The First Draft, Friday, Dec. 19

December 19, 2008

President George W. Bush threw a lifeline to the U.S. auto industry Friday.
USA-BUSH/The president announced a $17.4 billion government loan program for two ailing U.S. carmakers and gave them until March 31 to prove they can become viable.
“There’s too great a risk that bankruptcy now would lead to a disorderly liquidation of American auto companies,” Bush said in an address from the White House.
“My economic advisers believe that such a collapse would deal an unacceptably painful blow to hardworking Americans far beyond the auto industry.”
The U.S. stock markets opened higher on the news. Some of Bush’s fellow Republicans in Congress, who helped kill a recent bailout effort there, expressed frustration.
Rep. Tom Price of Georgia said it was “deeply disappointing that the administration has chosen to use taxpayer dollars to delay the inevitable need to fundamentally restructure these companies.”
The Bush announcement came as President-elect Barack Obama was getting ready for his fifth news conference in as many days.
The Democratic president-elect is expected to announce his picks for labor secretary, transportion secretary and U.S. trade representative at the 2:15 p.m. EST conference.
Retiring Illinois Rep. Ray LaHood, a Republican, is being tapped as the transportation secretary. Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, a partner at a Houston law firm, is the trade representative, and California Rep. Hilda Solis is the labor secretary choice.
Morning television focused on the severe weather across parts of the country and the death of Mark Felt, the former FBI official who was the mysterious “Deep Throat” source for Washington Post reporters during the Watergate investigation.
Felt, the No. 2 official at the FBI at the time, provided guidance to reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they pieced together the scandal that ultimatedly prompted the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
Felt, who was 95, kept his role in the story a secret for 30 years, finally making his part known in a 2005 Vanity Fair article written by his family lawyer. The New York Times called him “the most famous anonymous source in American history.”

Meanwhile, Bush attended the unveiling of his portrait at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

“I suspected there would be a good-size crowd,” he said, “once the word got out about my hanging.”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Bush at unveiling of his portrait at National Portrait Gallery); Reuters/Lou Dematteis (Felt at his home in 2005)

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