History was made this week at the White House. By a president who has been making history since he ran for the job two years ago.
A President of the United States fired a corporate CEO.
OK, President Obama didn't really fire General Motors CEO Rick Waggoner. Waggoner just stepped down, hours after Obama said he should do so. Details, details.
Furthermore, he set "conditions" both GM and Chrysler have to meet in order for them to continue to get government loans.
A government loan for a struggling automaker isn't a new thing. Older people might remember, in fact, Chrysler faced a similar situation in 1979, when it got government loans. The company hired Lee Iacocca as its new boss, its fortunes improved, and the loans were repaid. They were repaid, in fact, ahead of when they were due.
But then-President Jimmy Carter didn't fire Iacocca's predecessor after the government granted Chrysler those loans.
I don't suggest Waggoner did a stellar job at the GM, which doesn't sell as many cars as it used to. But I don't remember a sitting president telling the head of a major United States corporation to "hit the road" (no pun intended).
Richard Nixon was accused of having an "imperial presidency". But I can't imagine Nixon sending a corporate sector boss packing, either.
The American auto industry hasn't built a lot of cars in the past 30 years Americans actually liked. It's virtually impossible to drive down the road without seeing a Toyota, Honda, Nissan or even a Hyundai. The auto industry in this country needs to make changes to continue to compete.
Perhaps Waggoner had to go. But, in the past, that decision would have been made within the company itself, not at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
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