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In 2008, Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed for the New York Times arguing that General Motors and Chrysler should be put through a managed bankruptcy process instead of getting a taxpayer bailout.
The New York Times headlined Romney's piece "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." The piece had nothing to do with whether the city of Detroit should undergo a municipal bankruptcy.
The headline is an example of metonymy: a figure of speech in which a term ("Detroit") is substituted for a concept it's associated with (the auto industry.)
Fast forward five years, and we see two things: Detroit is going through a municipal bankruptcy, and the editors of the Washington Times do not understand metonymy.
The Washington Times ran an editorial today in favor of the municipal bankruptcy, saying "Mitt Romney was right about Detroit's bankruptcy." Did they even read Romney's op-ed?
Here's the Times:
Another day and another of President Obama’s campaign boasts bites the dust. While out on the hustings last year, Mr. Obama pummeled Mitt Romney for writing a 2008 op-ed column in The New York Times titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
The Republican nominee sensibly argued that bankruptcy would force the city to go through a drastic — and necessary — restructuring of its finances. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, boasted, “We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt. We bet on American workers … and that bet is paying off.” Until Tuesday.
Romney's entire op-ed was about cars and the auto industry. He told of how his father, George, was the CEO of American Motors. But he said that the U.S. should allow the automakers to go through bankruptcy as a way to restructure the companies, a debate that raged at the time.
On Tuesday, federal judge Steven Rhodes allowed Detroit to proceed with its bankruptcy, ruling that its billions of dollars of planned cuts to city employees, retirees, and investors, among others, were constitutional .
In conclusion, the Washington Times wrote:
“It is indeed a momentous day,” Judge Rhodes declared at the end of his ruling. “We have here a judicial finding that this once-proud city cannot pay its debts. At the same time, it has an opportunity for a fresh start. I hope that everybody associated with the city will recognize that opportunity.” That’s exactly what Mr. Romney said in 2008.
But Romney wrote it about the auto industry — not about Detroit.
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