Go to Detroit

Dwight Eisenhower said he would go to Korea. Barack Obama says he will go to Detroit.

Why not name former Vice President Al Gore, former General Electric Chairman Jack Welch and former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt (Mo.) to work with auto companies for 60 days to promote the industry of the future?

The cavalry is coming. When Tom Daschle becomes secretary of Health and Human Service to reform healthcare, it benefits auto industry plans. When Bill Richardson becomes Commerce secretary, his diplomatic skills can advance world auto trade.

With an inspiring new president bringing the best people to develop bold new plans, short-term pessimism will yield to longer-term optimism. We can end more than three decades of neglect of energy policy and more than three decades of lethargy of automotive management and restore the optimism and drive of the world leader we are.

Global demand for autos will explode as China, India, Latin America and Africa will provide enormous demand when the world economy recovers. In the U.S. and Europe, new-generation cars with advanced fuel efficiency, design and engineering will meet pent-up demand when growth resumes.

One lesson I learned working for Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and the House Democratic leadership was to avoid focusing on quarterly conditions in ways that destroy long-term opportunity.

With the auto industry, there is a short-term imperative to cut costs, lower executive compensation, reduce legacy expenses, eliminate product lines and impose equal sacrifice on all stakeholders. Hard decisions are urgently needed.

However, there is an equal imperative to renew growth, employment and success for the longer term. We must plan for the global economic recovery with the next generation of cars. Companies that take the right actions today will prosper tomorrow.

Short-term root canal work, imposing pain without a new generation plan, is a formula for failure. There is a better way than pain with pessimism. It involves shared sacrifice today with a clear understanding of the long-term opportunity and an optimistic and entrepreneurial drive to seize it.

Let’s bring the best minds in the nation to work with the auto industry and the next president with a plan to succeed, a will to win and a “right stuff” spirit of American ingenuity and drive.

I propose three national figures of enormous depth, credibility and clout. Al Gore is a global leader in new technology, alternative energy and environmental progress. Jack Welch is a hard-charging business leader with experience blending manufacturing and technology. Dick Gephardt is a longtime advocate of advanced technology and friend of American workers.

There are other names, but Gore, Welch and Gephardt would be an all-star team with the intellectual firepower to work with the industry to devise a breakthrough plan for the future.

They have credibility with the Main Street Americans who will pay for the project and benefit from its success. They have financial clout to attract vast sums of private capital from Wall Street, venture capital firms and private equity companies that would soon replace government in building and financing the future.

A new president. A new spirit. A new plan. New thinking. People will be astonished by what the United States of America can achieve.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be reached at brentbbi@webtv.net and read on The Hill Pundits Blog.