The first thing I noticed about U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was the way he worked the small group of reporters and photographers covering his appearance in Collinsville. He walked up to each of us and introduced himself. He seemed like a nice guy.
Of course, all good politicians seem like nice guys. Secretary LaHood was a Republican Congressman from Illinois for fourteen years. He knew how to work a crowd, which can be a very effective way of disarming reporters who are paid to question you.
One of the first things I noticed when he started talking at the podium is that he kept saying the same thing over and over again. The key points about the Cash for Clunkers program, according to LaHood, were the number of cars sold, great stimulus and auto dealers will get paid.
That's fine after you hear it once or twice, but by the fifth or sixth time he recycles it without directly answering your question you either stop asking questions, which is the politicians goal, or you keep asking the same questions with the understanding that he probably won't shake your hand on the way out.
Secretary LaHood refused to admit the program made any mistakes. He refused to do what he called a "post mortem." He wouldn't even admit that the program was taking too long to reimburse auto dealers who were waiting for huge amounts of money. This week, the national reimbursement rate was still a meager 2%.
The Secretary, like so many politicians, simply fails to recognize the value of "fessing up" as my mom used to call it. That's when you admit to making a mistake. One of LaHood's mistakes today was not admitting that the government has made dealers wait too long for their money.
It wasn't in his talking points.