The White House was adamant today that President Obama’s fiery speech to the United Auto Workers union was “not at all” campaigning.
As voters in Michigan cast their ballots in the GOP primary this morning, the president delivered a rousing address, touting his decision to bail out the auto industry and sharply criticizing his Republican rivals for the presidency.
While he did not mention Mitt Romney by name, the president referenced him often and twice quoted Romney’s opposition to the bailout. “I’ve got to admit, it’s been funny to watch some of these folks completely try to rewrite history now that you’re back on your feet… The same folks who said if we went forward with our plan to rescue Detroit, ‘you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye,’” Obama said quoting Mitt Romney’s 2008 New York Times op-ed entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
The president went on to suggest Romney was shoveling “a load of you-know-what” when it comes to his stance on the auto bailout.
Furthermore, without directly asking the union members to support his re-election bid, the president said, “I’ll promise you this: as long as you’ve got an ounce of fight left in you, I’ll have a ton of fight left in me.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney denied the event amounted to a campaign speech and refused several times to admit that the president was referring to Mitt Romney throughout his address.
“This is a matter of debate right now,” Carney told reporters of the president’s $85 billion auto bailout. “We have some people who still say it was wrong to take this action. We have a president who took that action in speaking to the UAW today, a group that was very affected by this decision, who made clear what his position was and contrasted it… with the policy opinions of a number of critics, including the governor of Massachusetts, but not exclusively the governor of Massachusetts,” Carney said.
It’s true, the speech was an “official” White House event, not backed by the campaign, but when the president took to the stage to chants of “four more years,” a labor official felt compelled to remind the raucous crowd “this is not a political event.”
As for the timing of today’s address, the White House has claimed it was purely a coincidence that the UAW decided to hold its annual conference on the same day as the Michigan primary.