● After trial lawyers and feckless reporters ginned up an “unintended acceleration” scare against Toyota, LaHood wasn’t in a position to reverse the engineering judgment of the career technical staff at NHTSA, who concluded the scare (like earlier ones) was bogus. But he seems to have done what he could to make life hard for the foreign-owned automaker, levying heavy fines over disclosure issues and delaying the release of the technical findings exculpating the company. Some also felt that as a cabinet member of a government that had taken over competitors GM and Chrysler, LaHood was in a bit of a conflicted position as judge-and-executioner of Detroit’s envied Japanese rival.
● Early speculation on a replacement includes the name of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who’d probably leave me nostalgic for LaHood. I’d wish the departing Secretary bon voyage, but somehow it’s hard for me to associate him with happy travels.
Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A shorter version of this article appeared at the Cato Institute blog Cato at Liberty.