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Detroit: A Tale of Two Cities

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  President Barack Obama
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Detroit: A Tale of Two Cities

Bill Crittenden
July 22, 2013


Detroit is in the news again, this time for the city itself going bankrupt.

The city itself?  What other kind of Detroit is there?  More on this in a minute...

The struggles in Detroit remind me, of course, of the Chrysler ads that say that the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fires, voiced over scenes of gritty Detroit streets. That resonated a few years ago, and it still does today.  Tough streets make strong people, and strong people make quality cars, right?

(But then Mazdas are made in Hiroshima, and so I imagine their response to Chrysler was something like, "Detroit?  The hottest fires? Bitch, please.")

I've gotten to know a few folks from Detroit both online and in my own family.  They are a tough bunch, and like the automakers that call it home, the city will be stronger going forward.

Joking and general commentary aside, Detroit and the auto industry have fallen back into the national political stage, and that's what I originally started to write about.

As it happened a year ago, President Barack Obama said in a 2012 campaign speech that he would not allow Detroit to go bankrupt on his watch:

"Just a few years ago, the auto industry wasn't just struggling - it was flatlining. GM and Chrysler were on the verge of collapse. Suppliers and distributors were at risk of going under. More than a million jobs across the country were on the line - and not just auto jobs, but the jobs of teachers, small business owners, and everyone in communities that depend on this great American industry.  But we refused to throw in the towel and do nothing. We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt."

Of course, as any "car guy" knows, Detroit is shorthand for "the American automobile industry."  The "Big 3: GM, Ford, and Chrysler."

It's pretty clear from both the context of the speech that by "Detroit" he meant "the auto industry," not "the government of the city of Detroit."  Especially in the words, "across the country" and "this great American industry."

In a cheap lawyers' trick sort of way, now, he's being accused of lying, breaking a campaign promise, failing.  Why?  Because the City of Detroit, rife with problems entirely different than those of the auto industry and not directly a part of the automotive bailout, is filing for bankruptcy.

Anybody who knows what 10W-30 is knows what he meant, and they ought to see how it's being manipulated by Alex Jones, Fox News, and others.  Of course, from the conversations I read and hear, President Obama is not a fan favorite of either the classic car crowd or NASCAR fans, so they let it slide (at best) or join in piling on the President.

But the willingness to cast aside logic and honesty to accept misinformation without challenging it because it happens to be politically useful is a whole other topic more appropriate for a mass media or psychology organization, not an automotive one.

In that case, let me just conclude my short foray into the topic by pointing you to just such an organization, a media fairness group by the name of Media Matters, if you're interested in more on this issue: http://mediamatters.org/mobile/blog/2013/07/19/fox-conflates-the-city-of-detroit-with-automake/194978



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