By on November 19, 2008

Watching the pressed suits in front of Dodd’s Committee made me sad last night. (Yes, we can watch CSPAN in China. On-line. Amazing. Probably a ploy to dissuade the Chinese populace from wanting democracy.) Sad I was, because I had expected an “are you or have you ever been tearing out the very heart of America’s industrial base?” I missed that a lot. Gettelfinger made me sad. How could he throw GM under the bus by giving the employer of his $73/hr union sisters and brothers last rank on the viability scale? Saddest made me Rick Wagoner. If he would have done the Iacocca, if he would have said, “Yes, I work for $1, I’m not worthy of more,” the bailout package would already be in the can. He blew it. Now there I sat, tears in my face, and German as I am, I thought: Rick Wagoner? As in Richard Wagoner? As in Richard Wagner with a typo? Last night was Richard Wagoner’s Götterdämmerung. You watched the funeral march of General Motors. Someone got a napkin? Danke.

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11 Comments on “Richard Wagoner’s Götterdämmerung...”

  • avatar

    Iacocca said yes to $1 because he knew that he could do a good job, that Chrysler would get going again, and that his value as a corporate executive would rise immeasurably as a result of the turnaround he was going to institute.

    The accountant in question has none of the above.

  • avatar

    Did you honestly expect these men, who have been tearing out the very heart of America’s remaining industrial base to recognize their role, their own incompetence, and their own self-destructive greed? Then suddenly turn 180°, drop their shields, and take one for the team… sacrifice themselves for the good of the whole damn country?

    Not going to happen.


  • avatar

    You know what surprises me the most out of all this? In Detroit we have a town of people whose dreams of retirements and healthy 401k’s have been torn apart. Yet not one of them has taken it upon themselves to put a cap into one of these “you can’t take my bonus” execs.

  • avatar


    Well written, albeit a bit optimistic about level of incompetency of our “leaders” and “captains” of industry. For the past 30 years US companies have been churning management that is not capable of creative disruption and non-threatening to existing bosses. They were “developed” for silky transitions of power. Exceptional political players (whores?), but not creative or combative. You can build or win by being a “nice” guy. As Lee Iaccoca wrote “Where the leaders gone?”

  • avatar

    Why does Mulally continue to associate himself with a crook like Nardelli and a completely inept SOB like Wagoner? Ford is the only one that has demonstrated any plan for turn around and have been diligent in getting the ship turned around. Mulally had and has a huge task ahead, but he is at least competent and not afraid to make the hard decisions and the correct ones.

    Al, we all know that you read TTAC (or at least someone in your staff keeps you informed), why are you tying two boat anchors around your neck?

    As an aside, I had to have my S-10 towed last night due to the pulley coming out of the power steering pump (100K miles, kind of expected). As I rode with the tow driver, he asked where I worked and what I did. When I told him that I was an engineer for a major auto supplier, he expressed his sympathies for what leadership of the small 2.3 had done to the US auto industry. Turns out he used to work in IT for the auto industry, driving a tow at night as a second job to keep things afloat….seemed like a very smart and capable person. The US auto industry must appear really worthless when someone in his situation feels sympathy for me.

  • avatar

    Brilliant, Mr. Schmitt. That was a wonderful blog. One question, though: don’t you have to be a figure of heroic proportions to have a Götterdämmerung? Seems to me that Wagoner is no Wagner.

  • avatar

    David is absolutely right! Wagner could get things built; long lasting things, like the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which is still one of the premier opera houses in the world. Wagoner on the other hand… well all he can build is debt, lots of debt.

    As per highrpm’s comment: I am as well waiting for a car bomb to go off. Since our government is too chicken shit to publically execute these guys in a town square.

  • avatar


    Of course we can’t advocate murder but you can certainly expect some incidents as the economy bottoms out (no we aren’t there yet). Ritual seppuku would be wholly appropriate but as we all know it is patently impossible for American executives to feel shame.

    For all the talk of our “entitlement class” as it relates to the poor, corporate leaders are now the archetypal examples of entitlement mentality…they can never be convinced that they don’t deserve whatever is asked for whenever it’s asked for.

  • avatar

    …as we all know it is patently impossible for American executives to feel shame.

    Not true. It’s not shame, its liability. An executive cannot be wrong about one thing, because then they might be wrong about everything. And that weakens their position. Therefore, the only solution is to spin things in such a way that they never appear wrong about anything.

    It’s a bit like the old doctrine of Papal Infallibility. It’s just as stupid, too.

    You see a version of this in politics: It’s considered better to be a strong-opinioned, bull-headed idiot than to be a flip-flopper. For some perverse reason, we’ve decided to respect people who are wrong but not people who are thoughtful.

  • avatar

    Or at least that’s the way it’ sbeen for the last 8 years (re psarhjinian). Seems we may be changing.

  • avatar

    Seems we may be changing.

    Interestingly, being a flip-flop was one of the charges levied against McCain. Personally, if he was willing to admit he was wrong about things after seeing both the outcome and a greater volume of evidence, and deciding upon a different course, then more power to him, in my opinion.

    I’d be very worried about people who profess absolute certainty of conviction, even if I agree with them. Because, at some point, they’re going to throw you under their ideological bus.

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