It is with no small amount of shame that I admit the following: Much of my disgust with self-serving “C.Y.A.” spin is a function of my having on occasion been in a position of having to think up such nonsense. Heaven help me, but I can smell this stuff a mile away.
Today I watched an interview with Ford CEO Alan R. Mullaly, who was proudly touting the fact that, rather flying to today’s bailout hearing in a private jet, he would be driving from Detroit in a new Ford Fusion Hybrid. He said he had “learned a lesson” after he flew to the last hearing in his private jet.
Look, I’m not suggesting there is anything else he could have said. But let’s be clear: He didn’t simply “learn a lesson.” He was so embedded in the culture of perqs and excessive compensation that it never even struck him or anyone in the company – not even their highly paid flacks — that flying a private jet might rub people the wrong way.
This may surprise you: I actually do not see a corporate jet as inherently evil. It would be hard to persuade me, but I would at least listen to an honest argument about how speedy, on-demand air travel might promote profits and productivity. Given Ford’s current problems, I would think that it would be mind-bogglingly ridiculous to try and make that argument now. But if Ford was thriving, if Ford was growing and employing more people, if Ford was paying its workers well and providing good benefits, I don’t think that many people would be having a fit about the plane.
What does give me a fit is a guy getting caught using a private plane in the midst of an economic collapse – clueless about how it would be perceived — and spinning it as a “lesson learned.”
C’mon Mr. Mullaly: It was greed and excess revealed, not simply a lesson learned.