The Atlantic proposes that Obama appoint Mitt to head the new GM

This article proposes that Mitt Romney be appointed to head the new General Government Motors.  Obama gets to coopt another potential 2012 rival (and another Mormon one at that).  Mitt gets…well, I’m not sure what Mitt gets out of the deal but a lot of headaches and the thrill of being coopted, but that was apparently enough for Gov. Huntsman.

But more seriously, it is possible to see that Mitt might find the assignment interesting.  What if he is able to help turn GM around, just like he did with the Olympics? He could be another Lee Iacocca!

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

26 thoughts on “The Atlantic proposes that Obama appoint Mitt to head the new GM

  1. Mitt will do anything to rise to power. There is no flip-flop too large for him to undertake…no boot to dirty to lick.

  2. Bruce, you are certainly entitled to your opinions, but that comment seems a bit too mean-spirited for me. The guy has not been offered the job nor accepted it. As for flip-flops, well, that is certainly a charge that stuck regarding Mitt (meaning a lot of people believe it), but I can’t think of a single politician who hasn’t flip-flopped every now and then.

  3. The number one problem with comments on political articles are ad hominems and naked assertions that no one would recognize as a responsible, documented, supported, or informed position of people with a diametrically opposed point of view. I respond to stuff like that and I feel like I am feeding a troll. Some of it barely rises above political drivel – something that no self-respecting journal of opinion would ever put to paper.

  4. If the information is true, MItt in charge of GM would be a good idea for everybody. One good reason would be for the country to get comfortable with Romney, and another of course would be more exposure for Mitt. I say that as NOT a big fan of Romney, but I did vote for him as kind of a pity vote, because I thought he was going to get creamed. As it turned out, he wasn’t beat as badly as I thought he was going to be.

  5. I’ve been thinking this for months. I know everybody would interpret it as a cynical move to sideline a potential opponent, but I honestly think it would be the best thing for GM. And if Mitt could pull it off and make GM profitable, imagine what that would do for him in 2016. (And imagine the donnybrook if Huntsman emerges heroic from China at about the same time).

  6. I would LOVE to see Romney run Government Motors. I would feel much better knowing that Mitt was protecting my investment in the new GM. Also, I wouldn’t bet my lunch money on such an appointment negating a 2012 run by Mitt. In fact, such a move by Obama would only serve to give Mitt some good press, especially if he turns GM around.

  7. I thought Mitt made some kind of promise about returning to Detroit if he didn’t win. Probably a rumor, but I swear I heard people talking about it a year ago. At any rate, seems like just the thing for Romney to take on: a big national problem that plays to his strengths.

  8. I’m for Mitt attempting to turn GM around. It is what he excels at. Why not give him a job he does well at?

  9. I just don’t buy it. Not that I don’t think Romney would be a good choice, but that I don’t think Government Motors (and the nick name says it all) can be salvaged. There are too many things that Mitt Romney would have to do that the Democrats and the Unions would NOT allow to happen, because they haven’t allowed it in the first place. He would have to essentially gut the workforce. Then he would need to dramatically decrease pensions, health care, and wages. Even if he could do those things, he wouldn’t be able to decrease the incredible stifling regulations both current and proposed. Those obstacles would have to be taken are of by the government; the very ones I believe put us in our financial crisis to start with.

    I could easily turn GM around. A monkey could easily turn GM around. Those that could refuse to allow for that turn around because of too much politics and money in the pocket for a select few, with bread and circuses mixed in for the employee masses.

  10. Jettboy,
    No, you couldn’t. You could propose ideas that may make GM a better car company, but then you would have to exercise those ideas. In the face of shareholders, bondholders, city, state, and federal government officials, employees, current technology, and consumers. It would be nice to be king, but even if you had the perfect idea, the devil is in actually doing it. (And what haven’t the unions and the Democrats allowed GM to do? It is already gutting the workforce, cutting benefits and pensions, cutting factories and dealerships, etc. The wonders of bankruptcy. Now it needs to make a car that lots of people want to buy.)

    I don’t see any reason why Mitt Romney would be bad at heading up New General Motors. In fact, I imagine he would be as successful as anybody, so I don’t see what’s not to like.

  11. Sam B: bingo! The turnaround for GM is to sell cars—and not the “buy now and we’ll give you $5000 cash back, 0% interest, all-u-can-eat steak, and any other incentive you can think of if you’ll just take this hunk-a-junk off our hands” kind of selling.

  12. I like the idea. Seems to make sense for everyone involved. I don’t think Romney would (will?) make a good U.S. president (I recognize that’s mainly because we have different politics), but I think that he’s a heckuva businessman, and imagine he could succeed at the task of initiating a turnaround at GM.

    Jettboy, your comment was awesome. Your logic, if I understand correctly, is “the government controls too much. We need to restrict their power and influence. Instead, give me the power and influence to control everything.” That’s rich, Jettboy.

  13. Jettboy, I think it’s naive of you to think you could turn GM around. A commitment to ultra-conservative economic theories and rhetoric is not enough to pull that off. The statement shows a lack of understanding about the extraordinary complexity of the situation as a whole.

    The Atlantic proposal is interesting. I think Romney would be wary of it for a couple of reasons. First, if it is Obama appointing him to do it, he would shy away if he still has Republican political ambitions. He has to appease the extremist right-wing element of the party that has a strangle-hold on the primaries and accepting an appointment from Obama would sink him or at least provide heavy ammo to the next Huckabee in Iowa. Considering that Romney has overwhelming odds to overcome a legion of anti-Mormon Baptist preachers denouncing him from their pulpits in Iowa based on his religion, he can’t place another stumbling block in his own way. Second, it is conceivable that Romney would not be on board in principle with a government-spearheaded “turnaround” of a private company. Third, he might want to avoid this because of his father’s involvement in turned American Motors around so it would be a little weird.

    On the other hand, that last point might go the opposite direction and in his mind weigh in favor of accepting such a nomination so that he could follow in his father’s footsteps in saving a failing car company a couple of generations ago.

  14. I emailed this article to a very conservative Romney supporter friend of mine and this was his response: “I’m guessing Romney was already offered the job and he turned it down. I’m sure he wouldn’t touch that w/ a 100-ft pole. Don’t be fooled — the unions are really in control, not Fritz Henderson. Romney knows this. And with the govt. involved it’s now worse. This is a total disaster and I don’t see any solution possible as long as the unions are involved. TOTAL “cluster-f” as they say in the Army. Great example of how a mismanaged group like the unions, w/ good intentions, turn a good thing into a wasteful, failed outcome…”

  15. So… if GM is turned around into a profitable company, I am curious how the conservatives are gonna spin that one. Surely it had nothing at all to do with the government’s intervention…

  16. If Jon Stewart has his facts right (and if I remember the numbers), we (the government of the U.S., that is) dumped $20 billion into GM late last year to keep it from going in the tank, and Obama said this week that he thought another $20 or $30 billion would be needed to get it up and out of the bankruptcy, all for a company with debts that exceed its assets by $90 billion. As they say, that’s a heck of an investment–why do we want to buy it??

  17. I can see it as a plus from Obama’s POV. (Perhaps sideline two of his potential competitors from the Republican side – Romney and Huntsman: although Republicans are doing a pretty good job making themselves irrelevant as is.) That said I agree that saving GM would be very difficult. It’s very big and the biggest thing that needs to change is corporate culture. That’s extremely hard to change – especially given the way the unions run. I could almost see him being more successful taking over one of the spun off branches like Saturn than taking GM proper.

  18. I’d like to address Jettboy’s comment that it would be easy to turn GM around. This is both true and false. Let me explain.

    It is false in the sense that running a large company is much harder than it looks. Anybody who has even managed one person knows the difficulties involved — egos, and hurt feelings, and making sure they don’t rob you or slack off, but at the same time motivating them to top performance. It is extremely difficult to manage one person in a job. Then imagine managing tens of thousands, with department heads all gunning for your job or trying to make you look bad, or being disloyal, or not doing their jobs because they are fighting with so-and-so in the other department. Managing a large group of people is extremely difficult. Very few people can do it successfully, which is why CEOs are paid so much.

    But making GM profitable would also be easy in many ways (if GM was allowed to start over again). Anybody who has managed a business knows that profitability is a function of revenue minus cost. So, if GM were given a blank slate and allowed to tear up its union contracts and start over with lower union costs, and if it were allowed to build cars in only its most profitable and efficient factories, and if it were allowed to build the kinds of cars that consumers want without any government regulation and interference, then, yes, it would be easy to turn it profitable. GM has some smokin’ brands with huge customer awareness. Marketing would be a breeze.

    But of course we are living in a dream world even thinking about such a scenario because of course the union contracts will not be torn up and GM will not be allowed to only use its most efficient factories and GM will suffer from even more government regulation and interference than ever.

    So, given the real-world situation that GM faces, Mitt would in my opinion be crazy to take such a job. But turning around GM would be easy for him — under the right conditions.

  19. I second the notion that Mitt would be crazy to take the job. He would be essentially powerless to take the very sort of measures that he specializes in. For him, it would be a no-win situation.

    While I am sure that good management would help, as it stands it appears that GM as an American institution is more than likely to fade into irrelevance, the same way the British car industry did under similar conditions (including plenty of government life support) forty years ago.

    Quick: Name any British automobile nameplate actually controlled by a British company. Rolls Royce? No. Jaguar? No. Land Rover? No. Bentley? No. Vauxhall? No. Opel? No. Lotus? No. Aston Martin? Not really.

  20. This would be a win-win for President Obama. If Romney succeeds at turning GM around, Obama can claim it was due to his infusion of cash and intervention. If on the other hand, Romney fails (for whatever reason, union opposition, government intrusion, etc.) then Obama could claim it was Romney’s fault. So either way there is no down side for Obama. It’s all in the spin.

  21. “So… if GM is turned around into a profitable company, I am curious how the conservatives are gonna spin that one. Surely it had nothing at all to do with the government’s intervention…” –Dan

    The government making something profitable… well now that would be a first, wouldn’t it?

  22. I don’t think Mitt would take it on unless he had free reign and President Obama is NOT going to give that to him or anyone else.

  23. Despite the unlikelihood of Mitt’s being offered/accepting the post as head of GM, it would be ironic since his father was head of the American Automobile Manufacturers Association and later the American Motors Corporation back in the day.

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