Make Way for the King's Men

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber
make way for the king s men

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.

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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3 of 32 comments
  • Ozibuns Ozibuns on Jan 12, 2012

    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.

    • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Jan 12, 2012

      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.

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Jan 12, 2012

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

  • FreedMike I don't know why this dash shocks anyone - the whole "touchscreen uber alles" thing is pure Tesla.
  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.