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Commentator Charles Brown 'truth-squads' Jennifer Granholm's DNC speech


I made a point of tuning into C-SPAN on the last night of the Democratic National Convention.  It wasn’t because I was looking forward to a political speech from Desperate Housewife Eva Longoria.  Although in retrospect, Ms. Longoria’s speech was statesman-like in comparison to what went before her.

What I saw shocked me.

Jennifer Granholm, widely rumored to have been a past governor of the state of Michigan, returned to television from the safe hiding place of her spot on Current TV’s “The War Room (with, uh, Jennifer Granholm)” to tout her own highly successful second term as a state governor, and to tell the world why a second term for the Obama Administration might be just as successful.

No, wait, that didn’t happen.  Not even the nerds like me who actually watch C-SPAN can remember what the second Granholm Administration produced for Michigan.  If anyone in the Obama Administration is thinking about the record of Governor Granholm as a model of success for second terms… Ouch.

So perhaps that’s why Granholm resorted to the combination of histrionics and falsehoods that landed her photograph on the home page of the Drudge Report with the subtitle, “MELTDOWN.”

In her six-minute speech to the Convention, Granholm began by introducing herself as being “from the great state of Michigan.”  A critic harsher than me might complain that the Granholms sold their home in Michigan years ago and haven’t really lived here since she left office; the former Miss San Carlos is a Californian again, with a faculty title at a California university and a job at a television studio in San Francisco.  But fair is fair, and since Mitt Romney is working his Michigan roots, this One-Man Truth Squad is going to rate Granholm’s claim a “pass.”

The real problems for Granholm begin with her discussing the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler, which occurred near the end of her tenure as Michigan governor.  In a breathtakingly false paragraph, she said, “The entire auto industry, and the lives of over one million hard-working Americans, teetered on the edge of collapse; and with it, the whole manufacturing sector. We looked everywhere for help. Almost nobody had the guts to help us – not the banks, not the private investors and not Bain capital. Then, in 2009, the cavalry arrived: our new president, Barack Obama!”

That is a falsehood of such bewildering grandness, that the needle of the Truth-O-Meter was pegged, and I think that my own pants were on fire just listening to it. The truth is, there was help for the auto industry in late 2008; about $34 billion worth of it, courtesy of the George W. Bush Administration, which made large operating loans to General Motors, GMAC, Chrysler.  Granholm’s statement was purely and extravagantly wrong.

In the next paragraph of her speech, Granholm continued the falsity.  Speaking of President Obama, she said, “He organized a rescue, made the tough calls and saved the American auto industry. Mitt Romney saw the same crisis and you know what he said: ‘Let Detroit go bankrupt.’”

That old newspaper headline, which was not a Romney quote, was the only way Granholm used the word “bankrupt” in her speech, despite the well-known fact that the “rescue” engineered by the Obama Administration in the summer of 2009 was, well, a managed bankruptcy.

As I wrote in an earlier Michigan Radio commentary, anyone who tells you that “Mitt Romney…said:  ‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” is telling you a lie.  A five-Pinocchio lie, is how this One-Man Truth Squad rates that one.  Granholm’s implication was that Romney wanted to liquidate General Motors (he didn’t) and that Obama wanted to prevent a GM bankruptcy (he didn’t).

The Granholm speech is now a fixture on YouTube.  Much like video of a car crash, or a fat lady falling off a trampoline and losing her shorts.  It is hard to imagine that any serious-minded speech writer didn’t expect to be called on these falsehoods.  Not that I think of Granholm as a serious-minded speechwriter.  But to the extent that the DNC wouldn’t load anything into its Teleprompters without a once-over, it must have been a calculation; that if the delivery was crazy enough, the lies would be less of a news story. 

Charles Brown is an attorney from Livonia. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.