Legendary actor/filmmaker teams up with auto maker to create arguably the most powerful, memorable, and uplifting commercial of the year. But its positive message doesn’t sit well with Conservatives.
I guess the truth hurts, don’t it? I didn’t watch the entire Super Bowl on Sunday (I know, right? Me? Not watch the Super Bowl?). I got home just after halftime began and tuned out Madonna’s program. Turned the volume back up just in time to see what was probably the single best commercial bar none of the entire broadcast: Chrysler’s “Halftime in America” commercial:
The ad was an obscenely dramatic and positive message instead of the doom and gloom that we hear from some politicians. When the economy went in to the dumper in 2008, arguably no city was hit harder than Detroit, home of the U.S. auto industry. Chrysler was on life support. GM was hemorrhaging cash so fast that a tourniquet couldn’t stop the bleeding. Auto workers were being laid off in waves, and there was little hope that their jobs would return. The entire auto industry in the United States—the country where the auto industry was born—was on the verge of going extinct. Without serious help both Chrysler and GM were in danger of closing their doors for good, and taking a solvent yet vulnerable Ford down with them.
When Barack Obama took office, he had a choice to make: Let GM and Chrysler go bankrupt and likely cost the country over a million manufacturing jobs, or work out loans with the companies and come up with a restructuring plan that would turn the companies around for the long term. Ford got involved because, even though they were in decent (but not great) shape financially, they knew that if GM and Chrysler went down, the suppliers the three companies shared would go down with them, making it nearly impossible for Ford to continue to be competitive in the world auto market. They simply wouldn’t be able to get the parts that they needed to build their cars.
The loans were an incredibly unpopular idea. After the government had already bailed out the banksters, the country was not exactly in a mood to reward more incompetence in order to keep badly run companies afloat. Politicians from both parties—but mainly Republicans—had little taste to rush to the auto industry’s aid. 2008 and current Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney penned an op-ed in the NY Times to insist that we should “Let Detroit go Bankrupt.” Some in Obama’s own cabinet agreed. Over 60% of Americans were against the auto industry bailout.
Obama ignored the naysayers. Losing the auto industry in his estimation would be the death of American manufacturing. The industry was too important to let die so he authorized the loans to both Chrysler and GM, and a line of credit for Ford should they need it (they ended up not needing it).
The ad itself highlights how Detroit was a city near death, but now it’s clearly on the verge of a comeback. Jobs are coming back, and the auto industry is beginning to thrive again. Three years after the loans were first issued Chrysler is as strong as they’ve been in decades and GM is once again the #1 auto maker in the world and turning a profit. The loans are well on their way to being paid back, GM is once again a publicly traded company, and the Treasury will make a profit on the loans.
The commercial wasn’t intended to be in any way political. The ad is by a car company reminding us of the hard times they’ve endured and of how far they’ve come. But it most certainly did strike a political chord. And because of its message and the contrast with the platform of the Republican Party today—particularly the Republican candidates for President—it plays like a “Barack Obama for President” campaign ad. That just does not sit well with Republicans. It’s contains far too much truth for them to handle. They can’t sell their message with Clint Eastwood telling the single largest television audience in the history of the Super Bowl that, in effect, the policies of this administration are working. After all, sending a positive message about the economy and American spirit is completely contrary to the Republican narrative that the end is nigh unless we elect their kind. It was Chrysler’s intent to inspire the fighting spirit of Americans as a people; to remind us of what we are capable of when we all come together for a common cause and work in the spirit of community and for a common goal. But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from crying foul.
Karl Rove, the brains behind the Bush administration, is absolutely beside himself. He told Fox News that he was “offended” by Chrysler’s ad. Republicans everywhere are crying themselves silly that the ad is nothing more than a “rallying call” for the Obama administration. Why? Because the truth hurts, that’s why. Republicans need the economy to be flailing. They need the unemployment rate to rocket back up. They’re practically cheering for the economy to fail. They absolutely hate the fact that, despite their efforts to prevent it, the economy is actually getting better, albeit not quickly enough for most of our liking. And a message like the one Eastwood delivered just does not suit their needs at all. It hurts their campaign, and it damages their chances in November. The loans to the auto makers worked. And they just. Don’t. Like it. At. All.
For his part, Eastwood, the former mayor of Carmel, California, says that he and his Super Ad are not in any way affiliated with the Obama campaign or administration. Eastwood himself is a libertarian Republican and says he has no ties to any of the candidates. But, he says, “If Obama or any other politician wants to run with the spirit of that ad, go for it.”
But for Republicans, the truth sure does seem to hurt. And that’s just too bad.