November 11th, 2008
03:03 PM ET
9 years ago

Sources: Obama pressed Bush for auto industry bailout

Obama and President Bush wave to reporters as they head into the Oval Office on Monday.

Obama and President Bush wave to reporters as they head into the Oval Office on Monday.

(CNN) - At their private Oval Office meeting on Monday, President-elect Barack Obama urged President Bush to support billions of dollars in aid for the struggling auto industry during the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, according to three officials briefed on the meeting.

The officials said Bush privately expressed skepticism about taxpayer money for automakers on the heels of a string of government bailouts for other industries, and the president also urged Obama to help push through a free trade pact with Colombia – a key legacy item for the outgoing administration that is facing stiff resistance from Democrats on Capitol Hill.

But a senior Bush administration official seemed to downplay suggestions that Bush was offering a quid pro quo by saying the White House still believes the trade deal “deserves to pass on its own merits” without being linked to anything else.

The officials familiar with the meeting said Obama made the case that dramatic action needs to be taken this year – rather than after he is sworn into office – because the Big Three U.S. automakers are bleeding cash at an alarming rate.

One of the officials noted that about one in ten jobs in America are tied to the auto industry, and if one of the companies goes bankrupt it could have a massive spillover effect into the credit industry and other sectors. “The numbers are so staggering,” said the official. “It’s a huge piece of the financial fabric of the country.”

The senior Bush administration official said the White House is “open to ideas from Congress to accelerate funds they’ve already appropriated” to help the auto industry.

But the administration official said support would come “as long as funding will continue to go to viable firms and with strong taxpayer protections” linked to the auto industry aid.

An official in the auto industry told CNN that bringing the Colombian pact into the negotiations could be a poison pill that prevents passage of an auto industry package. But a senior Democratic aide suggested Congress may be willing to call Bush’s bluff and try to pass an auto industry aid package without the trade deal.

The senior aide said Democrats do not believe “this president wants to add the demise of GM to his legacy list.”

soundoff (270 Responses)
  1. tired tim

    Please...NO MORE BAILOUTS!! This is getting old very quickly. What ever happened to taking responsibility for our actions. The government is set up to serve and protect, not make us all pay for the sins of others. Hey how about bailing out the hard working American people for a change!

    November 11, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  2. Barbara in NC

    NO to CAFTA – and Modify NAFTA – to heck with what the village idiot wants. Soon he will be ONE PERSON, just like me. His vote will not count any more than mine.

    November 11, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  3. Truth Hurts


    Please print this. I want you guys from CNN and Bloggers here to check out Fox News Website. They have a Republican Congress from GA accusing Obama of being like Hitler. He claimed he is not comparing him to Hitler but if you read the article. The article say different. This is the reason why the republicans lost. They are always fear-mongering, spewing hate and false accusations. Now if you read some of the bloggers comments they are saying things like. Go out and get guns. If Obama is like this he will be dealt with like Kennedy. What Fox is doing by printing this article is stirring up the republican base again with hate towards Obama and Democrats. They will be starting a civil war if they continue with these type of articles!!

    November 11, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  4. Jim in Texas

    The Big Three have had several years to correct their ways but have not seen the light. Mis-mangement, waste, not offering a product the consumer wants..........let them fail I much as I hate it. Enough is enough, why should the American Tax Payers pay thier mistakes.........If I don't pay my bills I don't have someone bailing me out. SORRY!

    November 11, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  5. John in Ohio

    If the auto industry doesn't make affordable fuel efficient cars like the Japanese have been, if the auto industry cant provide plug-in electric cars, then it can and should fail.

    November 11, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  6. Dee in Ca

    You go Mr. President Elect!

    November 11, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  7. jim

    Dear Gov. Palin,
    Regarding your hope to run in the 2012 primaries.
    First off, you will be taking on a Harvard magna cum laude incumbent.
    You are a former beauty pageant contestant who doesn't know the difference between a country and a continent.
    You should stick to governing the vast wilderness of a state that elects a convicted felon (7 counts).
    Trees and mountains don't require intellect.
    Do us all a favor, stay in Alaska.
    Jim, Minneapolis

    November 11, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  8. California Gold

    This is what makes politics so painful. 1 in 10 jobs tied to the US auto industry and a sitting President who is inert. Frankly I was surprised Cheney wasn't part of the meeting.

    November 11, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  9. Gary, Detroit

    Countless studies have shown that every manufacturing job creates 7 more jobs in other sectors. The same cannot be said for the service industries. This is why China's economy is growing at a rate of 10 to 12 percent annually. Ours is going backwards. Our government needs to do what is necessary to save jobs. Period.

    November 11, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  10. LyonsPhilly


    November 11, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  11. Truth Hurts


    You need to bust Fox News out about spewing hate and accusations towards people. They do not have no valid evidence that Obama is like hitler or any other negative views they have. It is quite frankly racism to me. Have no other White candidate or President ever came up under this scrutiny. Obama has been vetted and his background has been dug up over and over and over. And if it was any worries by the CIA

    November 11, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  12. katiec

    Although the auto industry has been negligable in paying attention and acknowledging what improvements they needed to make
    in manufacturing cars according to need, they are victims of
    the financial crisis.
    They are not criminals as the financial institution are. Although
    imagine their CEO's are overpaid they are not using taxpayer
    dollars to pay bonuses.
    Saw last night where the treasury dept slipped through an
    additional 140 bilion dollars to banks, etc, during the
    announcement of the crisis, hoping it would not be discovered.
    Why is this not being shouted from the roof tops and why are
    allowed to pay bonuses with our taxpayer dollars.
    It is an outrage and must be stopped.

    November 11, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |

    Who are these Democratic Aides and Bush administration officials?

    These are not concrete details out of the mouths of President Bush or President-elect Obama.

    It's all hearsay and in my book that amounts to diddley squat.

    Give me a break! This isn't news, CNN–it's more like Entertainment Tonight news.

    Get it together and report on concrete news. Sheesh.

    November 11, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  14. Voter

    Pretty outrageous that Bush refuses to consider the auto industry on its own merits.

    Will someone tell me what the relationship is between the American auto industry collapse and free trade with Colombia??

    The security and future of MILLIONS of Americans is tied into the American auto industry. We need to fix it, not let it fold.

    A perfect example of why Americans have contempt for Mr. Bush.

    November 11, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  15. Neal

    Bankers and credit mongers were reviled in early modern society because then, as now, they didn't really produce anything.
    True value will always be in the making of things.
    Sure the automakers have messed up, but a lot of it isn't their fault, more of it is their fault, that is true. However, their sin has been stupidity and incompetence, the wall street pieces of human garbage though are guilty of an active systemic sin of greed.
    They all bought into the idea that "Greed is good," spoken Gordon Geko, Michael Douglas' character in Wall Street.

    Cause here's the thing: Greed is not good, it is briefly useful, like pride, but it is always a failure of imagination that requires it.
    Bailout the automakers we need to get back to being builders, rather than bankers.
    Look what happened to Iceland, their economy was fueled by banking and they are now bankrupt.

    November 11, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  16. Steve from Wisconsin

    I'm actually responding to the previous article on Palin, because your comment period for that one has expired. The degree of hate that CNN readers and viewers have toward Sarah points out once again that we are 2 Americas, no matter what Obama or anyone else says. Believe me, nearly half of the country detests him in much the same way. Let's just divide the nation in half, and put those leaning to the left on one side of the Mississippi River, and those leaning to the right (including me) on the other, and then everyone will finally be happy!

    November 11, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  17. Jaime from Florida

    If any money HAS to go to the automakers, it has to have a very strong string attached. No more gasoline powered vehicles in the long run, and develop electric, hydrogen, or any other means of powering cars in less than 10 years. Otherwise, they ought go under out of their own fault and lack of vision. Can't pay them for lack of innovation because we have to stop lining the pockets of our country's enemies.

    November 11, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  18. chuks

    allowing GM fail is not an option.

    November 11, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  19. M. WINNERS

    YES! A thousand time YES!

    If the neocon repugs, their appointees and the congress can help bail out their rich buddies on Wall Street they owe the same to the American auto industry and all the working people that it supports as well.

    Hey congress – Help Main Street survive this time!

    November 11, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  20. Washington Observer

    There uis just no justification for sending taxpayer monies to GM and Ford to pay for lucrative union packages, benefits, and pensions – No way. we have given bankc billions. Let GM and Ford take their case to these bankc - If the baks feel justified in lending funds, they can do so. If the banks feel it is too riskly, then the Government ought not to jump in. GM and Ford are Union heavy, labor heavy, management heavy, and have sat on their collective bargaining butts on hybrids, fuel emmission standards and mileage. If they cannot compete with Japan and germany, it is time to let them be taken over by those firms - or go out of business. No bailout -– Huge mistake.

    November 11, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  21. Pepou

    In other words Bush will try to the very end to ruin this country a little further.

    November 11, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  22. Chris (SC)

    As much as I don't want to spend taxpayer money on the auto industry I don't see why the banks are the only ones bailed out. Not much point to have the chance to get a loan if you don't have a job to use that loan.

    1 in 10 people make their living from the auto industry. That is a ton of people.

    Get these people working on an electric or hydrogen car and get us off oil for good. It hits two birds with one stone, gets America working again and gets the national security issue of sending our oil money overseas to foreign countries that don't like us anyway.

    November 11, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  23. 60 year old, white female for Obama

    If Bush would have set a higher fuel efficiency for American cars at the beginning of his term, would there have been such a crisis. His whole presidency is one that lacked vision from the war in Iraq, to unfair trade policies, to deregulating and lack of oversight of the banking/mortgage industry and huge tax deductions for the rich at a time of war..

    That the 700 billion dollar bailout package can't include money for an industry which effects 1.7 million workers is ridiculous. Time for gov't to stop tagging on unrelated things like a free trade deal when America's economy is in free fall. Time to end the gotcha politics and put the well being of Americans first.

    I am glad the Obama camp leaked this to show the continued incompetency of the present administration.

    January 20th can't come soon enough...

    November 11, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  24. Peter (CA)

    For all of you right wingers wondering why we continue to blame Bush for what is happening in this country, here is a perfect example.

    After 8 years of coddling Detroit and not forcing the automakers to become more efficient, Bush is now ready to throw them to the wolves even though, as noted, one in 10 American jobs is connected to the auto industry. After 9/11, with the supply of Middle East oil in jeopardy, Bush could have started a revolution in Detroit. Instead, he told the public to go out and shop and the automakers gave us the Excursion and the Hummer. And, no, this is not about "freedom of choice" to drive what you want. This is about national security-and Bush blew it again.

    November 11, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  25. Ben

    I hope the president does veto a bailout for the auto industry, the only reason the dems are worried for the auto industry is the union votes,which that is the reason the big 3 are bankrupt in the first place this is what you get with liberal policies

    November 11, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
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