"I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system," President Bush told CNN, defending his offer of $17 billion in loans to the Big Three "to make sure the economy doesn't collapse."
Thus did Bush concede that protectionism, if a critical U.S. industry is in peril, must trump free-trade ideology. For in offering the bailout to GM, Ford and Chrysler, Bush, by omission, excluded BMW, Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai -- though all operate auto plants here in the United States and all are feeling the same sales slump.
Indeed, Toyota claims losses for the first time in 70 years -- though how Toyota's management was able to keep sales up in 1945, when Gen. Curtis LeMay's B-29s were conducting their nightly visits, escapes me.
Bush may believe he has sinned against free-market principles, but he is following the path of his great free-market predecessor. Ronald Reagan, too, was not prepared to see Japan take down the U.S. auto industry, or steel industry, or computer chip industry, or Harley-Davidson.
Believing Japan was dumping to destroy U.S. companies, Reagan put patriotism before ideology and imposed quotas on Japanese imports. He, too, was castigated by the same commentariat that is berating Bush.
Vice President Cheney, too, has endorsed the bailout of Detroit. Of the senators who voted to pull the plug on General Motors, Cheney is said to have remarked, "It's Herbert Hoover time" up there in the GOP caucus
Averting Chapter 11 for GM, which could lead to liquidation of the greatest manufacturing company in U.S. history -- cutting America out of the premier consumer market of the 21st century -- makes sense not only from the standpoint of politics, but economics, as well.
For other nations, as The Washington Post reports, are far ahead of Bush in sheltering their industries and protecting their markets:
"Moving to shield battered domestic manufacturers from foreign imports, Indonesia is slapping restrictions on at least 500 products this month, demanding special licenses and new fees on imports. Russia is hiking tariffs on imported cars, poultry and pork. France is launching a state fund to protect French companies from foreign takeovers. Officials in Argentina and Brazil are seeking to raise tariffs on products, from imported wine and textiles to leather goods and peaches, according to the World Trade Organization."
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