DC's Calling Major Tom

GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR TOM In an effort to avoid bankruptcy in 1979, Chrysler Corporation sought and received what would eventually be known as the "Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979," signed into law by then-U.S. President James...


In an effort to avoid bankruptcy in 1979, Chrysler Corporation sought and received what would eventually be known as the "Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979," signed into law by then-U.S. President James Earl Carter, Jr. ("Jimmy" to us good ol' boys until the so-called "Rabid Rabbit" incident. For those left scratching their noggins wondering "What the heck!?," the rest of the "Rabid Rabbit" story will be found at this column's end).

At its beginning, members of the 96th Congress weren't terribly thrilled about the Chrysler deal's idea but most, if not all of them likely came to the realization that just about every Congressional district would be hit with some sort of collateral damage should Chrysler go down the tubes. Tens-of-thousands of people would overnight become part of the unemployment statistics in some districts; "just" hundreds in others. Add 'em all up, though, and the numbers started boggling the mind.

After then-Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca touted the product to consumers with "If you can find a better car, buy it" (evidently believing him, the Federal government started buying huge quantities of Chrysler and Dodge vehicles of every description), the company quickly squared the loans by the early 1980's and Iacocca, er, Chrysler went on to fame, fortune and, reportedly, now is again facing yet another bankruptcy ... supposedly along with fellow U.S. domestic car-builders Ford and General Motors.

(Oh, Mr. Iacocca, you did it once. Would it be too much ...?)

When automakers like Studebaker, DeSoto and, decades later, Oldsmobile bit the dust, most everyone came to the conclusion that "it's just the way it works" (except Iacocca who, many say, took Japanese-bashing to whole new heights. Others would likely say Iacocca was correct all along).

Far off its peak numbers of decades ago, nearly 250,000 workers today still are directly in the employ of Detroit's automakers and, based information from Ann Arbor, Michigan's The Center for Automotive Research, at least another 1.8 million workers are directly dependant on the Big Three (which, admittedly, really aren't as big as was once the case).

And yet to be included in the above figures are the vast numbers of people (families, really) who indirectly benefit from automakers selling cars, whether construction workers building new showrooms or janitorial services cleaning dealership offices in the dead of night.

Or how about the advertising-agency personnel who created the hot new 2009 Lincoln MKS TV commercial or, for that matter, the singers who in it covered David Bowie's 1969 "Space Oddity" song - for which royalties are no doubt also paid and, by extension, from the proceeds of which record-company personnel are paid.

When one gets right down to brass tacks, should Chrysler, Ford and GM fold, far more people will be hurt than just the obvious and the question then becomes "How would you like to assist them?"

The money Congress "disposes" comes from somewhere, you know - its precise source ultimately being you and me.

With some of you just itching to in any possible manner end the Big Three's very existence, the fact remains you and I will have to pay for this one way or another.

I'll opt for keeping the factories open and, by extension (and "condition," if possible) their race cars competing for bragging rights at hundreds of venues annually - thereby helping thousands of race track workers clothe, feed, shelter and educate their families, too.


Turning back to a far simpler time just months before 1979's Iranian Hostage Crisis began, President Jimmy Carter had retreated to his Plains, Georgia farm so as to take a breather from slings and arrows that would only get far worse in the year ahead.

As described by Carter press secretary Jody Powell in excerpts from his 1986 book, "The Other Side of the Story":

"... while fishing in a pond on his farm (President Carter) had sighted a large animal swimming toward him. Upon closer inspection, the animal turned out to be a rabbit. Not one of your cutesy, Easter Bunny-type rabbits, but one of those big, splay-footed things that we called 'swamp rabbits' when I was growing up."

"The animal was clearly in distress, or perhaps berserk. The President confessed to having had limited experience with enraged rabbits. He was unable to reach a definite conclusion about its state of mind. What was obvious, however, was that this large, wet animal, making strange hissing noises and gnashing its teeth, was intent upon climbing into the Presidential boat."

(Um, Jody, while you and I both know you write far better than you golf, I think it might've been better to say something like "flat-bottom boat." I mean, "Presidential" makes it sound like a doggone yacht!)

"The Washington Post, exercising the news judgment that we in the White House had come to appreciate so keenly, headed the piece 'President Attacked by Rabbit' and ran it on the front page."

"That night, all three networks (at that time, ABC, CBS and NBC were the ONLY three networks) found time to report the amazing incident."

Short-shifting the story at this point: President Carter took to using a paddle to, um, 'dissuade' that rabbit whereas the rest of us southern types would've simply used a 12-gauge and been done with it as fast as No. 6 shot can be loosed - maybe even bagging a couple of crappie for dinner in the process, too.

    By DC Williams, Written Exclusively for Motorsport.com

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