The Corner

Autos in Wonderland

Two days of auto hearings before the Senate Banking and House Finance Committees make a powerful commercial for limited government. Some choice moments of foot-in-mouth, tongue-in-cheek, and stupefying arrogance from America’s greatest deliberative body. . .

– Rep. Maxine Waters, (D., Calif.), didn’t even bother to do her homework on how to pronounce the name of Chrysler’s parent company, Cerberus (a Wall Street investment firm). Waters repeatedly pronounced it “Cerebus.”

– “It’s just not something I’d ever want to drive,” blurted out House Finance Committee Chair Barney Frank, when Rep. Shelley Moore Capito revealed that her father once owned a Chrysler wagon he nicknamed the “Chick Magnet.”

– “It doesn’t matter how much they say they need. What matters is: Are they going to help Florida and America by building cleaner and, thus, more fuel-efficient cars?” said green zealot Sen. Bill Nelson, (D., Fla.) who insisted that, in return for government loans, the Detroit Three stop fighting efforts by his state and 12 others (led by California) to impose their own auto emissions standards. Such a patchwork of standards is inherently unworkable and opposed by nearly EVERY manufacturer, not just the domestics, because it would necessitate selling cars under potentially 13 different state emissions standards.

– Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut called for the resignation of General Motors’ CEO Rick Wagoner saying he should “move on.” Meanwhile, Dodd — the largest recipient of Freddie Mac money in the Congress, beneficiary of plum deals from subprime mortgage villain Countrywide, and a key player in watering down mortgage standards that led to the current credit crisis without which the Detroit Three wouldn’t be in the pickle they are — clings to his post as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

– “But what I think we have to put an end to is the head-in-the-sand approach to the auto industry that has been prevalent for decades now,” said President-elect Barack Obama who last year opposed a new, transformational union contract negotiated by the Detroit Three estimated to save $3.8 billion annually for GM, $2.4 billion for Ford and $2.0 billion for Chrysler.

– Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.): You drove up here. Did you drive or did you have a driver? Did you drive a little and ride a little? And secondly, I guess, are you going to drive back?

Chrysler CEO Nardelli: Yes, sir. And I did have a colleague drive, and we rotated.

Shelby: What about you?

Ford CEO Mulally: We carpooled. I drove, and I’m driving back.

Shelby: You didn’t carpool with him (Nardelli), did you?

Mulally: No. Carpooled with our Ford team.

Shelby: O.K. What about you?

GM CEO Wagoner: I drove with a colleague. We split it up about 50/50. We drove down yesterday and I’m going to drive back myself Friday or Saturday.

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