Last Call: This time it's personal: even House reps drive Explorers

The personal is truly political as proved last week by the deflating moment that occurred for the Bridgestone/Firestone folks at the joint hearing held by House Commerce subcommittees over the alleged danger posed by their tires.

When Firestone EVP Gary Crigger expressed regret over the deaths of people involved in the auto accidents, Rep. Billy Tauzin (chair of the subcommittee on telecommunications, trade and consumer protection) went into overdrive.

Not only did he lambaste the Firestone exec for being slow to come forth with information about the tires to federal regulators, Tauzin added that he owns a Ford Explorer with tires on the recall list.

But Tauzin press secretary Ken Johnson emphasized that congressional scrutiny of the tire case had started well before Tauzin even realized his tires were on the recall list.

'It's not like all of a sudden he got mad and decided to hold a hearing,' said Johnson. In fact, Tauzin was unaware of whether his car was affected until Johnson asked him about it in a staff meeting. '(Tauzin) said that he hadn't even thought of it,' recalls Johnson.

But there's no doubt that Tauzin's own tires were on his mind during the inquiry.

Even Ford CEO Jacques Nasser couldn't escape the wrath of Tauzin. When Nasser suggested he lacked knowledge of serious problems with Firestone tires, Tauzin produced complaints from Ford dealers.

'Mr. Nasser,' Tauzin mocked, 'I am an Explorer owner. You don't have to sell (to) me.'

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