By Tony Borroz

The Obama administration, as part of the government's ongoing bailout of the auto industry, has ushered General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner out of the building and replaced him with board member Fritz Henderson.

The president, in an address this morning, said Wagoner's ouster was not a reflection on his stewardship of the beleaguered automaker but "rather a recognition that it will take a new vision and new direction to create the GM of the future." Considering GM's stock plunged from around $90 a share to less than $3 a share since Wagoner moved into the corner office eight years ago, maybe the ouster was a reflection of his leadership.

Still, the move stunned a lot of people, with Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm speaking for them when she called Wagoner "a sacrificial lamb." But Wagoner, who is known for optimism, remained upbeat.

"GM is a great company with a storied history," he said in an e-mail to employees. "Ignore the doubters, because I know it is also a company with a great future."

The press is going nuts with the story. The New York Times said the administration's move "amounts to a do-or-die ultimatum for the struggling automobile industry." The Detroit News is blunt in saying, "Obama tells automakers: No more excuses." In an editorial, the News slammed the ouster as a political move by a president who "needs a scalp to wave before both a Congress growing queasy about federal bailouts and the automaker's bondholders, who aren't happy about granting a huge discount on their GM debt."

The bottom line is Uncle Sam told Wagoner he'd have to take a hike if the floundering automaker was to get any more cash out of taxpayers. In addition to telling Wagoner to hit the bricks, the Obama administration wants to push Chrysler into a shotgun wedding with Fiat — or any other suitor that comes along.

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Photo: Wagoner with the Volt concept (General Motors)