BLOG: Recall falls prey to (unfounded) political innuendo

Peter Brown is publisher and editorial director of Automotive News.
I was on a cable business show last night to talk about the Toyota recall mess. It's a tragedy, and it will be months before we really know who knew what when.

But that's not mainly what the host wanted to talk about. He repeatedly said, “If I didn't know better,” and then he repeatedly suggested that the Obama administration was unfairly dumping on Toyota because the foreign automaker's pain would be an advantage to “Government Motors.”

The other guest was a guy from the Cato Institute. I'll give him this. He was kind of honest. He first confessed that he had not a shred of evidence that Obama was trying to damage Toyota.

And then he said he sure figured Obama and his crew were trying to damage Toyota for the benefit of General Motors.

Well, if I didn't know better, I'd say the host was fanning the flames of a false, politically motivated rumor. And I have no evidence, but I'd said the Cato guy was trying to impugn the administration over Toyota because he doesn't like other things that Obama is doing, and he doesn't like unions.

It's true that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been a loose cannon on this issue. He seems to enjoy the spotlight, even when he's misspeaking. LaHood should pipe down, get out of the way and let the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration do its deadly serious job of saving lives.

But the Obama administration has done nothing to tilt the playing field toward GM and Chrysler. Two bits of evidence:

• Who was the chief beneficiary of Obama's successful cash-for-clunkers program last summer? Toyota.

• Trick question: How many UAW members are in GM's newest plant, the battery assembly operation in the union hotbed of Michigan? Give up? It's zero. It's a nonunion GM plant.

These goofy conspiracy theories do our country no good. Onward and upward.

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