The big headline from President "Underdog" Obama's interview on Good Morning America yesterday was his frank admission that Americans are not better off today than they were before he took office. Indeed, sir. Another noteworthy element of the exchange was George Stephanopoulos' line of questioning about Solyndra -- the first time the president has been asked about the swelling scandal. His response? Hey, no biggie:
President Obama told ABC News Monday that he does not regret touting the solar company Solyndra as a model of his jobs program, or loaning $535 million in taxpayer money to the company before it declared bankruptcy. "Hindsight is always 20/20," Obama told "Good Morning America" anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview broadcast online Monday. "It went through the regular review process and people felt that it was a good bet." The interview was the first under a new alliance between ABC News and Yahoo News.
Hindsight is 20/20, sir, but invoking that excuse in the context of Solyndra is a complete head-fake. The reason this story has legs beyond typical griping about government waste is the reality that multiple red flags were raised and ignored before the waste took place. In light of Obama's spin, a cursory review of the timeline is in order. In 2009, prior to Obama taking office, Bush-era Energy officials unanimously rejected Solyndra's loan application. Weeks later, Obama OMB number-crunchers warned that the deal stunk to high heaven, and cautioned against going through with it. The loan was fast-tracked and approved after multiple White House visits by billionaire Solyndra investor and Obama donor George Kaiser. In 2010, White House officials and outside supporters sounded the alarm that a planned presidential visit to Solyndra's headquarters could blow up in Obama's face because of the company's deteriorating finances. These concerns were "brushed off," and the photo-op happened anyway. In 2011, after Solydra defaulted on its loan, White House budget officials recommended letting the "green energy" company fail rather than re-structuring its loan because the former course of action would save taxpayers up to $168 million. The loan was re-structured, and was constructed to ensure that Solyndra's private investors -- like George Kaiser -- would recoup their losses before taxpayers in the (inevitable) event that the company went bust.
Objections were raised at every step of this process, yet poor, politically-motivated decisions ensued in each case. This disastrous nature of these decisions are not merely evident "in hindsight." The whole enterprise was a slow-motion, real-time debacle from day one. People did not "feel it was a good bet," Mr. President. Many people within your own administration felt it was a very bad bet, but your political team placed it anyway, and doubled-down at every opportunity. With our money. That's not bad luck. That's not hindsight. That's a scandal.
Parting thought - Which is the better White House approach to evading the stench of this self-created mess: Disingenuously deflecting, like Obama did on GMA, or just running away?
UPDATE - The RNC has released a new web ad hitting the president on Solyndra, juxtaposing his "no regrets" mantra on ABC with various news reports on the unravelling scandal:
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