When you're trying to recover from a couple of tough years, you really don't want to be linked in print to stumbling presidential aspirants who cause embarrassed sighs among the Republican faithful and give talk show hosts a wagonload of material. But that's what happened to Toyota in The New York Times last week.
In a story about how candidates' embarrassing gaffes -- Herman Cain couldn't seem to recall what had happened in Libya, and Rick Perry couldn't remember one of the three government departments he passionately believes should be eliminated -- may be tarnishing the Republican "brand," a former national security official in the George W. Bush administration pulled Toyota into the briar patch.
National security "is the core of the Republican brand," Peter Feaver told the Times in a reference to Cain -- who also mistakenly said this month that China doesn't have nuclear weapons. A Republican screwing up on national security, Feaver said, is like Toyota screwing up on safety.
"The whole reason you bought a Toyota was so that you didn't have those problems," he said, referring to Toyota's flurry of recalls in 2009-10. "It cuts directly to the essence of the brand. Republicans should be concerned."
An old maxim of press agentry has it that "no press is bad press." Toyota might not agree.