Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Honesty and Transparency

What did Obama know, and when did he know it? A day after the government announced that Chrysler was entering a short, government-assisted Chapter 11 bankrupcy, and Obmama declared that this will not disrupt the lives of the people who work at Chrysler or the communities that depend on it, Chrysler announced it was closing five plants. Two in Michigan.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, is an especially interesting case. According to other participants, Granholm played a prominent role in a call between public officials and Chrysler executives at 1 p.m. on April 30, just after Obama made his announcement. In that call, she pressed Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli after he spoke of maintaining 30,000 jobs at Chrysler's domestic plants.

Granholm, a Harvard law graduate and former federal prosecutor, quickly noted that Chrysler actually employs thousands more, and she wanted to discern if Nardelli was playing games with those numbers, according to call participants.

But Nardelli glossed over the numbers and left the impression that his was a ballpark figure and that no cuts were planned. Granholm appeared to believe it. Visibly pleased, she told a news conference that afternoon that all Chrysler jobs would be saved, adding that there was even "the opportunity for more" jobs through the Fiat deal and restructuring.

Soon enough, this would prove to be incorrect. Yet Granholm, a Democratic star, apparently has not complained publicly about being misled. Her office did not return The Plain Dealer's calls to discuss the matter.

For the Obama White House, the Chrysler episode raises a question about one of its favorite buzz words: transparency. Administration officials, including those close to the negotiations involving Chrysler, have refused to talk for attribution. One official told The Plain Dealer that he is still working with struggling auto companies, including General Motors, and doesn't wish to trade accusations with lawmakers.

So, why hasn't Jenny said anything about this since?