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Bush Book Defends Auto Bailout, Criticizes Detroit Three

November 9, 2010

WASHINGTON — Two years after leaving office, former President George W. Bush remains a harsh critic of the executives he believes led the U.S. auto industry down the path to self-destruction. His new book, “Decision Points,” will be released today, and it includes a behind-the-scenes look at the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Protection (TARP)-enabled bailout of General Motors Co. and Chrysler LLC.

Bush has a contentious history with the domestic automakers. In his second term, he challenged them to “build a product that’s relevant” and, according to the book, rejected a request for aid from GM’s then-CEO, Rick Wagoner, shortly before the 2008 presidential election. As newly elected President Barack Obama prepared to take office, he and Bush met several times to discuss issues Obama would confront in the new year. In their first meeting, Bush says he told Obama he would not let the automakers fail.

The next week, Wagoner would join Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli and Ford Motor Co. chief Alan Mulally in two congressional hearings to request immediate aid for GM and Chrysler and an emergency line of credit for Ford. In December, Bush would authorize a $17.4 billion bailout under the TARP, calling it “the only option.”

“I had hoped we could convince Congress to release those loans immediately, so the companies could survive long enough to give the new president and his team time to address the situation,” Bush writes. “The Senate wouldn't budge.”

Bush has since come under fire from Obama and others for not demanding more from the automakers in return for the loans. But the former president described the terms as “stringent” and forced the Detroit Three to rewrite their business plans.

Nevertheless, Bush writes, “It was frustrating to have the automakers’ rescue be my last major economic decision.”

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