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Obama Goes Samurai on GM's Wagoner

President Obama took GM CEO Rick Wagoner's ticket to make wagons away from him, and sent him packing.

Rick Wagoner, late of General Motors, never saw the ax coming.

America's recession-scrambling "Iron Chef" does it again!

When he arrived at the Treasury Department for a meeting last Friday with Obama administration's autos task force, he was a 32-year GM veteran and a chief executive carrying the weight of the company's wrenching restructuring on his 6-foot-4 frame. Pressure for him to quit last fall when he first approached Washington for a bailout had faded.

But Wagoner's plan for a GM turnaround and a $16 billion bailout was rejected in the meeting and the company where he spent his entire professional life fell off his shoulders.

"In the course of that meeting, they requested that I step aside as CEO of GM, and so I have," Wagoner said in a message posted on the automaker's Website early Monday.


Now the truth about just how bad Wagoner was can come to light. Reacting to the surprise of the move by Obama, GM was forced to snap to reality.

Wagoner has become the most-recognizable casualty of a once vaunted industry brought to its knees by a confluence of disastrous circumstances that coincided with the later years of his tenure. Some of the wreckage was out of Detroit's control, but some of it -- as President Barack Obama has said -- was self inflicted.

"Yes, we were surprised," Fritz Henderson, Wagoner's former top deputy and now his replacement, said of the task force rejection of the company's plan that he helped construct.

Henderson said emotions for many people in the GM community over Wagoner's ouster has ranged from shock to sadness to pride.

"He was asked to step aside and he did because he felt that was one of the requirements in order to move forward," Henderson said in a conference call with reporters.

Surprise -- the CEO with the $22 million golden parachute wasn't worth minimum wage, and had to be let go.

It's time for cream to rise in General Motors. The best of the best in the company need to step forward and marshal a plan to keep this company and its workforce above water and a part of the solution instead of having them join the ranks of the unemployed. Samurai Obama is a liberating force for new ideas at GM. Now we just need GM's people to give voice to their ideas on a new direction, and get on with rebuilding the company.

Restructuring needs to follow once a new direction is chosen, but restructuring should wait and be molded once the plan is in place. While the company is figuratively 'floating in debt' it is literally 'floating on debt,' and is being held aloft and allowed time to get headed in a new and correct direction because of its financial peril. Restructuring and saving these jobs is the leverage the company has with the Obama administration. Get the government on board with the new plan first, then restructure.

Hey, maybe Dick Cheney can be talked into take the reins at GM? Then Samurai Obama could fire his ass too. Hoo-Yah!

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Comments (14)


So you're actually excited to see the president have the power to force the resignation of a top player in a big private sector business? OK, but can you understand why some of your fellow citizens might be horified rather than excited?

I think this is another move by Obama that deserves a "what if Bush had done this" hypothetical -- how would Democrats have reacted if Bush/Cheney had seized (or proposed to seize) entire sectors of the economy (auto industry, finance industry, etc.) and then set about "restructuring" them, firing corporate executives, etc. I would guess that there would be much hair pulling and hysteria, and not so many comparisons to "Iron Chef."


Can anyone explain the differing treatment of auto companies and Wall Street firms? Is it just that there are far more Wall Street worshipers like Tim Geithner and Larry Summers in the Obama administration than auto industry representatives? Or is it something else? I'm genuinely asking this question, and not in a way aimed at defending Rick Wagoner. I just want to know what possible public explanation there could be as to why the White House would push auto company CEOs around while coddling banking CEOs?

Lee Ward:

You guys are beginning to sound like one trick ponies, Michael.

Whine, complain, bitch and moan that Obama isn't doing anything -- then whine, bitch and moan when he does.

Obama has not "seized (or proposed to seize) entire sectors of the economy (auto industry, finance industry, etc.)"

And I don't hear you actually complaining about the actions he took - only lamenting that if Bush had done the same we libbies would be complaining?

You're right - Bush is an incompetent buffoon who couldn't manage a crisis.

McCain was a wussy grandstander - who got weak-kneed in a crisis.

Obama used surgical steel to lop off the head of the GM beast.

Big difference.

Lee Ward:

@Steve in 1: "So you're actually excited to see the president have the power to force the resignation of a top player in a big private sector business?"

You betcha. Before we pour government support into GM we had to clean house.

It's called "governance" - you just haven't seen it action for the last 8 years - instead we've seen "deceit and lies." No wonder you're shocked.


As sad as this may seem where a government official can fire the head of a private corporation this is what they get when they accept government money- strings. If GM doesn't like it they shouldn't have accepted the money and all the baggage that comes with it. They aren't getting any sympathy from me.

Lee Ward:

Spot on, Mike. With taxpayer dollars comes taxpayer-interest governance.

We, the taxpayers, have an interest in making GM succeed. Wagoner had to go. It would have been silly to give them $ without axing Wagoner, or just do nothing because Wagoner wasn't worthy.


the federal government should not be bailing out the auto industry. if they are failing because of bad business practices, they should be allowed to fail. will it be painful in the short term? yes. and the government should be prepared to help with that. but in the long term, it is less costly and less painful for everyone.

let's face it. government beauracracy is not made for running a business or making good business decisions. if you think otherwise, show me where government run businesses have thrived without being propped up by the government.


Uh, hello where have you been? GM was all but threatening the government if they didn't get bailout money. It's their OWN decision to get run by the government not the other way around. They didn't have to take the money but through their own shortsightedness GM and companies like them brought this on themselves. You as a taxpayer, and member of the free market, can always protest GM for their idiocy by not buying their product- simple as that.

Lee Ward:

Yeah, I've seen that on a few conservative comment threads - "don't buy American!"

When did you clowns stop loving our country?

Lee Ward:

"government beauracracy is not made for running a business or making good business decisions."

ke_future, thy man is made of straw!

The government isn't taking over GM. That's just the talk Fox News is using to make sure Americans don't buy cars from GM.

The old GM CEO was booted and his replacement is running the company. Get a grip, and put away the straw.


I'm pretty sure it's not "don't buy American." I'm pretty sure it's don't buy from American companies owned by the government.

Lee Ward:

What's the difference?

hint. There is no difference - ot's stil a public company owned by shareholders. You're punishing the Americans who own stock and hold down jobs with GM - why? Do you hate Americans?

Why did Republicans suddenly start hating America?


Lee, Republicans have always hated the actual America that exists.

The America they love is the mid-fifties America when the poor, gays, and minorities knew their place, kept their mouths shut, didn't get "uppity" and were too disenfranchised from their own country to vote.

We need to invest more money into research of time travel, so that Rush and his "dittoheads" can all happily GTFO and let the rest of us advance our society.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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