High prices at D.C. auto show

Even before Detroit's Big Three CEOs get their bailout billions from recession-plagued taxpayers, their P.R. people must be breaking out the champagne.

Their ploy of having the execs drive fuel-efficient cars to D.C., instead of corporate jets, worked like a charm. The press this morning was plastered with pictures of these drivers, like GM's Rick Wagoner hopping out of his Volt upon arrival at Capitol Hill.

Revolting. Their wobbly steering of their companies has been unsafe at any speed, and they should have been pulled over before they even left Detroit.

Yes, the stories about their testimony reflected lawmakers' skepticism. But at least the P.R. pictures of execs driving low-cost vehicles (at right, Wagoner) was potentially worth millions in future hawking of such cars. And it will stand as part of the permanent record for future historians about how the Big Three were committed to new and innovative vehicles.

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For now, there will be a bailout, no matter how skeptical Congress is. And it's important to remember that lawmakers play for their audiences, and their brutal words directed at the automakers mean little.

If Congress — anybody — knew exactly how to pull us out of the deepening depression, the Big Three would have less of a chance of getting bailouts. But nobody knows yet what will work, and of course the failure of these huge companies is seen as disastrous right now.

Despite what the Wall Street Journal points out this morning in a smart piece ("Detroit Bailout Hits a Bumpy Road"), Congress will no doubt grant the Big Three CEOs their Christmas wish of cash instead of sweaters.

Their only problem is that, amid the infernal combustion of the economy, no one really wants to take responsibility for initiating the bailout of the Big Three. They all have their eyes on the next elections, which no doubt will take place during a severe recession, and bailing out executives won't look good on the resumes. As the WSJ points out:

Despite a series of mea culpas from the companies' chief executives Thursday, there remained little momentum behind providing government relief. That's despite a general consensus among leaders in Congress and the Bush White House that a helping hand of some sort should be offered.

The calls for action have been hampered by a post-election power vacuum. The White House has kept an arm's length from the legislative wrangling, while the economic team of President-elect Barack Obama has stepped back from direct involvement in a car-industry bailout. Absent strong presidential leadership, the debate over a rescue plan has steered into a legislative thicket.

Ah, the Journal is so good. Its reporters Greg Hitt and Matthew Dolan accurately call this "providing government relief" instead of Rick Wagoner's euphemism of "federal assistance." This is a direct plea for corporate welfare. This exasperating situation gives welfare a bad name.

Maybe Obama will have some spare change, even though his new administration looks suspiciously like a lineup of the usual suspects.

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Times: 'Attacks Traced to Two From Pakistan'

N.Y. Times: 'Live Blog: The Automakers Plead' (Floyd Norris)

12:16 p.m. Road Trip?: Alan Mulally, Ford's chief executive, assures the panel that the company is "focused." And after a long drive to Washington to testify, he offers to return the committee's hospitality. "We invite you to visit us in Dearborn and kick the tires," he says.

McClatchy: 'Contrite auto execs say they'll drive back to Detroit, too'

N.Y. Post: 'STAR'S G-MAN BEAU BUSTED: FBI AGENT SPIED AS 'FAVOR' FOR FIORENTINO'

N.Y. Post: 'S&M LAWYER BEAT A PATH TO SAVE GAL'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Nab L.I. magician in foto trick'

If only he could make criminal charges disappear.

A man who calls himself "Long Island's Favorite Magician" has been accused of secretly taping women and girls as they undressed - his second arrest in four months.

Boston Globe: 'Losing jobs in unequal numbers: 1,069,000 fewer men are working than a year ago. 12,000 more women are working.'

AP: 'Pakistani group under fire after India attacks'

Slate: 'What Were Orthodox Jews Doing in Mumbai? Making better Jews.'

Six of the people killed during last week's terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, died in Nariman House, the local headquarters of the Orthodox Jewish group Chabad-Lubavitch. What was a group of Orthodox Jews doing in India?

Slate: 'The Enforcer: Obama's most important national-security pick isn't Hillary — it's Gen. Jim Jones.

Times (U.K.): 'Honda bows out as credit crunch hits Formula One: Japanese team could be just the first forced out of sport by global recession'

McClatchy: 'Auto execs concede mistakes but earn little sympathy'

New Yorker: 'Outside agitator: Naomi Klein and the new new left'

New York: 'Poor Is Cool! (But Only If You're Not Really Poor)'

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