TCS Daily


Romney for Car Czar?

By Michael Rosen - December 19, 2008 12:00 AM

With the auto bailout all but dead in the Congress, the White House has one last chance to send Detroit relief in a manner supported by a clear bipartisan majority of lawmakers: announce that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney would serve as the car czar and empower him to ride herd over the unions and the auto executives to clean up the industry.

The deal to replenish the Big Three's rapidly diminishing coffers unraveled on Thursday night as United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger rejected out of hand certain concessions urged by Senate Republicans. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) claimed that Gettelfinger snubbed the offer because White House officials were hinting that they would provide the money anyway even if Congress balked. And now, sure enough, President Bush appears to be doing just that, indicating that he will draw billions from the Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds to bail out GM and Chrysler.

Congressional Republicans now find themselves in a pickle, having successfully scotched a Capitol Hill bailout only to watch a Pennsylvania Avenue one take its place. At least the deal that had been working its way through Congress had the virtue of using funds that were already earmarked for auto industry use (albeit to promote green vehicles) and didn't require tapping TARP money supposedly reserved to bolster the broader financial sector. It now appears that the White House is willing to channel cash from the $700 billion to a particular industry, which many fear will unleash a torrent of similar requests for relief from other ailing industries.

So what can be done to repair the breach? If the White House were to announce today that, in consultation with the incoming Obama administration, it was appointing Mitt Romney as car czar with the authority to bash heads—union and executive alike—congressional Republicans would flock back to their respective chamber floors to hustle the measure to passage

Naming Romney would make sense for all kinds of reasons. First, Romney has, over the course of his career, earned a stellar reputation as a turnaround genius. Already a star consultant at Bain & Company in Boston, he helped found Bain Capital precisely for situations like these, where cratering companies needed massive, immediate infusions of cash and business acumen.

The former governor is probably best known in this arena for his remarkable resuscitation of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games, which had been mired in the squalor of corruption and mismanagement until Romney took the reins and transformed them into a stirring success.

And as governor of Massachusetts, he bailed out the struggling city of Springfield by renegotiating certain killer contracts.

Mitt would also be an appropriate choice because rescuing car companies runs in the family. Before becoming governor of Michigan, Romney's father, George, salvaged American Motors Corporation from the scrap heap—at least until it merged with GM in 1987. (Interestingly, George Romney earned posthumous plaudits for developing ahead-of-their-time compact, fuel efficient vehicle lines when the Big Three were churning out their usual behemoths.) George Romney is still remembered fondly in Michigan, as is Mitt, who captured the state during the GOP primary.

In addition, becoming car czar would be a goldmine for Romney. The position would instantly elevate the former governor's profile nationally, help him further burnish his economic credentials, and position him well for the already-brewing 2012 GOP nomination sweepstakes.

There's little downside, too, for Romney. After decades of mismanagement, the Big Three find their own "approval ratings" among consumers at all-time lows. Even if Romney failed to revive them, it would hardly be his fault.

Republicans and grassroots conservatives would cheer such a choice, as well, given Romney's enduring popularity and his supply-side bona fides. With the power to rein in unwieldy union benefits—when legacy costs are taken into account, autoworkers for American companies earn more than $20 per hour more than their foreign counterparts; many who are out-of-work are paid to literally do nothing—car czar Romney could impose by mandate what Corker and his allies couldn't get through negotiation. And it's surely a better deal for Americans, at least from a conservative standpoint, to direct to the automakers money already set aside for them, rather than depleting TARP money and inviting other businesses to do the same.

Additionally, Romney's qualifications as a surprisingly rare voice of thorough economic knowledge on the right side of the aisle make him appealing to a party concerned over brand erosion, particularly when it comes to finance. Republicans would welcome a respected fiscal voice who would provide a strong contrast to an incoming president that, advisers aside, has no particular purchase on economic issues.

(At the same time, President-elect Obama would welcome Romney's input, not only because of his reputation but also because he could try to co-opt the former governor by welcoming him into his administration and thereby prevent him from being outright critical of it; Obama is wise enough to keep his friends close and his (potential) enemies closer.)

But would Romney himself agree to it? When asked by Greta Van Susteren on Fox News, he demurred, allowing only that "any one of the remarkable business leaders we have in this country would not pine for the job but would accept it out of a sense of obligation and duty." The White House would do well to tap this particular remarkable business leader who, it would seem, would almost certainly shoulder the obligation and duty.

Michael M. Rosen is an attorney and Republican activist in San Diego.

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13 Comments

czars in America?
I used to keep saying that the US was getting to resemble the old USSR more all the time. But now with all this talk of more czars maybe the old Russia would be a better comparison. Well, at least I'll bet this new czar will be just as effective as the other ones, like the engergy czar, the drug czar, and Ivan the Terrible. No wonder the US is becoming more of a laughing stock all over the world.

USA wanted to make Washington king.
And now America's 'princess' wants to be a Senator.

Consider too how two families have been controlling politics for nearly 20 years.

Reminds of 1 Samuel 8:11-20.

Drug czars have done a great job, no?

Corporate organization
Don't public corporations have share holders and a corporate board that are the 'bosses'?

The CEO is not king of the company. He is supposed to be accountable to shareholders, right?

So where are the share holders of GM?

Mr. Rosen does not have his story straight
Let's start off with some ancient history..George Romney took over as CEO of AMC in 1954, after the untimely death of AMC(and former Nash) CEO George Mason. Many have argued that Mason's intent was to merge Studebaker/Packard corp. into AMC, to better compete with the "big 3". George Romney decided against the merger. At this time AMC was not a "scrap heap". George Romney was CEO until his run for Governor of Michigan in 1962. In 1970 AMC acquired Kaiser's automotive holdings and stayed a float. In 1983, was really the beginning of the end. AMC sold it's AM General division and Renault became a major shareholder. In 1987 Chrysler Corporation(not GM as mentioned in the article) purchased AMC.

I don't mind a one sided piece of literature, but it really helps to have the facts straight. Otherwise it looks completely like BS. Not to take anything away from Mitt Romney, he has proven himself a great businessman..A lousy politician and governor but a solid businessman.

The Auto-crats are coming
It would be politically ham handed but revealing to call the car Czar what he/she would be... Auto-crat. Der System is beginning to smell of 1930's rehashed socialism/fascism layered with Illinois Democratic political culture. These dopes want to run all our lives our businesss and the weather. As long as they don't promise to 'improve' our standard of living or actually fix anything, the political class seems to have found the perfect formula for aggrandizing power, control, money and fame. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will soon share a Nobel Peace Prize if the trend continues apace.

A lefty in the White House
Let's see now.. Barack Obama was supposed to be the guy who wanted to take the troops out if Iraq if he took over. But it was George Bush who's already signed the Status of Forces Agreement, which.. takes the troops out of Iraq.

Then it was Barack Obama who was supposed to be behind the evil deal to "bail out" Detroit and "reward" the corrupt unions for their bad behavior. But looky there, it turns out to be George Bush going behind the backs of Congress and giving Detroit the money they seek.

Who among us has a good explanation for what we're seeing? Has Bush been a Kremlin mole all this time?

lefty in white house
Yes, it's true. I've been saying that the US is getting to resemble the old USSR more all the time, and certainly Bush is helping that along. Lefties should be delighted.
And now the even more left messiah Obama will accelerate it. I congratulate you authoritarian socialists on your win.

Why do they still care about Palin and Cheney?
Biden can't stop attacking Cheney even after they won.

Palin is still being criticized.

The socialists aren't worried are they? Or don't they know how to take point and lead?

yes they're worried
Yes, even though the left has won, they still feel very insecure. Now that they don't have a total monopoly on the media, they just hate it that people like us can call them on their BS. And I don't even believe that they really think their Marxism/Keynsianism really works, but they just want power. Some of their 'useful idiots' who speak for them though, like Roy and Eric might really believe it though because they sound like its spokesmen. Just shows how much the public school gulag brainwashing has worked over the years.

Bush, Cheney, Bill Clinton, Gore, Carter
It is interesting to note that Ford and GHWB kept very low public profiles after they left office.

Carter, Clinton and Gore have been very public in all their endeavors to endear themselves to world public opinion.

GWB has stated he is looking forward to returning to TX and will be able to leave office with no regrets. I believe Cheney has suggested that as well. (We will have to wait and see.)

Is it a coincidence the most narcissistic are Democrats?

Before anyone makes any excuses that Clinton, Carter and Gore do not seek publicity, I would suggest you observe how Tiger Woods handles celebrity. He is very popular yet he is in firm control of when, where and how he is seen in public. It can be done.

Any 'celebrity' who complains about the paparazzi and bad press have only themselves to blame.

Still on the agenda
"Biden can't stop attacking Cheney even after they won."

Things are just heating up for Mr Cheney. He hasn't even been indicted yet.

"Palin is still being criticized."

As Palin is being groomed for a 2012 run, I think it makes sense to keep her on the radar screen. Otherwise we run the risk of having the country's affairs run by a deranged housewife from the North Woods.

And if the way she runs the affairs of her own dysfunctional family are any indication, we'd be up the creek.

"deranged housewife from the North Woods."
You just earned another 'UI' (Useful Idiot) badge.

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