Parsing the President's verdict on Detroit is like trying to find rays of hope in a death sentence.
"While Chrysler and GM are very different companies with very different paths forward," Obama said today, "both need a fresh start to implement the restructuring plans they develop. That may mean using our bankruptcy code as a mechanism to help them restructure quickly and emerge stronger."
Fresh start? Stronger? Chrysler is being pushed toward a merger with Fiat, while GM is given a 30-day reprieve and a shove toward restructuring by working with "creditors, unions and other stakeholders."
The President's gift for euphemism, as in his Afghanistan announcement last week, is once again putting an optimistic gloss on hard realities--Detroit as we know it is in terminal condition.
The government will provide working capital for a while and back the car makers' warranties to keep sales from falling off a cliff, but there is nothing in today's brief bailout to justify Obama's uplifting statement:
"This industry is, like no other, an emblem of the American spirit; a once and future symbol of America's success."
If that's true, the country is heading the way of Detroit, and the stock market will just have to face that fact.