4:45 p.m. ET: President Obama used plenty of metaphors in laying out his latest plan for America's auto companies today, calling the industry "an emblem of the American spirit; a once and future symbol of America’s success." Well here's another comparison that Obama might not like very much -- Vietnam.
Over at Kausfiles, Mickey Kaus compares ousted GM CEO Rick Wagoner to Ngo Dinh Diem, the South Vietnamese leader who was assassinated in 1963, just before the U.S. began a real escalation of its military presence in the country. Kaus' point, dramatic as it may sound, is simply that Obama may now "own" the GM problem after forcing aside the company's leadership. Just as last week he was said to "own" the war in Afghanistan after outlining a new strategy and escalation there.
So in just a week's time, Obama has taken ownership of a complicated war in a hisorically perilous country, and one of the world's largest automakers. What can he possibly do to top this next week?
8 a.m. ET: Give the White House credit for one thing this morning -- at least it has demonstrated it can keep a secret. Until yesterday, President Obama's latest plan for dealing with the nation's beleaguered auto industry was kept almost completely under wraps. Now the full strategy has been unveiled, and it goes much further than most political or economic observers expected: GM CEO Rick Wagoner is out, along with most of his board. The company has two months to get its act together, while Chrysler has a month, and the government is now seriously entertaining the possibility of letting both slip into bankruptcy.
The stock market is expected to drop at the opening bell this morning in response, and Obama's bold move raises another question: What will this plan do to his political stock? After the AIG bonus debacle, it seems clear that the White House believes it needs to take a more hands-on role with companies receiving government bailout money (so hands-on, in this case, that the government will actually guarantee auto warranties). But is the president really willing to let two of the nation's three major automakers go belly-up on his watch? Back in September and again in February, polls found that strong majorities of Americans didn't want any more taxpayer money going to GM or Chrysler. Obama can comfort himself with those poll numbers if and when thousands more auto workers are on the news lining up for unemployment benefits.
The auto plan comes just as the bulk of attention at the White House was focused on Obama's upcoming trip to Europe for the G-20 summit. The journey was the subject of a host of previews over the weekend, and it turns out that while Obama is extraordinarily popular in Europe and much of the world, America still isn't. So the president and his massive entourage have a tough task ahead this week convincing other nations to follow our lead when it comes to rescuing the global economy.
In case the plight of the auto industry and the ongoing AIG drama aren't depressing enough, here's another possibility to ruin your Monday morning -- a broader crisis in the life insurance industry. It turns out that more insurance companies have been asking for federal aid, arguing that the bailout for AIG gives that company an advantage that hurts its competitors. And there may well be more pain to come, as Tim Geithner used his first Sunday show appearances to warn -- in an understatement -- that the administration is "not going to get it perfect everywhere."
On the Hill, this week is again all about the budget resolution. The House will take up its version of the measure in the next two days, while the Senate is expected to vote on its bill Thursday or Friday. The measure is expected to pass easily in both chambers, at which point House and Senate negotiators will sit down to bridge the not-so-big differences between the two. Yes, there will be a full-fledged Republican alternative measure in the House this week, after the GOP's decision to unveil an unspecific "blueprint" backfired. Senate Republicans still don't have a plan of their own, but that didn't stop Judd Gregg over the weekend from lambasting the plan of the administration he almost joined. This is Congress' last week of work before members go home for the two-week spring recess. How the House and Senate ultimately react to Obama's auto plan may well rest on whatever lawmakers hear about it back in their districts.
March 30, 2009; 4:45 PM ET
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