The auto bailout bust

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It was pretty clear last Thursday when the Detroit Three CEOs testified before the Senate Banking Committee that a lot of Senators (among them committee Chairman Chris Dodd and ranking Republican Dick Shelby) were interested in punting the auto bailout to the Bush administration or the Federal Reserve. Now they’ve gotten their way, and it’s a little bit amazing to me how many newspaper column inches (and pixels) were wasted in the intervening week describing the bailout “deal” the White House was negotiating with Democratic Congressional leaders. TIME’s Jay Newton-Small was dubious all along that Congress could reach a deal. Note to self: Listen to Jay.

So now it’s up to the president to see if he can fashion a short-term bailout (I talked to Hank Paulson earlier this week and he definitely doesn’t seem interested in taking over that job). In a way that’s probably better: It will make clear that any aid now is a temporary stopgap pending a bankruptcy-by-some-other-name deal to be negotiated later. Unless we get a bankruptcy-called-bankruptcy first.

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