Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Eastwood Ad Made The Day, But It’s a Petty Political Issue (February 10, 2012)

Even as the fanfare over the New York Giants’ Super Bowl XLVI victory on Sunday started to fade by mid-week, controversy lingered over the Chrysler commercial that featured a pep talk at halftime by Clint Eastwood for the Detroit automaker, as well as our recuperating nation.
The two-minute spot starred the award-winning actor/director extolling the car manufacturer’s comeback from bankruptcy, combined with not-so-subliminal parallel references to the nation’s economic comeback.
In the commercial, which aired during the 30-minute break midway into the game, Eastwood says, “It’s halftime in America, too…We find our way through tough times…Detroit’s showing us how it can be done. And what’s true about them is true about all of us… (Chrysler) is doing our part to move America forward. To help win the country’s second half for all of us.”
  While as much as a third of the country watched all or part of Sunday’s NFL championship game, curiosity over the debate has made it a magnet for a broader following via the internet and this Super Bowl’s most talked about ad. Before the debate turns into yesterday’s news and a final tally is reported, it could, in years to come, end up as the most talked about non-football Super Bowl discussion since Janet Jackson’s halftime nipple exposure a few years back.
Much of the controversy has centered on the ad’s perceived partisanship. Groundless critics saw the commercial, in a presidential election year, subconsciously promoting the Obama administration. First of all, despite Eastwood’s connection to Hollywood, he’s neither a liberal nor an Obama supporter. He’s a fiscal conservative, who supported John McCain in the 2008 presidential race and, in fact, criticized the government bailout of the auto industry. Eastwood obviously had a change of thinking about the latter or he wouldn’t have done the commercial.
Incidentally, President Bush initiated the nearly $13 billion Chrysler bailout shortly before he left the White House. For the curious, General Motors received less than half that amount.
Would those who still object to the bailout have preferred an industry that is a major component in the national economy, and which employs tens of thousands, have gone belly up? There’s little doubt if it happened it would have led to an economic disaster and unparalleled unemployment. Gratefully, we’ll never know if an auto industry collapse would have resulted in a depression worse than the one experienced by the Greatest Generation.
Most Americans probably don’t realize that the Italian auto manufacturer, Fiat, which was founded 26 years before Walter Chrysler began his company, has had a majority stake in Chrysler since it took over the company after it declared bankruptcy in 2009. So, not only does a foreign company owner, whose executives and employees probably care more about the kind of football Americans refer to as soccer, applaud the virtues of an American company, but it does so during an event that is usually the most watched television program every year.
Evidently, critics of the Chrysler commercial have a single purpose — trying their best to make Barack Obama a one-term president. To that end, rather than focusing on the ad’s fundamental point — whether you like it or not — that encourages national pride without promoting a particular political party or politician, they tactlessly read between the lines and interpret it as a partisan optimism for their opponent.
The minds of the president’s opposition are so focused on attempting to discredit him, they seemed to have missed the commercial’s symbolism — subliminal or not — that the country may finally be on a positive track after years on the road to nowhere.
Whether the ad does what it’s ultimately supposed to — boost Chrysler auto sales — remains to be seen. In any case, it’s providing plenty of fodder and a fresh controversy for 24/7 cable news shows’ talking heads to debate this week.
Sadly, this is the state of America’s political and cultural climate. We can’t even enjoy an undemanding TV commercial without turning it into a red state/blue state spat. It is, to say the least, shameful and embarrassing. Regardless of how much influence our nation wields globally and in spite of the glut of foreign tourists that visit us every year or immigrate to the land of the free — legally and otherwise — we must look petty and childish as we argue over a TV spot.
Most of all, the spirit of the ad was clearly pro-American, so the uncalled for analysis makes it clear that patriotic Republicans, Conservatives and other Obama naysayers are so anesthetized by their own antagonism that they are blinded by the commercial’s true colors — red, white and blue.
I may not agree with Clint Eastwood’s politics, or enjoy every film he acted in or directed, but to paraphrase the famous line he recited in the 1983 film, “Sudden Impact,” his Chrysler commercial made my day.