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Looking for Mr. Goodfellow

Sometimes when you’re not looking, irony can walk up and slap you in the face.

This morning was one of those times.

The U.S. auto industry has been in full crisis mode this week, with the Detroit 3 -- and other -- automakers churning out grim announcements and journalists chasing the latest acquisition rumor. People in this industry fear for their jobs.

There’s lots of speculation. What’s missing is anybody who might know what’s happening actually showing up in public.

So when UAW President Ron Gettelfinger is scheduled to accept a charity group award, that’s interesting.

And at 8 a.m. Friday, there he was, smack in the middle of a two-tier, 53-person head table in central Detroit, Mr. Goodfellow of the Year at the Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund’s annual fundraiser.

Media types were waiting for the event to end so they could ask Gettelfinger what he knew about the prospects of the government providing assistance for the needy auto industry.

And what was between the media and Gettelfinger? The Goodfellow’s fund-raiser. Detroit’s movers and shakers, top-heavy with auto executives and labor officials, were raising money to pack Christmas boxes for 30,000 needy Detroit-area children.

Slap. In-my-face irony.

Detroit’s proud auto industry is turning, cap in hand, to Washington for enough cash to survive. Hundreds of thousands of auto employees wait for news, in real fear for their livelihoods.

And 900 people eating $125 breakfasts to ensure that needy children get coats, shoes, socks and underwear, books and a toy.

The Goodfellows have done this annually for decades. They’re working a little harder this year. Times are tough in Detroit.

Yes, Gettelfinger thinks the government should help the auto industry. He thinks automakers, supplier and others should be able to borrow more money at low interest rates and repay it as times improve.

But he scoffed at a suggestion that a combined GM-Chrysler would become an entity too big to let fail. “I think Wall Street proves nothing’s too big to fail,” he said.

So far, the Automotive News community is split on whether the auto industry should get any help. Would it be a bailout? A neighborly hand? Something in between? What’s your take?

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