The White House has finally spoken on the issue of giving U.S. auto companies a helping hand, and it's not great news:

"They don't need a bailout, all they need is the time to restructure and we're confident they will be very successful," said Al Hubbard, the top economic adviser to President George W. Bush.

"Obviously GM has some big challenges right now, primarily because they make automobiles that are less fuel efficient," Hubbard said.

"It is unfortunate that General Motors is going to have (layoffs) at the same time Toyota and other companies are expanding in the U.S. The important thing is that the overall economy is strong."

Press on for some commentary from the peanut gallery after the jump…

Wow. Talk about Mr. Sensitive. First of all, love GM or hate it, fuel efficiency is not a problem for the company any more than it is for Toyota in certain segments. In fact, part of GM?s current marketing push is to highlight the fact that the company produces the highest number of vehicles  that achieve over 30 mpg on the highway (see chart below), which is, you know, that place where Americans spend most of their time driving. Sure, GM doesn?t have a halo hybrid to rally behind, but that doesn?t qualify one to say that ?they make automobiles that are less fuel efficient.? Ferrari  makes vehicles that are less fuel efficient, not GM.

Even if GM?s struggles could be traced back to the fact it doesn?t have a hybrid, which is what we infer Mr. Hubbard is saying, we don?t see Mr. Bush trying to lessen our dependence on foreign oil at the moment, so to blame that on GM seems a little ridiculous. Secondly, to say that the economy is strong while the American automotive industry is going down the tubes is like hopping up and down on a sheet of ice an inch or two thick and assuming that all is well just because at that particular moment the ice is holding. Keep it up, Mr. Hubbard, but I for one am not anxious to watch us break through the surface.

Is this bona fide policy, or Bush?s attempt to distance himself from the likes of Hillary Rodham Clinton? Regardless of your feelings on this topic or your political affiliation, it?s hard not to notice what a stark contrast this makes compared to the $15 billion in bailout money and loan guarantees offered to the airlines after 9-11.

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