By Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times Political Reporter
CHICAGO--President Obama toured a South Side Ford assembly plant Thursday, calling it evidence that his plan of investing federal money in the auto industry was working.
"To All those nay-sayers in Washington, what we call the 'Just Say No' crowd, who said that investing in you would guarantee failure, who said we should just walk away from this industry, who said that standing by America's auto-makers was, quote, "The worst investment we could make, I wish they were standing here today and saw what I see."
Obama, standing in shirt-sleeves and tie in the humid plant, announced a new $250 million Export-Import Bank loan guarantee for Ford. He said it would help Ford export 200,000 cars and trucks.
"We're tired of just buying from everybody else -- we want to start selling to other people, because we know we can compete," Obama said to cheers from the workers.
Obama got s tour of two assembly lines at the plant.
"That's the new Explorer, right?" he asked pointing to a new white SUV. "Can I start the engine?"
Obama slid into the driver's seat and started the car.
Sticking his head out of the window, he jokingly called out to the camermen lined up in front of the car snapping pictures: "Don't worry, I've got my foot on the brake."
On the second assembly line, the president greeted more workers including one wearing a White Sox T-Shirt.
"Notice he's got on the right T-Shirt," Obama said, pointing to him.
Obama approached the new Ford Taurus and asked electrician Jeffrey Crook, "Whaddya got?"
Crook showed him the car.
"How many years you been working here?" Obama asked him.
"Eighteen years," Crook said. "Ford has put food on my table all my life."
"You're second generation?" Obama asked and shook his hand again.
Obama mentioned in his speech to the crowd of workers that "There are workers here who's fathers have worked on this plant, whose fathers' fathers have worked on this plant."
He also got cheers from the workers when he announced, "Over the next two months, this plant will bring on a second shift of 1,200 workers to build that Explorer, nearly doubling your workforce."
Obama headed from his tour of the Ford plant to a fund-raiser for U.S. Senate candidate Alexis Giannoulias, an old friend who Obama introduced at the plant as, "Our Treasurer and soon-to-be United States Senator."
Obama has two more fund-raisers after that before heading back to Washington, D.C. On Wednesday night, he celebrated his 49th Birthday with friends including Oprah Winfrey at the Graham Elliot restaurant.