Paul Greenberg

Those bankruptcies, contrary to the conventional wisdom at the time, were good news. That way, the companies got a chance to start anew and do better.

That's the purpose of bankruptcy: to clear the books and the air and allow folks a second chance, a chance to do better. It's hard to imagine the better products Detroit is turning out these days without the spur of foreign competition. By treating GM and Chrysler as too big to fail for too long, Washington did them no favor. It just put off the inevitable and made it all the more painful when it did arrive.

Now both companies are demonstrating that they can compete very well with foreign products, but it took letting them fail to get their attention.

Failure is not without its benefits; it can be a most educational experience.

In the end, the administration had to follow Mitt Romney's counsel and let both these corporations file for bankruptcy. But in the alternate universe Joe Biden inhabits, GM and Chrysler never went under. Why let an historical detail or two stand in the way of a rousing campaign speech? Like a bespoke historian, he will happily tailor history to suit the customer. (Orders now being taken for the fall season of 2012).

Despite all Mr. Biden's handiwork, his final product may not convince.

Even if his tucked-and-fitted history shines with the sharkskin splendor of a Beirut business suit, the customer cannot escape the uneasy feeling that there's a rip down the back, and it's widening with his every step. Consumer confidence drops and the uneasy feeling grows that the country is going in the wrong direction. Indeed, that feeling begins to take on the solidity of a firm conviction. And the American voter, like a driver who suspects he's made a wrong turn, begins to hear an inner voice he can no longer ignore:

Turn around!

Mr. Biden's politic history of corporate bankruptcies in 2009, which was much too politic to emphasize any corporate bankruptcies, brings to mind a little label spotted on a display case in a Midwestern art museum years ago:

The authenticity of these artifacts is now under review. As the presidential campaign of 2012 gears up -- indeed, you can hear the gears grinding -- perhaps a similar label should be attached to any and all campaign speeches still in the development stage:

The authenticity of these facts is now under review.

Or should be. Because any similarity between the "facts" cited in these partisan recitations and what actually happened may be only coincidental.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.