Tonight we’ll find out if presidential candidate Tim Ryan has what it takes to drop kick President Donald Trump through the goal post of lies. (This is a take-off on that popular song, “Drop Kick me Jesus through the Goal Post of Life” and reflects Trump’s penchant for lying.)
Indeed, Ryan, the Mahoning Valley’s congressman seeking the Democratic nomination for president, has an opportunity to stand out from the crowd of 23 other party hopefuls when he participates in a town-hall meeting tonight on CNN. Air time is 7 p.m., with anchor Poppy Harlow moderating.
Ryan of Howland, D-13th, who has been in Congress since 2003, has a tailor-made issue with which to confront Republican Trump: The idling of the 53-year-old General Motors Lordstown plant.
Here’s the simple truth:
Former Democratic President Barack Obama prevented the plant from closing by orchestrating a federal bailout of GM (and Chrysler) during the Great Recession.
Trump, the self-acclaimed billionaire real-estate developer from New York City, in his third year as president has presided over the demise of the Lordstown complex and the loss of thousands of good-paying jobs.
GM’s boss Mary Barra made the decision to end production of the once top-selling Chevrolet Cruze compact car at the Lords-town plant even after Trump warned her of federal government retaliation.
There has been no retaliation.
In fact, there were two headlines last week that could serve as launching pads for Ryan’s offensive against Trump.
The first appeared in the New York Times: “Savior of G.M. Lordstown plant, hailed by Trump, is a corporate cipher”.
The story focused on a company called Workhorse, which builds electric vehicles.
Early last month, Trump announced that Workhorse, based in Cincinnati, would take over the Lordstown complex and build trucks. He said GM CEO Barra had called him to let him know of the plans.
GM also put out a statement saying Workhorse would be a great fit for its Lordstown plant.
But Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, sought to temper the celebration of Trump’s supporters in the Valley by noting that the restart of production at Lordstown depended on Workhorse getting a contract with the U.S. Postal Service for delivery vehicles.
There are at least four other companies, including Ford, vying for the contract.
The New York Times story threw a huge wet blanket over the president’s self- aggrandizing announcement.
“The new venture, whose name remains secret, exists almost entirely on paper,” the newspaper reported. “Headed by the founder and former chief executive of Workhorse, Steve Burns, the business would have to raise at least $300 million to get Lordstown running again.
“In an interview, Mr. Burns would not say whether he had raised any money or secured commitments from investors. ‘It’s a gargantuan task,’ he said. ‘There is no running away from it.’”
The second headline that should get Congressman Ryan primed for tonight’s live TV appearance is even more disturbing.
It appeared on the website Jalopnik:
“Will GM Build the New Chevrolet Trailblazer in America?”
Here’s a sentence that should – but won’t – prompt all Trump’s rabid supporters in this region to admit they’ve been had by a con man from New York (the con-man description comes from legitimate New York multi-billionaire Michael Bloomberg):
“While GM has not officially made an announcement as to where the Encore GX and the Trailblazer will be built, the going rumor is that they’ll be assembled in South Korea.” That’s right, South Korea.
Why not Lordstown? Consider this explanation from Jalopnik:
“ ... the official word on GM’s Lordstown plant closure was that it was a ‘ground track’ plant, and retrofitting the place to operate with GM’s new standard ‘overhead arm’ system would have been too expensive. Sure, it would have saved thousands of American jobs, but at what cost?”
Here’s a challenge Congressman Ryan should issue to Trump, “Mr. President, put your money where your mouth is.”
Trump, who in 2016 carried heavily Democratic Trumbull County and almost won predominantly Democratic Mahoning County, returned to the region shortly after taking office and sprinkled the people with fairy dust.
He told Valley residents not to sell their homes and not to worry because happy days were here again.
He promised to reopen the huge steel mills that once dotted the banks of the Mahoning River and to spur the growth of auto manufacturing jobs by forcing American automakers to close plants abroad and reopen them in the U.S.
But the fact is that while red-blooded Americans in the Mahoning Valley were forced to find other employment or to uproot their families and move to other states to continue working for GM, the giant autoworker began production of the re-engineered, redesigned iconic Chevrolet Blazer in Mexico. That’s right: Mexico.
But here’s the kicker. GM does not want the American people to remember that the Blazer is being built abroad.
The company is airing a television commercial featuring a group of people oohing and aahing over a shiny new Blazer. They talk about of its beauty, its styling and its design. But there’s no mention of the fact that it is being built in Mexico at the company’s Ramos Arizpe plant.
And yet, there’s word that GM CEO Barra wants to dump the Lordstown plant because it would cost about $1 billion to totally revamp the production line and build a new paint shop to accommodate SUVs and trucks.
So, this is where Ryan can score some major political points. Tonight on national television he should remind Trump of all the promises he has made to the Valley and tell him that it’s time to keep them.
The president has committed $16 billion in aid for farmers who are suffering financially because of the ongoing trade war with China. Last year, he committed $12 billion.
Coming up with $1 billion to upgrade the Lordstown plant so the Chevrolet Trailblazer and Buick Encore can be built in the good old U.S. of A should be a no-brainer for President Trump.
After all, he has promises to keep to the people of the Mahoning Valley.
Then again, Trump may be banking on the fact that his supporters in the Valley are lemmings who don’t care if the GM Lordstown plant is shut down permanently and if there isn’t a single new steel mill built.