BUSINESS
01/08/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

In Defense of GM's Rick Wagoner

It's been a bad year for CEOs, and Rick Wagoner, the head of General Motors, seems poised to join an ignominious crowd: Corporate leaders who have resigned after their firms sought federal help. Key members of Congress have said that Wagoner should step down before GM gets a big chunk of a $15 billion automaker aid package, and incoming President Barack Obama has said that GM's leadership "has to move on." It's hard to imagine Wagoner staying on, in defiance of his new lords in Washington.

But even if he leaves, Wagoner doesn't fit the mold of the rapacious CEO. Like his Motor City colleagues -- Alan Mulally of Ford and Bob Nardelli of Chrysler -- Wagoner showed poor judgment by flying a corporate jet when he came to Washington in November to ask for aid. And his insistence that "bankruptcy isn't an option" for GM has seemed presumptuous -- as if the feds are obligated to rescue his company.

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