney's comments?
Steele: I think the vice president brings a very personal perspective to this issue and to the question of gay marriage and gay unions and I think his comments are an appropriate reflection of his family and a situation with his daughter. You know, my view, personal view is marriage is between a man and a woman, very much in line with what the president has said and I think that this battle should be appropriately worked out at the state level. The states are the ones that are defining the question of marriage and so they will be the ultimate arbiters of what constitutes marriage in a given state. So, it’s the appropriate reflection of the attitude and the culture of a particular community for that debate to take place and I think the vice president has a legitimate point there.
Chetry: You've certainly called for civility as have other Republican senators when it comes to questioning, at the confirmation hearings, Judge Sotomayor. However, others within the Republican Party have not taken that approach. Rush Limbaugh called her a racist or reverse racist. Other people are coming out and saying that, you know, perhaps some of her comments do suggest perhaps that she could be racist. Where is the Republican Party headed in terms of how Sotomayor will be handled at her confirmation hearings?
Steele: I've made it very clear from the very moment of this announcement of Judge Sotomayor's nomination that we wanted to take a very detailed and appropriate look at her judicial record. She has 17 years of judicial experience, 3,600 cases that have come before her that we need to examine. And I think that any rush to judgment at this point is immature and inappropriate. I don't think that - rather premature. I don't think that we need to jump on hot rhetoric at this point.
We are celebrating very much as the rest of the country and particularly the Hispanic community the elevation of a Latina American to this very prestigious opportunity, but that still does not take away the responsibility to look very closely at her record. Her comments, her public comments are a little bit disconcerting with respect to, you know, whether or not a Latina has a better judgment - can make a better judgment than a white male. She needs to explain that and there’s a lot of other things she needs to go into some detail about and put into the proper context and we will be very vigorous in examining that.