Airlines are filling more seats these days as executive recruiters scurry around searching for a new president to straighten out a railroad--Amtrak, to be precise.
Amtrak’s board is replacing David Gunn, the president they "discharged" in November for resisting reforms. I’ve confirmed that one tough cookie, "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap, isn’t being considered even though he could restructure Amtrak faster than the Acela Express can travel from Washington to Boston.
I want to help Amtrak. I hereby nominate the following candidates for the job, listed in reverse order of priority based on their probable performance.
10. Vincent D’Onofrio: The actor, who plays Detective Robert "Bobby" Goren on Law and Order, will clean up New York’s Penn Station. He will teach Amtrak police officers to emulate his exaggerated gestures, guaranteed to scare panhandlers away.
9. Kenneth Lay: Enron’s former chairman finally recognizes "funny" bookkeeping. Amtrak’s future annual reports won’t resemble last year’s, which didn’t use the word “subsidy” once although Amtrak received $1 billion in, um, subsidies.
8. Zig Zigler: Hooray for this motivational speaker, who said, "The world’s most deadly disease is ‘hardening of the attitudes.’" He will end Amtrak’s zeal in preserving 1950s-style long-distance trains by telling them that--surprise!--it’s no longer the 1950s.
7. Steve Irwin: This Australian adventurer has survived encounters with crocodiles, lions, and poisonous snakes. He can embarrass politicians and their pork-barrel spending by bringing pigs onto the Senate floor during Amtrak budget debates.
6. Ann Coulter: She will tutor executives in demographics by discouraging running half-empty trains in sparsely populated areas. ("There aren’t many customers where there aren’t many people.") And let’s just see "tough union guys" negotiate with this woman.
5. Chris Sullivan: The Outback Steakhouse chairman will end Amtrak’s food-and-beverage practices that lose $2 for every $1 in revenue. His skills come from being accountable to shareholders, a pesky bunch Amtrak doesn’t have to worry about.
4. Donald Trump: The New York real estate mogul repaired Central Park’s ice skating rink much faster than the city could. He will reverse Amtrak's excessive delays in upgrading the Manhattan rail tunnels by giving the job to an apprentice.
3. Jimmy Carter: As U.S. President, he killed several useless long-distance Amtrak routes. He can confide to President Bush his secret about how he did that without Democrats calling him bad names. Then he could kill more useless routes.
2. Jay Leno: He once asked, "Did you hear that Amtrak’s on the Internet now? Boy, if you thought your computer crashed before...." He will demand, "Look, I want the computers fixed. And no more pop-up ads for ‘Conductors Gone Wild’ either."
1. Bill O’Reilly: The host of The Factor on Fox News will declare headquarters a "no-spin zone." Stunned Amtrak executives will finally admit they "almost never" ride trains. Instead they fly, drive RVs, or take the Greyhound bus.
Amtrak’s board appoints the president. Hence, unlike Judge Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court, candidates will be spared a Senate confirmation hearing. This disappoints those who want to say what no prior Amtrak president has ever said--"Let’s treat taxpayers with respect by lowering subsidies."
Joseph Vranich is the author of End of the Line.