When the president forced GM GM +0.43% and Chrysler into bankruptcy court, the White House’s auto task force used the process to execute a prearranged reorganization it had masterminded with political allies. By contrast, Mr. Romney called for a true bankruptcy, in which creditors and stakeholders negotiate reorganization together, with the government merely providing the minimum support needed to prevent disorderly liquidation. In retrospect, Mr. Romney’s approach not only would have produced outcomes superior to the president’s, it was actually the braver course of action. …

Seen in this light, far from being a brave decision made with middle-class workers in mind, the auto bailout was a craven submission to corporate executives who would rather hold the economy hostage than face the consequences of their irresponsible actions. And Mr. Romney’s recommendation that GM and Chrysler reorganize in bankruptcy—that they finally face the costs of their failures—was an act of bravery.

Mr. Romney was well aware of the risk of an industrywide collapse, arguing in his op-ed in favor of a government role in the bankruptcies, namely to “provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.” With government-backed warranties and guaranteed debtor-in-possession financing, the industry could have avoided a meltdown just as effectively as it did with the president’s approach.