By on January 12, 2012
Thousands of photographers at the NAIAS and taxpayers had to pay to fly someone from DC to Detroit to take this picture. Photo Credit: DOT

Photo Credit: United States Department of Transportation

There’s a bit of a brouhaha brewing about Ford bringing about 150 “social media influencers” to Detroit and then Las Vegas for the big North American International Auto Show and the Consumer Electronics Show. While there may be some ethical issues concerning transparency and disclosure, I doubt that anyone begrudges Ford the ability to spend Ford stockholders’ money promoting Ford Motor Company and its products. Ford is acting in the fiduciary interests of those stockholders. Whether or not cabinet members and other Washington officials are acting in the fiduciary interest of taxpayers by flying to car shows is another question.

Ford used their own money to fly those bloggers in order to promote Ford. Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood and three other cabinet level officials used taxpayers’ money to fly themselves and their entourages to Detroit not to promote anything but themselves. LaHood, Energy Sec. Chu, EPA Administrator Jackson and Commerce Sec. Bryson had no real governmental need to be in Detroit. The event in the Motor City was a public relations event, not a policy planning meeting. Those politicians came to the media preview of the NAIAS not to make public policy but rather to parade in front of the 5,500 or so journalists covering the event. Ford has an obligation to promote Ford. Do taxpayers have an obligation for promote LaHood et. al.?

I came across Sec. LaHood while he was  verbally fellating Sergio Marchionne for the gaggle of cameras and microphones that follow the Italian rock star Fiat/Chrysler chief wherever he travels at a show like the NAIAS. LaHood was going on and on about how Chrysler would not be here today were it not for “Sergio”. The praise was so effusive that Sergio, a man not allergic to praise, looked almost embarrassed. I thought he was going to hand LaHood a towel to clean himself off when he was done. Maybe I’m a little bit bitter because when LaHood decided that his giving face time with Sergio was over, and it was time to head off to another photo op with another autoexec, one of his hired thugs DOT security agents bruskly shoved me out of his way. That’s no exaggeration. He lowered his shoulder and gave me a body check. I’m quite certain that had I shoved him back in a similar manner, I’d be facing federal criminal charges right now.

No taxpayers were harmed in the creation of this photo.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder gets the cook's tour of Ford's NAIAS display from FoMoCo chairman Bill Ford Jr.

Now I’ve been interviewing politicians at the NAIAS for years now. I’ve spoken with US senators and representatives as well as those serving on the state and county levels here in Michigan. I’ve interviewed members of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s congressional delegation and I spent time talking to politicians at the NAIAS last year in the wake of Arizona Rep. Gifford’s shooting so I’m familiar with congressional security. I’ve been at the speeches of three US presidents and shaken one of their hands while they were in office and I’ve met a First Lady, so I’m not unfamiliar with even Secret Service levels of security. I’ve never been shoved aside like that before nor had anything close to it happen. I’ve never given any of those security and police personnel any reason for thinking I was some kind of threat so it’s not like I posed any danger to Sec. Lahood. No, the DOT security guy simply pushed me out of the way. I’m not sure exactly why, but I suspect it has more to do with government employees and politicians making sure that we know our place.

Later in the day I was at the Lincoln display and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was so low key about his visit to the NAIAS that I was standing almost next to him but our backs were to each other and I had no idea it was the governor. He was traveling with an entourage of only two plainclothes Michigan State Police troopers and one assistant. Gov. Snyder’s entire entourage including himself was smaller than the number of security people “protecting” Sec. LaHood. In addition to his security team, LaHood was accompanied by a number of DOT employees.

Why do we tolerate such frivolous waste of taxpayers’ money in order to promote the interest of politicians and government bureaucrats? Is there even a tiny possibility that any of those cabinet officials performed any actual governmental functions while at the NAIAS? Do any of those positions carry as much responsibility as that of a state governor? 2012 is an election year so it’s possible that some of those politicians and government officials will not be back but I can assure that no matter which faces are at the 2013 NAIAS, there will be politicians getting face time at the media preview. They’ll expect extraordinary privileges at limited access events and they will expect for you and I to get out of their way.

At the branching road of Phokis
The driver of Laius commanded my son:
“Out of the road, Stranger! Make way for the King!”
But he walked on without a word, silent in his pride.


Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options.


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32 Comments on “Make Way for the King’s Men...”

  • avatar

    Sorry about that, I guess you didn’t bow to the king’s servant deeply enough. Maybe if you get on one knee and bow to him and call him ‘exalted one’ the security won’t get you.

  • avatar

    “but I suspect it has more to do with government employees and politicians making sure that we know our place.” You might because it fits in with your perspective on Government. I wouldn`t judge everything from one incident (which was wrong). As you said above there are plenty of examples of security being reasonable.

  • avatar

    LaHood clearly displayed that he was a filthy thug in the way he handled the Toyota recalls last year by directly participating in the sensationalizing circus that we later (quietly) found out was based on weak evidence. This guy is scum…he should be tarred and feathered and thrown out of office. I hope people associated with his office somehow come across this article–he deserves to see it.

    • 0 avatar

      … and yet somehow the mere fact that dozens, if not hundreds of reports, whether unfounded or not, of Toyota’s troubles were being reported all across the U.S. It is not the government agency’s job to judge, but to investigate. Toyota’s initial obfuscation on the issue did not help either.
      Toyota’s top executives do not walk on water, and for all the millions and billions Toyota and Japan Inc has lavished upon the United States colleges, lobby groups and marketing agencies over the years, you think they would have handled 2010’s mounting PR disaster a little better.
      So, let me get this straight: investigate GM = okay; Toyota, no. Is that about right?
      It’s not the agency’s fault that the media loves to pile on. They’ve done that to Detroit for decades, but to the import apologists that is okay……

      • 0 avatar

        “It is not the government agency’s job to judge, but to investigate.”

        Which is why Lahood immediately declared without investigation that 2.3 million Toyotas were accelerating themselves and owners should “stop driving” them.

      • 0 avatar

        Import apologist?? I own a 2010 Malibu I bought new with my own money over anything Japanese, and I have no affiliation to the auto industry. I prefer to buy American when a competitive product is offered, but I prefer fair play in the market so I am simply being as objective as I can be on this issue.

        Lahood publicly told people not to drive their Toyotas. When has someone of that political stature ever taken such a stand on any other manufacturer? The crying hysterical woman who appeared all over TV was debunked as a fraud, as was the investigation done by the media source at the time claiming they could prove the issue. Toyota did what all companies do…scrambled to protect their image, regardless of whether or not the situation was real.

        In another note, I formerly drove a 1989 Chevy Astro van that suffered from “unintended acceleration” one night when I was going down a dark road that has a 90 degree bend at the end where it runs into a river. The accelerator pedal stuck to the floor and the van took off. I simply shifted into neutral, slammed on the brakes, and saved my hindquarters. I was 16 years old at the time. I didn’t sue GM.

      • 0 avatar

        But why are folks so quick to cry conspiracy? LaHood could have been over-reacting, true enough. He could have been mistaken (hindsight is always like that.) He could also have been in possession of reports that were never made public – or could not be made public. In my profession, Privacy Laws inhibit many of our tasks. More than once, I’ve had to shake the hands of a crook that not only got away with it, but I had to smile and say our investigation was ‘going another way.’ The specter of breach of privacy laws is ever present.
        We all know LaHood is a bureaucrat. He is not an engineer or systems analyst. He gets his information from his foot soldiers, from the internet and from CNN. As the top bureaucrat that would have been in front of a firing squad if people started dying in those Toyotas, a lot more poo would have hit the fan if they’d said nothing public. Supposing they had hard initial evidence that the vehicles were, indeed, accelerating out of control? Later, the evidence MAY have been proven untrue. As a consumer, would you not want to be given a choice whether to park your car, not buy one, or wait and see?
        Indeed, why is it okay to bash GM for every possible foible, from squeaks and rattles to tailgate cables that 8 out of 4 million broke, yet when Toyota POSSIBLY has a digital or mechanical problem with their control systems, the tinfoil hat crowd goes ballistic?
        GM got raked over the coals in an ugly PR war back in 2003 because thousands of late model GM cars (along with certain Ford and Nissan products) would suddenly run out of gas, even when the gages read 1/4 full. (My ’03 Malibu left me stranded at an exit ramp from a highway in downtown!) The Toyota Star not only put it on the front page in the summer when vehicles were being affected, but they ran front page spread in November in their Saturday paper (over 1.2M circulation) that included 2 additional pages inside the A section – months after the issue was long dead, buried and forgotten. Of course, never in any of their reporting did they bother to point out that only vehicles in Souther Ontario were affected, that other brands were affected, too, and they conveniently ignored the press release from PetroCanada where they apologized to GM and admitted they’d had a bad batch of fuel go through the process that summer.
        There are enough conspiracies to go around. Often it is just lazy reporting or a naive bureaucrat. Not everyone is in the pay of Toyota or Detroit.

  • avatar

    tl;dr: “This one time, I got shoved by a security guard.”

    I wonder, Ronnie: if you got shoved by a member of an auto CEO’s security detail rather than one of a government official’s security detail, would you have written a long OWS-style screed about the 99% vs. the 1% and so forth? Or would you have just passed it off as, well, even good security firms have some bad employees, and even good employees have some bad days, etc. etc.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a good point.

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        It’s an excellent point and while Ronnie thinks he’s making some kind of point, he’s just reinforcing the impression that he’s a brittle wingnut who is quick to take offense and liken everything to his political ideology. This article is a political/ego screed that is only peripherally related to cars and really has no place on TTAC.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah this “story” has no place on TTAC. Sorry you got bumped, shoved, whatever, but other than taking place at NAIAS it has nothing to do about cars. Had it happened in a Wal-Mart parking lot, would you have posted it?
        Go nurse your busted ego somewhere else. We’re all stocked up here.

    • 0 avatar

      By the way, the DOT does not have its own security division in the way that, for instance, the Treasury Department does. Did LaHood use the local police department for security, or did you get pushed by an employee of a private security firm like Pinkerton that was contracted for the purpose?

      • 0 avatar

        He was wearing a lapel badge that said US. I’ve put in a call to DOT and they’re supposed to get back to me. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter whether he was a contractor or an agency employee. On that day he was working for me and he abused me.

        But please, keep straining at gnats trying to show how our public employees are never, ever at fault.

      • 0 avatar

        aristurtle: “…reinforcing the impression that he’s a brittle wingnut who is quick to take offense and liken everything to his political ideology.”

        Ronnie: “But please, keep straining at gnats trying to show how our public employees are never, ever at fault.”

        Neb:(sarcastic slow clapping)

    • 0 avatar

      I’m sure even you can see the difference between a private security firm and a publicly funded one.

    • 0 avatar

      Since you asked, of course I would have written something about it had I been assaulted by a private security guard like I was assaulted by one of LaHood’s hired thugs.

      Billy Ford and Sergio Marchionne’s personal security teams are no-nonsense but they don’t shove people around.
      It’s quite telling that you can’t, or more probably, won’t, tell the difference between a private sector security firm and public employees who work for us.

      If you cannot see the difference between a private person shoving someone out of the way and a public employee shoving someone out of the way of a public official, you’re wearing blinders.

      Keep licking that boot.

  • avatar

    Should have tripped him


  • avatar

    Maybe the verbally fellating was for a future job or “Consulting” contract for later?

    Could be out of a job in a year because Obama is out or Obama wins and needs to give someone else a patronage job. In lots of cases people move on after 1 term regardless if the president is there for 2.

    • 0 avatar

      + spot on.

      This exactly what Mr. Schreiber must have been referring to by the leeches and their entourage flying out there “not to promote anything but themselves.”

      This is the same Lahood who just recently lied about the impact of mobile phone usage among all the causes of distracted driving accidents.

      Funny, when the great U.S. auto industry was created in 1900-1920, there was no Transportation Secretary nor Department. One wonders what good, if any, has come out of it.

      • 0 avatar


        Let’s be fair to LaHood. That was the head of the NTSB, not Ray LaHood that conflated cell phone use with all distracted driving and then proceeded to call for a complete ban on cellphones and other PEDs behind the wheel (I wonder what they’ll do about the cop I saw on her phone for a mile today). To his credit, LaHood said that a complete ban wasn’t a practical solution. He’s still a chucklehead, but in that case he said the right thing.

        Who is more important, the governor of Michigan or the federal secretary of transportation? I’d say the governor, yet he travels with a tiny entourage compared to LaHood’s retinue.

  • avatar

    Ronnie, LaHood’s Klout score must be incredible, so just bow and get out of his way.

  • avatar

    Personally, regardless of the size of the entourage, I find it comforting that the Secretary would take the time to go to the Detroit Auto Show. After all, why is the media there? You can’t drive the new vehicles, you can touch and sit in them, sure, but as to pictures, you can generally pull them off the manufacturer’s web site, if saving money is the major issue. So, why go?
    Gee, what business would the Secretary of TRANSPORTATION have being at an auto show? Oh, I dunno, the Governor of Michigan was there. Oh, and the head of Fiat/Chrysler. I am sure a few stuffed shirts from Ford and GM were lurking around. Maybe a few talking heads from Germany and Japan…. We can be cynical and say he is only there for photo ops, or we could say he is doing his job in an efficient way.
    If the venue was on the beach in Rio or the south of France, this might be a valid concern. But Detroit? Do people ever go there unless they are compelled? Or in cuffs?
    There’s a tempest in a teacup here in Toronto: the local media, by and large, hates the Mayor. The liberal media has hounded him since he announced his candidacy 2 years ago. The CBC has sent people from a national comedy show to knock on the door of his private home. So, in retaliation, the Mayor’s office refuses to deal with the country’s largest newspaper, the Toyota Star. They get press releases only. The Star, naturally, is hopping mad and drumming up all sorts of scandal. Good for the Mayor, I say. I have first hand knowledge of what a rag that paper has become over the years, and if they treated me the way they’ve treated him, I would ignore them, too.
    Didn’t GM blacklist the L.A. Times a few years back?
    Supposedly, we have an open and free press. In reality, all media outlets have an agenda. Some hate all auto companies because cars are killing baby seals and the ozone layer. Some media outlets just hate Detroit because the editor was forced to drive his mother’s Citation when he got his license; others, simply because to drive anything not from Germany is beneath them.
    Whatever. Every industry has their national conventions and all game players must attend; whether they want to or not.

    • 0 avatar

      Gee, what business would the Secretary of TRANSPORTATION have being at an auto show? Oh, I dunno, the Governor of Michigan was there.

      Yes, and Rick Snyder was traveling with two plainclothes Michigan State Police troopers and one aide. Unlike LaHood, who traveled with a much larger retinue of security men and DOT personnel. The troopers were businesslike but polite. They didn’t shove anyone out of the way.

      Since part of a governor’s job is boosting business in that state, I have no problem with governors attending trade fairs in their states or in other states. That’s part of their jobs. However, if you believe that LaHood accomplished any kind of substantial governmental work while he was in Detroit, you’re more credulous than I am. It was a photo op and LaHood is a chucklehead.

      There were DOT and EPA staffers at the show. They weren’t doing any official business that I could see. What purpose does an EPA staffer or a DOT staffer have at the press preview of an auto show? Explain just exactly what regulatory functions they were doing walking around looking at the pretty girls and the nice cars?

      I have no problem with government officials showing up at the SAE World Congress (though their numbers are distressing). I want government regulators to be up on the latest engineering. But the NAIAS? C’mon, it’s a junket, a perk.

      Jack and the rest of us worked hard and spent money to bring news from the NAIAS to you and other readers here. Ray Lahood’s entourage spent nothing and accomplished nothing of value.

      I won’t apologize for saying so.

  • avatar
    fred schumacher

    Mr. Schreiber,

    The next time you get your ego bumped by a security guard, can you please spare us the pain of having to read language more appropriate for a porn site than a family website like TTAC.

    Discussing the incident in the language of oral sex is completely inappropriate. Perhaps I’m just too old and old fashioned. I also prefer to read an opinion piece clearly marked as opinion and not masquerading as a news item. Ad hominem arguments are only effective with fellow travelers.

    Thank you.


    Fred Schumacher
    retired farmer

    • 0 avatar


      I usually skip Ronnie’s articles and shameless shills for his 3D website. This article reinforces why that is. If only there was an “Ignore Contributor” function on TTAC…

      • 0 avatar

        Of course it’s shameless because I have nothing to be ashamed about. There’s nothing shameful about self-promotion or commerce. Everyone here promotes their own brand one way or another. I’m transparent about it.

        If anyone is acting shamefully here, it’s the one doing the shaming. OMG! he’s trying to make some money! How dare he???!!! Get me my smelling salts.

        What a shrinking violet!

        What’s wrong with commerce? I’m pretty sure that every writer tries to leverage the maximum return from his or her writing. Sometimes that’s in cold hard cash, other times it might be publicity, and still others, a link to a site. Ideally, it’s a combination of things.

        You paid nothing to enjoy this site yet you begrudge me the opportunity to fully exploit my own labors. How are you harmed by a link to my site or to any other site? What difference to you does the presence of a copyright bug in the corner of a photo make?

        My opinion isn’t bought, though I suppose the publishers here rent it for a while. If I like something, I like it. If I don’t I don’t. I’ll review a product that I like, I’ll review a product that I don’t like, and I’ll link to Amazon for both and gladly get a commission if someone buys either. Again, nothing shameful there, just commerce.

        Micheal Karesh routinely links from his posts here to True Delta and Murilee has also linked to his own site. TTAC regularly republishes content from The Newspaper. Are Michael and Murilee and The Newspaper shilling as well? I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary and in any case I’m abiding by the guidelines set by the editors.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for explaining commerce by the way. Helpful.

        The difference between you and Murilee and Michael (and all the other TTAC contributors for that matter) is that their posts and external sites are interesting, informative, entertaining or a combination of the three. They are what make TTAC a joy. You, on the other hand, commit the worst sin as a writer…you’re boring.

        The defensiveness of your responses on this thread is laughable. You sound like a child. Put on your big boy pants, take your lumps and act like the astute journo you purport to be.

        And, how sporting of you to throw in the old, “You paid nothing to enjoy this site…blah blah blah.” How original! I’m sure Ed and TTAC’s owners appreciate this approach to reader relations.

        Good lord, Ed goes on sabbatical and this place goes in the shitter.

        Love and kisses,

        The shrinking violet

    • 0 avatar

      Mr. Schumacher,

      If I’m the one with the ego problem, what about the guy who has bodyguards pushing people around?

      Exactly what’s inappropriate about using a sexual metaphor to describe Mr. LaHood’s obsequious behavior? Would “verbally slobbering” have been more to your tastes? I’m no expert about porn sites, but in my limited experience it seems to me that they don’t use such clinical terms as fellating. Perhaps the porn you watch uses fancy words. I’m sure that some people do have that fetish.

      Speaking of fetishes and porn, would it be appropriate, on a “family site” to discuss just how inappropriate the footwear was on the models at Porsche and some of the other manufacturers at the NAIAS? When did fetish and bondage wear become acceptable in polite company? A 6″ stiletto heel was formerly only seen in extreme porn. Now you see models at the cars shows and women going to church wearing them. Go figure.

      With some of the pics Bertel posts and some of the topics Mr. Baruth addresses, it’s interesting that you get your teat (did I spell that correctly Mr. Retired Farmer?) in wringer over the word fellating.

      It’s not like I said he was giving him a verbal blow job. Of course an oral blow job would be something entirely else, and redundant, too.

      • 0 avatar
        fred schumacher

        Mr. Schreiber,

        There you go again. You are repeating the behavior that some of us find objectionable, and you seem unaware of how your behavior plays out here in public.

        Where are the editors at TTAC? I was a newspaper editor for three years, and if I had been given what you wrote, I would have told you to sit on it for a day to cool down and then completely rewrite your piece. You make accusations that are not backed up by research and you use totally objectionable language.

        Try to learn from criticism. Until you do, I will ignore your postings.

        Thank you.

        Fred Schumacher

  • avatar

    What an amusing piece and an equally entertaining exchange of banter here today on TTAC. A refreshing change from the usual rabid, fundamental brandism that accompanies every new car photo. Carbiz, thanks for pointing out the obvious. Mr Schreiber, for what it’s worth, you do risk coming across ever so slightly as a sniffling, temperamental and egocentric hack with a specific political gripe; or at the very least as a journalist with a clear and dominant political ideaology. Mr farmer, there’s nothing old fashioned about good old fashioned respect and decency.

    • 0 avatar

      Ozibuns, would you rather that I hid my beliefs? There’s very little about me that’s hidden. I wear all my passions on my sleeve. What you see is what you get. Your red scarf matches your eyes, you close your cover before striking.

  • avatar

    Sounds like the perfect job for a former school-yard bully.

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