Even Milquetoastiest Elements of GOP Have Learned to Fight the Press

On CNN this morning, Ohio Senator Rob Portman put the kibosh on some last-minute GM/Jeep/Fiat spin from — who else? — Soledad O’Brien.

O’BRIEN: The implication being that jobs were taken from the United States and being moved to China. So, PolitiFact said it was untrue. The GM jumped in. That’s why GM responded. And the head of Jeep also – rather the head of Fiat –

PORTMAN: Soledad —

O’BRIEN: Yes, sir?

PORTMAN: Soledad, two things. One, it is correct that Barack Obama and the administration took the two companies to bankruptcy. That’s correct. It is true that Jeep now makes all of their Jeeps in the United States of America. And they actually export Jeeps to China, into the Asian market. It is true, I believe, unless something has changed, that Fiat is planning on beginning production in China for Jeeps that will be sold in China. Bill Clinton’s been talking about it on the campaign trail in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

O’BRIEN: But not moved from the United States to China, which is his point.

PORTMAN: Hold on, hold on. Hold on. But that’s not what the ad says. The ad says is that Jeep is going to begin production in China. So, look, I don’t think that’s frankly the major point here. The major point is, who would be better for these companies going forward? But both of these guys, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney had a plan.

They were different plans. You can debate as to which one would have been better for the companies. But both of them had plans that included taking the companies through bankruptcy and having federal assistance, and that was something that PolitiFact corrected the President on, as you know, during the debate.

The second debate when he said that there was no federal help, PolitiFact said, no, that’s wrong. There was federal help in the Romney plan. But the bigger issue for me is who’s going to be better for these companies going forward? And as a U.S. senator who gets lobbied a lot by the auto companies as to what they’re looking for, they’re looking for regulatory relief because they want to be able to compete globally.

They want tax reform very badly along the lines of what Mitt Romney has proposed, not what the President has proposed because their corporate, rate as you know, is the highest in the developed world. They’re looking for lower energy costs, which is one of the Mitt Romney marquee proposals, talking about how we get more stable and affordable energy. And they’re also looking for better worker retraining.

O’BRIEN: It will be –

PORTMAN: – and fairer trade and a level playing field. So, those are the proposals that you know, as an autoworker and as a manager of one of these companies, that’s what — that’s what you’re looking for. So –

O’BRIEN: And I think the exit polling —

PORTMAN: – I think that’s probably the most important issue.

O’BRIEN: And it’ll be interesting, the exit polling as Christine pointed out, to see what people thought of that ad and what their take was in the whole framing of this. I think very interesting.

I haven’t seen video of the exchange, but I can imagine the weaselly “Well, we’ll see what the voters think” closing line had a much different tenor after Portman took the wind out of Soledad’s planned gotcha moment and dominated the conversation.

I will admit that during the GOP primary, I got on the Newt bandwagon (the Newt Caboose, some called it) after his withering treatment of several debates’ leftist shill moderators. If a question was stupid, he would call it stupid. If a reporter was out of line, he would call them out — even by name, in one infamous instance.

It freaked out the progressive press and made them commit several unforced errors, such as labeling neutral words like “food stamps” and “Juan” as racial code words. It made Republicans look like the adults in the room, asking to move to more pressing topics than birth control and former wives.

And thankfully, the Party learned a lesson and took that spirit into the general election. John Sununu and, though he’s unaffiliated, Donald Trump have brought back the “You’re an idiot, shut up” attitude that’s sometimes the best response to dishonest shills being dishonest shills. While Senator Portman is certainly more polite about it, the fact that Republicans are putting the brakes on false premises from the likes of Soledad is a big reason why Romney may win today.