Thursday :: Jun 24, 2004

If You Can Find A Better Candidate - Buy Him!

by pessimist

Things keep getting curiouser and curiouser! What is one to make of the news that 2000 Bush supporter Lee Iacocca is now a 2004 Kerry supporter?

Former Chairman of the Chrysler Corporation Lee Iacocca today endorsed Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry for President. Having backed George W. Bush in 2000, Iacocca is switching his support in 2004 after over three years of jobs failure by the Bush administration.

Iacocca announced his support for Kerry in San Jose Calif., at an event focused on Kerry's plan to create high-tech, high-paying jobs and strengthen America through a greater commitment to technology and innovation.

This isn't the first time Iacocca has been friendly to the Democrats - he owes them.

Reagan Stamped Legacy on Detroit

Looking back, it's apparent that the late Ronald Reagan had a big impact on the automobile industry. Only the year before Reagan was inaugurated, a Democratic Congress effectively saved the Chrysler Corp. by approving loan guarantees. Reagan and his economic team, however, didn't approve of the loan guarantees on principle, and their hostility helped turn then Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca into a partisan Democrat for a time.

Iacocca also made a point of paying off the loan guarantees ahead of the schedule after the sniping from the Reagan administration. "There is no question in my mind that if there had been a Republican administration in 1979, Chrysler wouldn't be around," Iacocca wrote in his famous autobiography, which remains one of the foundation texts for any study of the 1980s. "The Republicans wouldn't even have said hello to us. Chrysler would have gone bankrupt and today they'd be writing books about how they defended free enterprise."

Iacocca is no longer involved with Daimler Chrysler, so what gives this time? Why is he willing to support John F. Kerry for President?

In 2000, Iacocca backed Bush, citing jobs, particularly in the Michigan automobile industry, as one of his chief concerns. Iacocca was an active campaigner who appeared in television ads and GOTV calls focused on the need to protect jobs in Michigan. However after three and a half years, the Bush administration's jobs record has been characterized by failure -- losing 134,900 manufacturing jobs in Michigan alone.

[From first link]

This is nice. So touching that a multimillionaire actually cares about the blue collar working stiffs he once screwed so badly when he was rebuilding Chrysler.

The federal loan guarantees approved by Jimmy Carter ultimately did lead to the restructuring that cost thousands workers their jobs, rewrote union contracts and forced company's board of directors in a new management team, headed by Iacocca.

[From the second link]

Iacocca's [temporary] rescue of Chrysler led to calls to draft him for President, which I recall as being 1988 (Google isn't helping much - if anyone has specific knowledge, please comment). He had a trust factor that he shouldn't have had, considering some of the tragic events he was involved in during his tenure at Ford:

Air bags Lee Iacocca

"But if elected I might serve Iacocca is popular but carries heavy baggage"

Visual: campaign button "Draft Lee Iacocca for President"

"If the measure of a live candidacy is the appearance of opposition, the campaign has already begun. At the draft committee's press conference, auto-safety activists [led by CARS founder Shahan] handed out Watergate-era transcripts of an Oval Office meeting at which Iacocca, then the president of Ford, successfully pressed President Nixon to abandon a pending rule
requiring air bags in passenger cars. They made available, too, accounts of the troubled history of the Ford Pinto, an Iacocca-regime car liable to gas-tank explosions during rear-end collisions."
Newsweek, July 28, 1986

Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca responds to CARS Foundation inquiry

In 1983, Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca introduced Chrysler's new minivans with a press event in San Diego. Iacocca was famous for being the auto industry's most outspoken opponent of air bag technology. CARS founder Shahan invited Los Angeles area- pediatrician Robert Vinetz, a leading proponent of child safety, to join her and see if they could raise questions about Iacocca's opposition. At the news conference, Iacocca called on Shahan and Vinetz. His responses to their questions generated national news about the air bag issue.

From the August 31, 1983 transcript:

Shahan: "Mr. Iacocca, how much do you figure rescission of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 for passive restraints has saved the Chrysler Corporation?"

Iacocca: "I can't give you a number. A ton of money.I've been against them. ... We don't have anything going on anymore at Chrysler on airbags 'cause it's so expensive. We were spending millions on engineering alone, let alone on starting to do designs or get into tooling on any air bag system. I mean, two decades have passed. What's another ten years among friends?'"

What indeed?

I doubt there is much that could benefit Mr. Iacocca directly, as an individual, from supporting John F. Kerry. He might very well be really concerned about the little guy. He might also be having a moment of conscience, similar to that of Andrew Carnagie in his elder years, that it's time to give back to the society that made him what he is today.

My only questions for Iacocca are - where have you been for the last 16 years while this current national mess was being created by the very people who would have refused your requests to save your company? Why was Bush good for you back in 2000 if he's such a schlemiel now? Why should we believe the man who would rather pay off the lawsuit claimes for wrongful Pinto deaths rather than fix the problem with the gas tank?

Hope you're sleeping well these days, Lee.

pessimist :: 9:59 PM :: Comments (0) :: Digg It!