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

Sources: Obama pressed Bush for auto industry bailout

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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. Al

    The professionalism of Obama's campaign was contradicted yesterday by the amaterurism of revealing his and President Bush's private conversation. The president-elect might want to reconsider this breach of trust if he expects to hear candid opinions once he takes office.

    November 11, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  2. Susan in Delaware

    So he wants my tax money to bail out GM and pay for their retired workers' primo health care for LIFE while my husband and I (both retired) pay just under $13,000 for ours. Yeah, that's real fair.

    November 11, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  3. Jason

    So the "lberal" wants handouts for big business, and the "conservative" is pushing global trade.

    That's a funny looking two-party system.

    November 11, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  4. Nutball Left

    The auto industry is in trouble because of all the unions and funding of retired legacy employees. It is also in trouble because of federal regulations on miles per gallon requirements that they can not afford to produce. Lower the freakin taxes to nothing and get the unions out of the way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 11, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  5. TAINOPOWER

    Obama Transition Chief: He’s Ready to ‘Rule’

    “rule” is a word “that reflects the worst fears that people have for Obama the ‘arrogant,’ the ‘messiah,’ that he’s here to ‘rule’ instead of govern.
    Someone needs to inform the obama team that American politicians are not kings and do not ‘rule’ from office.”

    November 11, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  6. Rob

    President Obama, I know you are too smart to take any advice from a loser like Bush. Please, go ahead and do what you want. I know the decisions you make will be for the benefit of the country. Bush only cares about war and rich people. Forget him.

    November 11, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  7. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    It's puzzling why Bush doesn't see the economy the way all Americans do and the need to act on behalf of Americans instead of foreign governments. Enough is enough, the audacity of Bush to be more concerned about Colombias well being than the loss of jobs held by millions who work in the auto industry. Just think, this Colombia trade agreement is the same thing McCain was pushing for vs. jobs for Americans.

    November 11, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  8. ET from OMAHA

    If Bush doesn't do that and let millions in the auto industry loose their jobs, well that would be hes last legacy and republican's can forget about winning an election for generations.
    This people don't have a heart. They will let the country suffer just because of their stupid fiscal and spending ideology in this time of crisis. I am quite sure they can let their own children suffer or die if they make a mistake in life.
    NO TIME FOR IDEOLOGY, ITS TIME TO SAVE THE NATION PERIOD

    November 11, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  9. Charlie

    Such a bailout should include stipulations that GM will change management, reduce models, and overhaul its entire work process. It can't go on "business as usual". I worked indirectly for GM, and I have never seen such a un-coordinated way of doing very simple tasks.

    November 11, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  10. REG in AZ

    The Auto Industry, the economy, the wars, jobs, health care, on and on and yet there is so much attention given to Sarah Palin and what she did, what she will do and what she has to say. When is she ever going to fade into obscurity where she rightfully belongs? After seeing her in action I'm sure there are few who don't believe she is obnoxiously self-focused, arrogant and aggressive with little conscience and will say/do anything to get as much attention as she can ... all of that besides not being too bright. So now with all of her excuses and rationalizations, which she quickly offers about everything, how can anyone want to be bothered with any of it? Time to move on and let the trivial fall by the way side.

    November 11, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  11. Charlie

    Such a bailout should include stipulations that GM will change management, reduce models, and overhaul its entire work process. It can't go on "business as usual". I worked indirectly for GM, and I have never seen such a un-coordinated way of doing very simple tasks.

    November 11, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  12. Charlie

    Such a bailout should include stipulations that GM will change management, reduce models, and overhaul its entire work process. It can't go on "business as usual". I worked indirectly for GM, and I have never seen such a un-coordinated and confusing way of doing very simple tasks.

    November 11, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  13. Lisa

    All these people that drive foreign vechiles here in the US are to blame for this mess! You need to be driving a Chevy, Ford. Wake up America! BUY AMERICAN

    November 11, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  14. Marcia

    I know this is controversial, I know it will cost jobs, but we should not bail out the auto industry. I think it should go under and be born afresh with new teams, new designs, better use of power and fuel. The industry did this to itself by poor designs, extraordinary pay packages, continued union demands despite a poor economy, and no attention to competition. We cannot afford to bail out every company that made poor decisions, and I don't see the government coming in to bail out other industries and the thousands of small companies that are suffering. Sorry to seem cold-hearted, but I will say that our economic condition breaks my heart.

    November 11, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  15. Carl Justus

    We should do all we can to support the auto industry if they are going to make cars in the USA. If we are going to give them money or loan them money and they make the cars in some foreign country, then I would oppose the bailout.
    Why should we bailout of some foreign country. I see too much foreign goods on the shelves of all the stores now. I have to go to many stores sometimes to get what I want that made in America.
    I am tired of having to go without or have to buy chineses made goods or from somewhere else.
    I want America made goods and am willing to pay the price for them.

    November 11, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  16. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    If it was an oil company that was in trouble, Bush would be all over it! Of course, if it was an oil company, it would never have gotten this far to begin with, because Bush and Cheney would have already handled it and not let it get this far!!!

    November 11, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  17. DavidinCA

    Apparently it has become," Survival of the biggest" instead of,"Survival of the fittest". That's only the start of how backwards things will be done starting in 2009. Can't wait to see the rest of the Change we are in for!

    November 11, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  18. Cathy

    It has always been traditional for these types of meetings and exchanges in transition of the President to be of advice and confidential in nature. I am very sorry to hear that Mr. Obama's team does not understand tradition or confidence. This may be the media's dream come true as they will has access to all the things that by their very essence are confidential if not top secret. This is sad.

    November 11, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  19. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Why is it that Toyota, Honda, and Hundai don't seem to be in trouble? Could it be that they were just more efficient a predicting market trends for smaller cars, hybrids, etc.? Or is it that they don't have unions bleeding them dry? Either way, American car manufactureres got themselves in this mess by mismanagement. If they are allowed to fail, a more competitive car industry will emerge.

    November 11, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  20. Glenn in California

    Bush's "legacy" will go down as the worst presidency ever, with or without GM going under. At this point, it's just a matter of degree of how bad Bush will be remembered.

    Is it Jan. 20, 2009 yet? It can't come soon enough for our country.

    November 11, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  21. anon

    yeah, we really need to reward the bloated, inefficient, unproductive, and mis-managed US auto-industry.

    Until the break the unions and continue to have bloated operating costs, the US auto-industry will not be able to compete with the efficientlty run, productive foriegn run auto-industry in the US. Workers at Toyota, Subaru, Honda, Mercedes, plants in the US make a comfortable living, but aren't breaking the backs of their employers by demaning wages and benefits higher than the market dictates.

    November 11, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  22. Mariel, Ohio

    Wow, I actually have to agree with GWB on this one.

    The auto industry does not deserve to be bailed out.

    They got themselves into this trouble and they should have to come up with a plan to get themselves out. In fact, the problem is that the government has helped them too much over the last few decades. Now they have grown dependent on having this help. The government should stop bailing out bad business and interfering in the market place.

    No more bailouts for bad business practice. It is good to let bad businesses fail bc it lets everyone learn something from them.

    Tough love is what is needed not welfare for another big business!!!

    November 11, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  23. s.positive

    Really waiting for President Obama's reign to steer the country to the right path.

    November 11, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  24. Ted van Tol

    This President has one goal. To get Americas economy on track
    again. His energy is amazing. We can espect a lot of him in the near future. He will be also great and a changer on foreign policy.
    I am not an American but I am realy proud to see Barack in the White House. He will be your most respected and loved President ever.
    Tho the whiners I say. Ger over it and be proud to be respected again in the world.

    Ted van Tol
    The Netherlands

    November 11, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  25. randy

    i know he will try and make sure that the transition move smoothly and secondly bush knows that the way he handled the transition program will be part of his legacy.

    November 11, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
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