Corker, a foe of Detroit's former ways, should share credit for GM's crowning IPO

Certain names associated with the automotive bailout are certain to draw fire.

Steven Rattner is one. Jim Press is another. And then there's Bob Corker, the Republican U.S. senator from Tennessee.

Corker has been saying that he feels vindicated in the successful General Motors stock offering. This immediately stirs up critics who remember Corker's tough stance at the congressional bailout hearings two years ago and brand him as an enemy of the industry.

I think Corker has gotten a bum rap — and in fact wound up doing GM and Chrysler an invaluable service.

It was Corker, as much as anyone, who put the key issues into sharp relief. He argued that it would be pointless to shovel money at GM and Chrysler while their high debt load and uncompetitive wage structures remained in place.

Corker went further, demanding that the two companies set a deadline, beyond which they would file for bankruptcy if deals were not worked out with unions and bondholders.

It was no coincidence that Corker was a successful real estate developer. He had a business executive's understanding of the critical balance sheet issues and the leverage needed to fix them.

The two automakers' bankruptcies went through additional twists and turns. Two hardheaded executives — Fritz Henderson at GM and Sergio Marchionne at Chrysler — hammered out the details in protracted negotiations.

But Corker's demands set the basic course.