When the New York Times asked me to write an editorial about the Chevrolet Volt, it never occurred to me that it would be published on the day that Barack Obama toured Michigan’s auto plants touting the success of the auto bailout. Because of this timing, however, my piece was apparently taken as a partisan attack on the White House… and it touched a nerve. How do I know? Because, according to the Washington Examiner, on the Air Force One flight back to Washington D.C., White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs joined a proud tradition that dates back to at least my first year of kindergarten: he made a Niedermeyer-based funny.
“Did you guys ever see ‘Animal House?’ Right?” Gibbs asked reporters on Air Force One. “Remember when they go, ‘Neidermeyer dead?’ I’d say his argument is largely there.”
I always feel a little trepidation about abandoning the internet for a weekend in order to focus on a new car review (2011 Jetta, coming soon), but never in my most paranoid moments did I imagine that I’d come back to find the White House press secretary comparing me to the villain of Animal House.
But far more disappointing than Gibbs’ decision to lash out at me for pointing out inconvenient truths in the midst of the auto bailout’s “Mission Accomplished” moment, was his choice of joke. On the continuum of jokes made throughout my life at the expense of my last name, Gibbs’ jab rates at about the sixth-grade level. “How does it feel to be an asshole, Neidermeyer?” would have been more clever, substantive and faithful to the original script. As would “give it to Neidermeyer, he’s a sneaky little shit.”
Worst of all, I’m now writing a post that is entirely about politics, and in no way related to a car or the industry that builds them. I am fascinated by the interface between automobiles and politics, whether discussing the bailout and EV subsidies on the federal level, or red-light cameras on the local level (and all points in between), but TTAC is not a political site. I’ve spent enough time observing (and yes, studying) politics to know that it has a tendency to consume everything in its path, and I’ve tried to be careful to ensure that TTAC does not become subsumed by political discussions. Perhaps more importantly, as a moderate at heart, and someone who tries to prioritize curiosity over dogma, I’ve tried to keep TTAC from being a partisan echo chamber for either side of the aisle. I have my perspectives and biases on any number of political issues, but I’ve never believed that the truth is simple. Or that dissent is best squashed with a schoolyard put-down. Which, to be perfectly honest, was one of the main reasons I voted for Barack Obama back in 2008 (N.B. this is not an invitation to dissect my personal political choices).
In any case, TTAC will continue to explore the undeniable relationship between politics and automobiles, undaunted by Gibbs’ glib jibe. If anything, it proves the importance of what we do here… and it’s the perfect opportunity to clarify that TTAC is nobody’s schill. We call it like we see it without regard to the political program of either party, for the simple reason that everyone deserves the truth. Moreover, we invite intelligent rebuttal to anything we publish because I believe that the truth is a process rather than a destination.
And that, gentle readers, is why I love cars [and why TTAC has a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot category].