- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2011

DETROIT | His eggs were scrambled, his toast was multigrain, but GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, campaigning Thursday morning at a diner in the Michigan county where he was born, found himself on the hot seat from auto workers who picketed his visit and slammed him for a flip-flop on the industry bailout.

About 40 members of the UAW, carrying signs that read “Mitt Is Wrong” and “Michigan Needs Jobs,” walked a picket-line-like protest of his visit to Livonia, Mich., a Republican stronghold outside of Detroit. Mr. Romney, whose father, George, was a beloved governor who turned around the failing American Motors Co. in the mid-1950s, returned to the campaign trail in his home state where he won the 2008 GOP primary.

But a 2008 New York Times editorial he penned, titled “Let Them Go Bankrupt,” that called for a managed and more traditional bankruptcy overhaul rather than a government bailout that left control with the union, has cast a pall on his credibility in the Mitten State-where he must win if he has any hopes of facing President Obama in a presidential election.

“President Obama believed in not only us, the workers, but our management team,” said Jaron Garza, 36, a 15-year veteran GM worker and UAW member from Ferndale, Mich., who walked the sidewalk early Thursday morning in protest of Mr. Romneys visit to the Motor City.

“We all had to make sacrifices to make this work and guess what, its working,” Mr. Garza said. “I think its very hypocritical for [Mr. Romney] to be here.”

Mr. Romney, looking trim and energetic, was not without support, earning “welcome home” plaudits from patrons at the Senate Coney Island as he shook hands, signing everything from photos to baseballs and ordering a hearty breakfast at the diner, owned by a Greek immigrant, George Dimopoulos, whose American business success story mirrors Mr. Romneys hope for a nation thriving through entrepreneurship - not government control.

“This country should be on top of the world,” bemoaned Mr. Dimopoulos, who came to America in 1969 and now owns several restaurants, thanks to “working 18-hour days.”

“I think that Obama has let us way down,” he said. “Id like to see a lot of people back to work and also make sure there are jobs and people are committed to working very hard.”

The former Massachusetts governor stood atop a chair inside the diner to thank those whod come out to see him. “Were going to get a new president who knows how to get the economy going,” Mr. Romney said to applause.

Cheryl Wood, a retired medical worker from Detroit, said she came out to support Mr. Romney “because we need him here.”

“I think we are in sad shape,” she said of the nation. “Id like to see a lot of support for our country, the people of the United States. We need to stop helping other countries and pull us up.”

Kurt Heise, a Republican legislator representing Michigans 20th District, said he thinks Mr. Romney should do well in his state, calling him “very competitive.”

“We as Republicans need to support a candidate with a proven track record of executive success. Hes got a good economic plan, executive experience and he understands the big issues confronting the country.”

But Bill Ballenger, a political analyst and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, says Mr. Romney must atone for the infamous editorial that has infuriated auto workers and others within the state.

“You remember ‘I Love Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, saying to his wife, Lucy, you got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do? ” says Mr. Ballenger. “Well, Mitt Romney has a lot of ‘splainin to do about Romneycare in Massachusetts. Thats a big problem for him. Hes also got some ‘splainin to do on what he said in Michigan.”

One Michigan GOP lawmaker, Rep. Thaddeus G. McCotter, savaged Mr. Romney over his auto-bailout remarks.

“Motor City hospitality dictates a Michigan message to Mitt that our struggling families, entrepreneurs and workers think Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama are not rivals, theyre running mates,” said Mr. McCotter, a five-term congressman who has said he is considering running for president himself.

Mr. Romney, who arrived at his first campaign stop in a Chrysler 300, put economics at the forefront of his message at a second campaign stop at a downtown Detroit entrepreneurship development center, Bizdom U. There, after meeting with a group of young business developers, where his corporate management prowess was on full display, Mr. Romney defended his stance on bankruptcy protection for the now rebounding U.S. automakers, saying had the industry listened to union ideas, it would not be on its feet today.

“I love the auto industry. I love American cars. I drive one,” but writing a government check to fix a business is the wrong idea, he told reporters.

“I believe that bailouts are not the answer,” he said, noting that a structured and managed bankruptcy - a private process - was preferable to a government check.



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