November 11th, 2008
03:03 PM ET
10 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)

    obama = PUKE!

    November 11, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  2. Concerned Mom

    No matter which one of the folks is in charge: Molly Hatchett said it best..." we are running down the road and flirtin' with disaster". Wake up America, it is going to continue to be a long and bumpy ride over the next few years.

    November 11, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  3. Foxhole Atheist

    It's basically a Catch 22, but we literally have to bail them out. The alternative is too damaging.

    November 11, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  4. Forrest

    The argument to bailout the auto industry can be made on both sides of the fence. Bailouts are occurring globally now. The US automakers should not be on welfare from the government but with the hundreds of billions being pumped into the financial industry, the US can ill afford to let approximately 2.5M jobs being lost that are connected with the US auto industry at the present time. The US automakers can compete, the plan is simple, just make a better vehicle, dont have to be miles ahead of the Japanese, but just a bit better so that they will stand out instead of focusing on a product just to sell. I bought a new Acadia in 2007 and although I replace my vehicles after I put on 100K, the Acadia is good vehicle, but can recognize that if GM has just gone one step further with the Acadia, hands down it would be one fine vehicle. We are moving from a carbon based to a green based economy, the hand writing is on the wall. For those of you that say no bailouts to the auto industry, howz about you instead of buying a Honda, a Toyota, a Nissan, or anything but an American vehicle, stop whining about the auto bailout and buy a semblance of an American vehicle. And just an FYI, contrary to the published facts, I get almost 27 mpq on the highway in my Acadia and it has the 275HP 6 cylinder.

    November 11, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  5. Jean Braithwaite

    President Bush, President-elect Obama, and Congress, My youngest child has numerous student loans for her studies in the medical field. could you please give her a bailout. She is a hard worker, and has always held jobs, along with her schooling. It just would be good for you to show her that America is made up of not only Wall Street and Main Street, but Center Street, where the average hard-working family lives and struggles to make ends meet.

    November 11, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  6. Robert The Man

    Theres your president elect people. This is failure number one by him. GOOD JOB AMERICA!!

    ps Happy Veterans Day!!!

    November 11, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  7. Just The Beginning

    There will be a very very long line of people that Obama, Reid, and Pelosi have to pay back for the landslide on November 4 – the UAW is just the trickle before the flood

    Always remember, a politician's first job is to get elected. His next job is to get re-elected. EVERYTHING comes after these absolute laws – lust for power is the oxygen and gravity that cannot be ignored once you enter the game.

    The fact is, everyone needs to be bailed out because every job has one thing in common – the holy grail of every politician – a VOTE.

    Remember while all but a few House republicans were smiling for the press after the $700 billion pay off, the Fed was working over time pushing over $2 TRILLION out the window with NO accountability to the taxpayers.

    Barney Frank went on record yesterday saying he looked it over and it is all OK. This is the same thing he said about Fannie and Freddie.

    How far down this path do those in power expect us to go before we wise up?

    November 11, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  8. Ridgeway

    Great! and while your at it outlaw unions. And another thing maybe some of us don't feel like paying mortgages for people who bought more house than they could afford or submitted fraudulent information with the help of some Nigerian or other 3rd world crook.
    Sure while the rest of us wait to see if we'll still have jobs reward the ones who were over paid or under achieving.
    Kill the goose that laid the golden egg just like unions killed the auto makers.
    Socialism for all. Redistribute the wealth. Every single mortgage holder in default should be re-evaluated by a legitimate credit analyst period.

    November 11, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  9. Real Change

    You know this whole economic crisis is a little like taking your car to the mechanic. The only ones qualified to say what's wrong with the car are the people who are going to make money off of there BEING something wrong with the car. In this case is bankers and auto executives and so called "economic experts," all of whom seem to be happy enough to tell us the sky is falling unless we give them more money. At some point you just have put your foot down and say "NO. I'm not giving you any more money!"

    November 11, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  10. David S

    It is time that the board rooms regain control of the labor force. This namby-pamby attitude towards unions has outlived it usefulness. The automakers want a bail out? Then what do I, as a taxpayer get in return? I demand a sensible approach to managing the company. Just because it was done this way in 1930 doesn't hold water today. One thing union leadership (as I use that term loosely) forgets that unemployed workers don't pay dues. No dues, no big salary for the union head(less)!

    November 11, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  11. Joe Q. Public

    If this bail out is approved, I will no longer be paying taxes.

    November 11, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  12. Rob

    Obama is right to be concerned about the big three US auto manufacturers. There's a few problems with how Obama wants to help the US auto industry. $75 Billion is enough to keep the factory and dealership doors open. Its a whole lot of crap that they are going to use that money to retool the factories. It is true that they have sunk a great deal of money in to R&D with alternative energy, and more efficient cars and trucks. The real problems that the auto industry is facing today is a bad economy where purchasing a new car is not as much a priority to consumers. The other huge issue are the unions.

    I worked in mortgage financing for over ten years, and have originated mortgage loans for GM factory workers. Some one who dropped out of high school, and is making close to six figures, and has a 401K ritirement account for almost $500,000 is a bit too much to pay out to a union factory worker. The unions are bankrupting Ford, GM, and Chevrolet, driving our US auto industry in to the ground. Obama , who recieved the union vote during the election campagn is trying to do a pay back for being elected President. he wants to look like he is doing something for them, but not really! I am for tax incentives for the big three, and incentives for car buying consumers rewarding them for manufactureres producing, and consumers purchasing more efficent cars.

    November 11, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  13. So it begins...

    More corporate bailouts funded by taxpayer dollars with zero transparency and accountability. The modern way for politicians to reward corporate campaign donations – and Obama has billions to answer for. Just what America needs. Bring on the Depression.

    November 11, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  14. Comrade nom deplume


    When the clowns in Det-riot build a decent, reliable, efficient car that will not cost me more over its lifetime versus a Toyota or Subaru, then I'll consider it.

    Of course, the dems always threaten to close the ports, which the unions will love, and we can go back to being in high-cost, ill-designed, shoddily-built cars that rust out in 2 years, just like in the 70s'. There's a reason for every urban legend–remember why you weren't supposed to buy an american car built on a Friday or Monday?

    November 11, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  15. Mike

    The Bush administration has no problem of giving out $700 billion dollars to wallstreet cats, but has no intention of helping the companies that employee one of 10 mainstreet employees. Think about all the employees at ur local dealership, part supplies, and not mention thousands manfacturing jobs!

    November 11, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  16. debra

    You say that Palin doesn't know the difference between a country and a continent. She doesn't live in Africa, although I bet Obama knew the answer. Well so what. Obama thinks there are 56 states in the United States. What country was it that he was just elected Pres of????. I bet Palin knew there were only 50 states in the United States of America! Go stuff your fat face and quit picking on Palin. I get so tired of your hick comments!

    November 11, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  17. informed voter

    Much as I like Obama I think the auto industry was greedy and got into this mess. They kept manufacturing gas guzzlers and poor quality cars because there was a market for it. Forward thinking companies left them behind eating dust. While I understand that this will mean huge job losses I think instead of bailing them out, that money is better utilized if invested in energy efficient automobile manufacturing companies. Create new jobs in newer technology instead of pumping up badly mismanaged companies with more money.

    November 11, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  18. Catholic-mom-4-OBAMA

    @ Truth Hurts: I sent an email to 'Faux News' complaining about giving "HATE A VOICE"...... very disturbing!

    Bailing out BANKS was BUSH's idea! And now, no one wants to bailout the auto industry, that will leave millions of Americans unemployed?

    How is this fair?! WALL STREET has made BILLIONS, but we wont help the everyday-workers in Detroit?


    November 11, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  19. rob

    This is the thanks that Bush gets. He is trying to make the transition as smooth as possible for the Obama team and they leak details of the "private conversation" for obvious political reasons. The Dems want Bush to sign it so they don't get blamed by the majority of Americans who don't want bailouts.

    Stay strong W, don't fall for this game of Rom Emanuel and the Dems, if they want the bailout let them bring it up for a vote and let the chips fall where they may.

    November 11, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  20. bryan

    I think that we are doomed, trillion in debt, 750 billion in loans to wall street, A president out of touch with the country,,,,,Bush is the worst president in history and the people who voted for him, twice mind you, should shutup, You guys made us this bed and I sick of sleeping in it.Now Obama has all this pressure on him to fix it, I feel sorry for him.How will we ever overcome this.Signed, 25 yr old college graduate with 45,000 dollars in debt, no insurance, and not a job in sight.And you mean to tell me Al gore won the popular vote?

    November 11, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  21. Dustin in Phoenix

    I want to make a quick correction. The front page link to this article said, "Details of Bush-Obama meeting revealed". This should say, "Details of Bush-Obama meeting LEAKED!" That is the correct and ONLY way to put it.

    November 11, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  22. Mi Yow

    I just bought a new Chevy truck. I love it, it's perfect. Probably the best deal I'll ever get on anything, especially the quality. It's time to start purchasing again, don't wait too long for someone to tell you it's time and miss the best deals. You don't all have to be sheep.

    November 11, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  23. Thoughtful observer

    If the automakers go under, blame union stranglehold and not party policies for the demise.

    November 11, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  24. Chris

    Although I support Obama, I am very much against a preemptive bailout of the auto industry. If all US auto makers go under, then we can see about salvaging them and restucturing them into one or two smaller companies. After all, we need that industry were we ever have to engage in a wide scale war.

    I think that the only reason Obama wants Bush to do this is that he knows that if it doesn't happen then GM will fail after he takes office. He also knows that the Republicans then try to use that failure against him. If Obama can get Bush to support the auto bailout then it keeps Obama from taking the blame for the failure and saddles Bush with the blame for the bailout. Poliitics.

    November 11, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  25. Comrade nom deplume


    I know a lot of Harvard magna cum laude graduates (in fact, 90% of folks graduating from Harvard do so "with honors" so it doesn't mean that much).

    I have worked alongside HLS grads and I don't find them to be any smarter. I do find them to be more liberal, and HLS is notorious in the Boston area for being "Kremlin on the Charles," a place where conservatives are shunned for their views and professors will mark them down for being so.

    In one "Joe the Plumber" moment, while on a due diligence for a merger transaction, an HLS grad turned to me and asked "what does HVAC" mean? Even this non-HLS lawyer knew what HVAC meant and so I told him it meant "heating, ventilation and air conditioning."

    November 11, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
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