The Detroit News
Ex-Chrysler CEO also rips Congress, but the harshest criticism goes to president's leadership.
Washington - Lee Iacocca, author of the original business management best-seller, is giving President Bush an "F" in leadership.
In a book to be released Tuesday, the former Chrysler CEO - who supported Bush's first campaign in 2000 but backed Sen. John Kerry four years later - accused Bush of leading the nation to war "on a pack of lies" and lacking the basic components of good leadership.
"I think our current President should visit the real world once in a while," Iacocca writes, according to excerpts from "Where Have All the Leaders Gone?" released on the Web site of publisher Simon & Schuster.
The book, co-written by New York journalist Catherine Whitney, comes 23 years after Iacocca's best-selling autobiography "Iacocca," which reshaped the way the publishing industry viewed business books. USA Today recently ranked the book among the 25 most influential among publishers and readers over the past 25 years.
In addition to politics, Iacocca weighs in on his experiences at Chrysler and the future of the U.S. auto industry in typically blunt fashion.
His latest broadside is in character, said Matthew Seeger, chairman of the communication department of Wayne State University and author of a book on Iacocca's speeches.
"As he's gotten older, he's gotten more blunt, more willing to take stands on issues," Seeger said.
But tough words from Iacocca may not carry the same weight they once did, said David Cole, director of the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Michigan.
"Some people might have some awfully harsh criticism of Lee Iacocca, too," Cole said.
Despite his stature as the savior of Chrysler in the 1980s, Cole said, other events, including his failed bid with Kirk Kerkorian to take over the company in the 1990s, have diminished his clout.
Iacocca has described himself as a political independent, and his new book is the latest twist in political history that includes a brief flirtation with his own run for president. He had a close relationship with Democrat Gov. James Blanchard and President Reagan during his time at Chrysler; he made ads for President Bush in 2000 but made campaign appearances with Kerry four years later; and he made more ads, this time for GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, last year.
"Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening?" Iacocca writes. "Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, 'Stay the course.'"
Disdain for Washington is nothing new from Iacocca, said Gerald Meyers, former chairman of American Motors and a business professor at the University of Michigan. Recalling a trip to talk to lawmakers in the 1970s about the Clean Air Act, Meyers said, Iacocca had little regard for politicians.
"Zero respect. Nada. No respect whatsoever," Meyers said.
Iacocca has tough things to say about Congress, corporate America, the press and even the voters who put the nation's current leadership in power. But his harshest criticism is saved for Bush.
He savages Bush's famous determination: "George Bush prides himself on never changing, even as the world around him is spinning out of control. God forbid someone should accuse him of flip-flopping," Iacocca writes. "There's a disturbingly messianic fervor to his certainty."
He accuses Bush of substituting macho for courage: "Swagger isn't courage. Tough talk isn't courage. Courage in the twenty-first century doesn't mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk."
And he scoffs at Bush's business-degree background: "Thanks to our first MBA President, we've got the largest deficit in history, Social Security is on life support, and we've run up a half-a-trillion-dollar price tag (so far) in Iraq. And that's just for starters."
White House spokesman Alex Conant said he had not seen the book. "We don't do book reviews at the White House," he said.
Simon & Schuster says the book will also include Iacocca's thoughts on how U.S. businesses can compete with rising economies in China and India. And he calls for government action to address the massive health care costs facing the Detroit's automakers and other U.S. businesses.
"Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing," he writes. "Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when 'the Big Three' referred to Japanese car companies?