Today’s big gaffe by the Obama administration was made by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood—-coincidentally, my former neighbor in East Moline, Illinois, and a great guy (also, a Republican, most recently residing in Peoria, Illinois and representing that district in Illinois before his decision to retire.)
Ray was testifying before Congress about the sticking pedal on certain Toyota models, a number of which have been recalled by the company for fixing. The problem seemed to be that Ray was not speaking officially…or he didn’t think that he was, at the time he was testifying…but the man-in-the-street heard Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation, telling them to quit driving their Toyotas and drive immediately to the nearest Toyota dealership for a fix of the problem. (Oh, oh.)
In Ray’s defense, he corrected himself within 2 hours and admitted he had “misspoken,” but the harm was done. In Florida, where I am now, various channels had Floridians from all walks of life saying things like, “How will I get home from work?” (I’m not making this up, Folks. One of the interview subjects actually told the reporter this, with a very worried look.)
I am the proud owner of 2 Toyota Prius vehicles (I’ve written on this subject on AC before). I also owned a third, which is now in my son’s possession in Chicago. Of course, currently I’m not in Illinois, where my green Prius (the grasshopper) is sitting in the garage, waiting for me to make the final five payments to say that I own it. But I can assure you that I would not be panicking at the thought of driving that car home from work (if I had work to drive home from, that is.)
I read, elsewhere, that the co-founder of Apple says that his Prius will automatically escalate up to 97 mph when he uses his cruise control. [My answer to that would be, “Don’t use the cruise control.”]
Where has common sense gone in all the hoopla over the really unfortunate, although isolated, incidents involving (some) Toyota vehicles? The Lexus accident that precipitated the recall (of floor mats, initially) was truly horrifying, and it did take an inordinate amount of time for Toyota to own up to the fact that there was something going on with their vehicles, but things seem to be getting out of hand.
As I type this, I’m watching a satirical take-off on “American Idol’s” auditions on Jimmy Kimmel. I watched the young man talk about how his father was eaten by an alligator (leg shown sticking out of alligator’s mouth) and, on the way home from the funeral service, someone threw a bucket at his mother from a bridge overpass as she drove underneath in a convertible. She had to be buried with the bucket on her head. (Okay…questionable taste and graphic there, but it was Jimmy Kimmel, not me.)
Given the panic that a simple misstatement by our current Secretary of Transportation (Ray LaHood) caused on February 3rd after his inadvertent remark before Congress, the Toyota Tempest caused by Ray’s remark today (not the need for a fix for a real problem, but the foot-in-mouth comment) is ripe for a “Saturday Night Live” skit. I can see it now:
First, a shot of LaHood telling people not to drive their Toyota vehicles, but to take them immediately to dealerships.
Next, a shot of hordes of screaming villagers jamming the entrances to Toyota dealerships, nationwide, demanding the chip or floor mat or whatever it is that is supposed to end this madness, and demanding it RIGHT NOW! Maybe some of them could be carrying torches. Or, failing that, discarded rubber floor mats.
Next, a scene depicting those wusses who are still at work as the hour grows late, sitting there staring timidly at their parked Toyota vehicles but too afraid to climb in and drive 3 blocks home.
I’m obviously watching too much television while on vacation in the Sunshine State, where a shark ate a surfer today. (New Smyrna Beach is “the shark bite capital of the United States.”) To quote David Letterman, “Hep me! Hep me! I been hip-no-tized!” watching this Toyota Tempest play out on television.
And, Ray: I mean no disrespect. You’re doing a great job. Just get us that railroad paralleling I-80 (Chicago to the Quad Cities to Des Moines) and all is forgiven. I’ll even ask “Saturday Night Live” to call off the skit.