Pretty shocked by the news that Ed Whitacre is being allowed to run GM. And it's not because he said he doesn't "know anything about cars," which is the hook of HuffPo's 108pt (I mean enough already) headline. Whitacre is right that at the highest levels executive competence doesn't require any detailed knowledge of the actual product or service a given company sells.
But Ed Whitacre is also the guy who helped the Bush administration do their illegal spying and then, when he was called before Congress to answer questions about said cooperation, basically told Congress to go fuck itself. I can't find the video, unfortunately. It's really chilling. One of the most memorable moments of the Bush era, for me. The CEO of a huge telco, before Congress, acting like nothing was going to come of this "massive illegal wiretapping" business. And of course he was proven right.
A Senate hearing Thursday intended to explore the consumer impact of a proposed AT&T-BellSouth merger instead turned into a contentious face-off over phone privacy.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) asked AT&T Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Ed Whitacre whether his company had turned over phone records to any law enforcement agency. The question stemmed from his concerns about a report last month in the newspaper USA Today involving the National Security Agency's use of phone records.
"The privacy of our customers is utmost [in importance] and we follow the law," Whitacre replied.
The senator repeatedly asked for a fuller explanation, but Whitacre only said again and again that "we follow the law."
Specter, appearing increasingly impatient, said, "I think that answer is contemptuous of this committee."
Suggesting more hearings would follow, he told Whitacre, "you and I will talk about this further."
Ooooooh, scary. And now this tan golem of unaccountable corporate power is the chairman of GM, which is largely government-owned. Perfect. And let this be a lesson to those who would cross Arlen Specter!