Breaking: Car czar quits

Auto Industry Task Force chair Steven Rattner has abruptly quit this afternoon.  Also known as the “car czar,” Rattner’s appointment got roundly criticized because of his lack of experience in the auto industry.  His replacement will have the same problem:

Steven Rattner, head of the Obama administration’s auto task force, is leaving that post and will be replaced by former steelworkers official Ron Bloom.

The administration said Monday that Rattner decided to return to private life and his family in New York City.

Rattner won praise for the job he did managing the massive restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler. But his government service came under a cloud with an investigation of an influence peddling scandal back in New York.

Authorities have said that Rattner, an investment banker, was unlikely to face charges in the investigation which involved a giant state pension fund that provides retirement benefits for more than 1 million government employees.

I’m not aware that “authorities” have made a statement that he would not get charged in the corruption probe.  A Google search on “rattner face charges” turns up a number of hits with the same formulation that the AP uses here, but none with specific references to a public statement.  Mickey Kaus is the only one to specify that such a statement came from the White House, and that was to defend itself on the Rattner appointment after word broke of his involvement in the securities probe in New York.  The media seems awfully credulous in this regard on White House spin.

Rattner says he wants to spend more time with his family.  I’d bet that means the probe took a turn for the worse in recent days.  We’ll see soon enough, but something had to happen to prompt Rattner to quit so suddenly in the middle of Obama’s campaign to remake the auto industry.

Bloom will step into Rattner’s shoes, but Bloom has even less relevant experience than Rattner.  Not only has Bloom never apparently worked in the auto industry — he was an official in the steelworkers union before this — but he doesn’t have Rattner’s breadth of experience on Wall Street, either, although he did work as an investment banker for ten years.  What qualifications does Bloom have to remake the auto industry?  He was a union negotiator … and that’s about it.