While at the Detroit Auto Show on Thursday, the man next-in-line to the most powerful position in the modern world took time to thank the chairman of Ford for "saving our ass." ABC News, which reported the exchange, doesn't know why: "(It was unclear what exactly Biden was thanking Ford for.)" So: Why?
Because Ford Motors made Obama's case on the economy.
It's possible that Vice President Joe Biden was thanking Bill Ford, Jr. (of the Ford Fords) because the resurgence of the auto industry gave the reelection campaign of President Obama a great talking point in 2012. More specifically, it gave Biden a great talking point: "Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive." He dropped that line in September of that year, at a Labor Day rally in Detroit. The line — which is a good line! — quickly caught on, given its neat encapsulation of Obama's arguments on foreign policy and the economy.
You will notice, however, that the line was not about Ford, but rather GM. That's because GM, unlike Ford, received a bailout from the federal government, making it a much better example for the 2012 Obama campaign's purposes. The pool reporter following Biden around, the Detroit News' David Shepardson, suggested that the comment was "apparently referring to the 2008-2009 auto crisis." But, Shepardson adds, "the Dearborn automaker didn't seek a government bailout."
In fact, Steven Rattner, head of Obama's auto task force, once suggested that Ford only survived thanks to the bailout of the other companies, which made the entire industry stronger. In other words, then, Bill Ford should perhaps have thanked Biden for saving his ass. (Shepardson also adds, "Ford Jr.'s response couldn't be made out," perhaps because it was a baffled, "Hm?")
Because Ford donated to Obama-Biden.
Bill Ford didn't donate to Obama-Biden in 2012. A "Billy Ray Ford" made a donation in 2012, but he lives in Hollywood, Florida, not Detroit, and he only gave to Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy. Lots of people who work for Ford Motor Company gave to various candidates, according to Open Secrets, but they also gave to various other candidates and campaigns.
Besides, even if Ford had, say bundled $100,000 in donations from various people, the campaign overall raised $726 million. A hundred grand is 0.01 percent of that total — hardly an ass-saving amount.
Because Biden thought he was talking to Rob Ford, who helpfully distracted the media for about four months last year.
Bill Ford and Rob Ford do not look very much alike.
Because Biden likes Ford cars.
ABC notes that the vice president is "a car lover who owns a classic Corvette," and that he referred to himself as a "kid in a candy shop" at the auto show. A Corvette, however, is not a Ford. It's a Chevy. Ford does make the Mustang. Not even The Onion's caricature of Biden drives a Ford; he washes his Trans Am in the White House driveway.
Because Biden got a little confused, and, in his charmingly chummy way, sort of said the wrong thing.
It's this one, isn't it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.