Rush Limbaugh unloaded on him today for saying this, but it is what it is. If you want Mitt Romney as your nominee, you’d better be prepared to make ideological compromises. Go re-read Dan McLaughlin’s piece yesterday for a refresher on that. Said Mitt:

“In the general election I’ll be pointing out that the president took the reins at General Motors and Chrysler — closed factories, closed dealerships laid off thousands and thousands of workers — he did it to try to save the business,” Romney said Wednesday on CBS.

Obama has publicly touted his plan to “retool and restructure” the auto companies as “an investment in American workers.” Romney was strongly opposed to the auto bailouts but on Wednesday likened the president’s strategy to his own.

“We also had the occasion to do things that are tough to try and save a business,” he said.

Rush is annoyed that Romney’s implicitly conceding virtuous motives on Obama’s part in saving GM instead of slamming him for the power grab and for propping the company up with taxpayer money to satisfy the unions. I didn’t draw that conclusion when I watched the clip, though. Romney’s goal, as Limbaugh acknowledges, was simply to inoculate himself from the left’s anti-Bain argument that layoffs are always unnecessary and bad. Unless he’s even more of a RINO than I thought, you’re not going to hear him equate private equity with government takeovers on the trail if/when this comes up. In fact, go watch this clip from November in which Romney criticizes Obama for “giving the companies to the UAW.” In 2008 he opposed a no-strings-attached bailout and instead endorsed a managed bankruptcy led by the companies themselves in which GM et al. would be eligible for certain types of federal help if and only if they reorganized themselves for profitability. Quote:

Without [a] bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself. With it, the automakers will stay the course — the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check…

It is not wrong to ask for government help, but the automakers should come up with a win-win proposition. I believe the federal government should invest substantially more in basic research — on new energy sources, fuel-economy technology, materials science and the like — that will ultimately benefit the automotive industry, along with many others. I believe Washington should raise energy research spending to $20 billion a year, from the $4 billion that is spent today. The research could be done at universities, at research labs and even through public-private collaboration. The federal government should also rectify the imbedded tax penalties that favor foreign carmakers…

The American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing. A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs. The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.

In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.

He’s not saying federal money should be absolutely off limits, only that it should be limited to certain purposes and contingent upon restructured viability. That’s very different from Obama’s goal per Rush, but you’ve still got federal money flowing to automakers in this scenario. Not ideal, but then neither is Romney. See what I mean up top about compromises? Click the image to watch.