The sight of three major company auto executives flying on plush private jets to Washington, D.C., to ask the American people for a $25 billion bailout is a scene from a Christopher Buckley satire — except it's beyond satire.
It's even beyond metaphor, though Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York made a gallant stab when he told the heads of General Motors, Chrysler and Ford, "It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high-hat and tuxedo ... I mean, couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled or something to get here?"
Richard Wagoner of GM, who earns $15 million a year, and Alan Mulally of Ford, who earns $21 million, bowed their heads a bit, as did Robert Nardelli of Chrysler, who has offered to work for a dollar — which may be easier for Nardelli as he received a $210 million severance check from his previous employer, Home Depot, just 10 months ago.
Right now, the public relations personnel of the automakers sound more chagrined about taking private jets to hold out their tin cups than their CEOs. PR people are supposed to protect executives from those kinds of revelations. They rushed to instruct reporters that company security rules require auto chiefs to take private planes.
Maybe they're allergic to the warm mixed-nuts you get in first class.
The public relations professionals might have advised the CEOs that if they really wanted to touch the purse strings of Congress and the public, they should have driven from Detroit to Washington in a hybrid sub-compact — the three of them taking shifts at the wheel during a nine-hour drive through Toledo, Akron and Pittsburgh, stopping to get out and stretch at all-night doughnut shops, calling in to all-night talk radio shows, as reporters sent iPhone snapshots from along the road. Then the CEOs could step out of their car just in front of the U.S. Capitol, stretch their legs, rub their all-night beard, and say, "Door to door, nine hours, not bad, and on one tank of gas. How 'bout that!"
Oh, wait. U.S. car companies don't make a hybrid sub-compact, do they?