When I first saw The Hill’s item on this, I thought the “backbone” comment was a reference to The One firing GM’s CEO. Not so, or at least not necessarily: Mitt never mentions Wagoner’s departure, leaving it ambiguous as to whether he approves or whether he’s simply thinking big picture about the need for managed bankruptcy and willing to overlook an imperious gesture or two from the Oval Office on the way there. In any case, his point about Obama’s supposed backbone escapes me. What’s so brave about The One demanding restructuring as a quid pro quo for federal money? The auto bailouts are political poison outside Michigan; Obama has to show the public he’s getting something in return for flushing a few billion more down the toilet or else support for the whole Great Society II agenda could collapse. Wagoner was simply a sacrifice to the god of “progress.” Or, maybe, a stumbling block to something more ambitious:

It also means that Wagoner was perceived as an obstacle to whatever plans the administration has for GM. And that’s the real source of concern. If getting these companies back on their feet is the objective, a bankruptcy judge can make a determination pretty quickly about the viability of the firms and the steps necessary to get there. But if the objective is something more grandiose, such as transforming the industry into a model of green production, government oversight and close scrutiny of operations will be necessary. CEOs must be compliant and pliant. It is worth noting that a return to profitability and the metamorphosis of the industry according to a government script work at cross purposes.

If that’s what Obama’s after then Romney’s comparison between this and bankruptcy couldn’t be more wrong. Exit question via Rich Lowry: If Wagoner had to go, why didn’t UAW chief Ron Gettelfinger have to go too? No need to answer; it’s rhetorical, of course.