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Our White House Bully Problem
For the only Detroit automaker that "didn't take the money" of the federal auto bailouts, Ford Motor Co. keeps paying a price for its comparative success and self-reliant turnaround.
There's no help from American taxpayers to help lighten its debt load, giving crosstown rivals comparatively better credit ratings and a financial edge Ford is working diligently to erase all on its own.
There's no clause barring a strike by hourly workers amid this fall's national contract talks with the United Auto Workers — a by-product of the taxpayer-financed bailout that General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC retain until 2015.
And there's no assurance the Dearborn automaker can use the commercially advantageous fact that it didn't "take the money" proffered by the Obama Treasury Department and use it in TV ads angling to sell cars and trucks. Not if the campaign takes a whack at its Detroit rivals and suggests that Ford no longer supports the Obama administration bailouts it backed in public statements and sworn congressional testimony.
As part of a campaign featuring "real people" explaining their decision to buy the Blue Oval, a guy named "Chris" says he "wasn't going to buy another car that was bailed out by our government," according the text of the ad, launched in early September.
"I was going to buy from a manufacturer that's standing on their own: win, lose, or draw. That's what America is about is taking the chance to succeed and understanding when you fail that you gotta' pick yourself up and go back to work."
That's what some of America is about, evidently. Because Ford pulled the ad after individuals inside the White House questioned whether the copy was publicly denigrating the controversial bailout policy CEO Alan Mulally repeatedly supported in the dark days of late 2008, in early '09 and again when the ad flap arose. And more.
With President Barack Obama tuning his re-election campaign amid dismal economic conditions and simmering antipathy toward his stimulus spending and associated bailouts, the Ford ad carried the makings of a political liability when Team Obama can least afford yet another one. Can't have that.
The ad, pulled in response to White House questions (and, presumably, carping from rival GM), threatened to rekindle the negative (if accurate) association just when the president wants credit for their positive results (GM and Chrysler are moving forward, making money and selling vehicles) and to distance himself from any public downside of his decision.
In other words, where presidential politics and automotive marketing collide — clean, green, politically correct vehicles not included — the president wins and the automaker loses because the benefit of the battle isn't worth the cost of waging it.
"This thing is highly charged," says an industry source familiar with the situation. Ford "never meant it to be an attack on the policy. There was not any pressure to take down the ad."
Maybe not technically. But the nexus of politics and the auto business in today's Washington is bigger, broader and more complex than it arguably has been in who knows how long.
Add a re-election campaign for the president credited (or condemned) with executing the bailout, and it should be no surprise that a White House that insists it doesn't want to "run" the business nonetheless reserves the right to question it, implications be damned.
Whatever the politics, the ad kerfuffle exposes two opposed realities existing simultaneously for Ford:
First, a sizable cadre of current and would-be customers oppose the notion of taxpayer bailouts for automakers, whatever the economic costs to the industrial Midwest and the nation of letting them collapse. Meaning there's an advantage Ford can press to remind folks that it didn't receive direct payouts from Treasury.
Second is that Ford supported the bailouts before Congress, in public statements and still does today, despite the recurring snarkiness you hear around its offices in Dearborn that it "didn't take the money."
No, it didn't. But Ford did seek a line of credit from the feds, borrowed billions under a government program to "retool" its plants and effectively failed first. That's why it recruited a superstar CEO from Boeing Co. and gave him some $23 billion in borrowed money to save the Blue Oval from bankruptcy.
Or it would have taken the money, too.
From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110927/...#ixzz1ZZyOtEBz
Spin, baby, spin. Throughout his frenetic jobs tour across the West this week, President Obama tried to seize the narrative. Republicans, he told champagne-sipping, tea party-trashing Hollywood moguls and tech titans, are intolerant bigots, know-nothings and thugs. They've made his hair "grayer" and left him "all dinged up."
But who's battering whom? Since Day One, Obama has been the Chicago bully in victim's clothing. The mask is wearing thin.
Your Chicago Way read of the day comes from the Detroit News, where columnist Daniel Howes brings news that a few calls from the White House have led to Ford Motor Company yanking ads that spotlighted its refusal to take government auto bailout money. Nice car company ya got there, fellas. Would be a shame if anything happened to it … (h/t Is This Blog On , Cold Fury ): For the only Detroit automaker that “didn’t take the money” of the federal auto bailouts, Ford Motor Co. keeps paying a price for its comparative success and self-reliant turnaround. There’s no help from American taxpayers to help lighten its debt load, giving crosstown rivals comparatively better credit ratings and a financial edge Ford is working diligently to erase all on its own. There’s no clause barring a strike by hourly workers amid this fall’s national contract talks with the United Auto Workers — a by-product of the taxpayer-financed bailout that General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC retain until 2015. And there’s no assurance the Dearborn automaker can use the commercially advantageous fact that it didn’t “take the money” proffered by the Obama Treasury Department and use it in TV ads angling to sell cars and trucks. Not if the campaign takes a whack at its Detroit rivals and suggests that Ford no longer supports the Obama administration bailouts it backed in public statements and sworn congressional testimony. As part of a campaign featuring “real people” explaining their decision to buy the Blue Oval, a guy named “Chris” says he “wasn’t going to buy another car that was bailed out by our government,” according the text of the ad, launched in early September. “I was going to buy from a manufacturer that’s standing on their own: win, lose, or draw. That’s what America is about is taking the chance to succeed and understanding when you fail that you gotta’ pick yourself up and go back to work.” That’s what some of America is about, evidently. Because Ford pulled the ad after individuals inside the White House questioned whether the copy was publicly denigrating the controversial bailout policy CEO Alan Mulally repeatedly supported in the dark days of late 2008, in early ’09 and again when the ad flap arose. And more. In another typical Chicago-on-the-Potomac coincidence, the Obama campaign’s “Attack Watch” is back up and running on Twitter after a nearly two-week-long hiatus. The subject of the snitch squad’s last attack watch attack? Yep. Critics of the auto bailout. Related: Interview with the guy who starred in the Ford ad… In this case, it was Chris, who explained how he came to star in the commercial and reiterated his support for Ford during an interview this morning on WJR-AM 760. “I still standby what I said, and that is, as Americans, we need to decide if we’re going to be run by a government or if we’re going to be run by free enterprise,” he told host Frank Beckmann. “That’s really the debate that we’re facing today. So I applaud Ford, still, to this day, for having the courage to put that ad on the TV and spur the debate. Here’s Chris’s YouTube response: *** More: A reader on Twitter points to Ford’s response to him on Facebook in which the company claims the ad campaign is still running : Ford Motor Company Jeff we were not coerced into pulling the ad down. The campaign continues to run. We took the ad out of rotation after 4 weeks which is consistent with the typical lifecycle for the campaign. There were conflicting reports that the ad had been yanked from YouTube. It appears that the ad is still there, though. Check this link. Someone’s in a panic over at Ford’s social media department, for sure. The original YouTube ad uploaded weeks ago on the site is not available. See the embed of the original ad from September 16 here at hotair: “Video has been removed by the user.” The one now appearing on the site was re-uploaded on September 23. I think diggrbiii has this right: “Ford pulls TV ad, claims it was just normal scheduling, keeps YouTube version up for plausible deniability.” *** Update: I’ve heard from several readers who’ve contacted Detroit News reporter Dan Howes for comment. I have contacted him directly, too and will update. Here’s what one reader forwarded are saying: From: Wayne A Sent: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 01:56 PM To: Howes, Daniel Subject: Ford ad article FYI Ford says via its FB presence that they have not pulled the ad; that it simply is currently out of rotation. Response: Subject: Re: Ford ad article Date: Tue, 27 Sep 2011 14:21:57 -0400 From: Howes, Daniel To: Not true. Just had lunch w/ company VP who confirms my column. Thanks for the note. – DCH Daniel Howes Business Columnist The Detroit News W: +1.313.222.2106 M: +1.313.632.1945 E: email@example.com Sent via BlackBerry Update: Scott Monty is the Ford social media director and writes on Twitter: “We did not pull the ad under pressure.” I have asked him directly: “Did the White House contact Ford to complain about the ads or not?” Waiting for a response… *** Scott Monty’s response: “I have no knowledge of the White House calling. We don’t make advertising decisions based on pressure.” My follow-up: “So can you find out and let us know whether WH called to complain or not? It’s germane.” And: “If you are denying substance of D. Howe’s Detroit News report, are you going to ask paper 4 a retraction?” Seconds later, White House press flack Dan Pfeiffer tweeted : “Lots of bad info/reporting out there today: Report on POTUS and Troy Davis and Detroit News column saying WH pressured Ford are both false.” My follow-up: “So did anyone at the White House contact anyone at Ford to complain about the bailout ad or not?” I think a FOIA request is in order… *** Larry O’Connor interviewed Ford ad star Chris McDaniel. Excerpt: When I asked Mr. McDaniel what he thought about the reports that the White House may have pressured Ford into removing his commercial he said, “I understand the political world Ford lives in. I don’t fault them. But, I’m on the hook with my tax dollars on this Solyndra scandal. It’s exactly the same thing as the GM and Chrysler bailouts. Enough is enough! The only people on the hook in this country are the 50% of American who still pay taxes. And now we have the federal government butting their nose into this TV ad. Another example of them getting involved in things they have no business getting involved in. Where is the free speech of American citizens?” With ideas like that, no wonder the White House got involved.