Wed, Feb 15, 2012 01:38 PM
I'm not the dyed-in-the-wool football fan I used to be.
But I tuned in Sunday to watch the New York Giants snatch the
momentum away from the New England Patriots late in the second
half, and saw Eli Manning march his team down to a sure winning
field goal and accidentally stumble in for the winning touchdown
The Patriots had a desperation shot at it, but it was only fitting
that Eli Manning, who has struggled with infamous clutch mistakes
over the years, would play a virtually mistake-free game and reap
the accolades in the 46th Super Bowl.
I didn't think he'd pull it off, but good for Eli. He deserves his
day in the spotlight.
Even more stunning than the game's outcome, however, is that the
Monday-morning quarterbacking is not about football. Rather, it's
about Clint Eastwood starring in the Chrysler Group commercial that
ran at halftime of the Super Bowl. The 2-minute ad starts with
dramatic backlighting focused on a man walking out of a dimly lit
stadium, then there's the unmistakable voice of 81-year-old actor
and director Clint Eastwood:
"It's halftime," he says in his raspy baritone with his Dirty Harry
seriousness. "Both teams are in their locker rooms discussing what
they can do to win this game in the second half.
"It's halftime in America, too," he continues as the camera pans to
faces of worried Americans and their families, then switches to old
factories coming back to life. "People are out of work, and they're
hurting. And they're all wondering what they're gonna do to make a
comeback. And we're all scared because this isn't a game. The
people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost
lost everything. But we all pulled together, now Motor City is
The ad is unabashedly pro-American. It's a feel-good ad recognizing
that we, as a nation, met a potential crisis, backed the automotive
industry with taxpayer-supported loans, watched them recover and
recognize that now the Chrysler group has fully paid back their
loans (with interest) and are posting sizable profits, while
General Motors has recovered significantly - and both are employing
tens of thousands of people with good paying jobs. It is an
unqualified success story of which all Americans can be
The Monday-morning quarterbacking, however, is coming from the
Conservative side of the aisle. Republican campaign wizard Karl
Rove, who also oversees several large PACs that produce attack ads
on behalf of the Republican Party, called the ad "offensive" and
went off on a terror about Chicago-style politics.
Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin jumped in on Twitter with
her take: "Agh. WTH? Did I just see Clint Eastwood fronting an auto
bailout ad? Super Bowl!"
Amy Kremer, chairwoman of the Tea Party Express, told CNN's "John
King, USA," "Chrysler got the bailout money, and now they're doing
this ad. ... A lot of people have a problem with it."
A lot of people have a problem with what? That Chrysler is now back
on its feet? That Chrysler paid back the loan in full with interest
to taxpayers? That thousands are employed in the Motor
No, as a Monday morning quarterback, that's not only bad form, it's
a bad call.
But the discord coming from the Conservative right makes you wonder
if the Republican naysayers will pick a fight about almost
everything - even those things that turn out well.
Have they forgotten that as recently as 2010, the nation was still
in the depth of the worst recession this nation has seen since the
Great Depression in the 1930s. That Detroit had lost 300,000 jobs
since 2005 and the region's unemployment rate was 16.6 percent in
2009. Have they forgotten that George W. Bush initiated the auto
loan bailouts in late 2008, which was implemented by President
Obama and his administration. In that package, $60 billion was
provided to help bail out the industry. Chrysler went through
bankruptcy protection and received $12.5 billion in bailout money
and is now also partly owned by Fiat, while General Motors got a
$50 billion bailout while giving the government a 60.8 percent
stake in the company. Ford, alone of the big three, didn't need the
Chrysler has since paid back its loans and is again profitable. In
fact, Chrysler posted a $225 million profit in the fourth quarter
It's only political because of the times we're in, said one
commentator, but it's also because the Republican Party has been
hard at work over the past two decades trying to discredit the very
idea that government can play a helpful role in economy. And the
Republican front-runner Mitt Romney made a big deal of the bailout
when he ran as the Republican nominee for president in 2008 against
John McCain. In a New York Times op-ed titled "Let Detroit Go
Bankrupt," Romney wrote just after President Obama took
"If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their
chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American
automotive industry goodbye. It won't go overnight, but its demise
will be virtually guaranteed."
Cut back to Clint Eastwood's voice in the commercial:
"The fog, division, discord and blame made it hard to see what lies
ahead… Sometimes it seems as if we lost our way, lost our
Perhaps that is because the fight has become more about politics
than the issues. In this very small instance, it's not about
whether Chrysler's success should be hailed, but about the whether
there was a political slant in the advertisement.
But why all the speculation? Just ask the source.
Chrysler Group Chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne told WJR radio in
Detroit on Monday that Eastwood's words were his own, and that he
is donating his fee to charity.
"He felt really deeply everything he said," said Marchionne. "There
was not a single doubt in my mind when he spoke in the commercial
that he was expressing his views."
And he denied that the ad had political motives.
"It had zero political content," he said. "God knows I can't stop
anybody from associating themselves with the message, but it was
not intended to be any type of political overture on our part… The
message is sufficiently universal and neutral that it should be
appealing to everybody in this country."
Cut back to the commercial and what Eastwood captured in his
delivery - the positive image of a country determined to get up
from a setback and climb back on top.
"That's what we do," he says with the camera focused tightly on his
rugged face. "We find a way through tough times, and if we can't
find a way, we'll make one.
"Yea, it's halftime in America. And our second half is about to
The ad was gripping, not just because it was done well but also the
public had to be fascinated to learn who the sponsor was: Clint
Eastwood, after all, is not known as a liberal, supported John
McCain in the past presidential election and made statements
against the auto bailouts at the time.
Then, there it was. The camera fades to black and there's one line
of simple text along with the emblems of Ram, Dodge, Jeep,
Chrysler: "Imported from Detroit."
It was brilliant. It made you feel good about the nation, and about
Chrysler… but also about all American car companies. There is
strength, optimism and hope in building things up, not tearing
That's the message the ad sends and why it is so powerful. It taps
into the patriotism that portrays Americans as gritty, determined,
victorious - and united.
That Conservative commentators would be so eager to tear apart the
commercial says a lot about their modus operandi and their
perspective - and that they'd be terrible at quarterbacking.