Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Did Clint Eastwood Endorse Obama?

Posted By on Tue, Feb 7, 2012 at 10:59 AM

For me, the most powerful and striking ad that played during the Super Bowl was Clint Eastwood's two-minute "second half in America" spot for Chrysler. The ad has been pulled from YouTube and other sites by the Chrysler corporation or I'd embed it here. But I suspect if you saw it, you remember it.

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In his trademark sandpaper whisper, Eastwood said: "I’ve seen a lot of tough eras, a lot of downturns in my life. And, times when we didn’t understand each other. It seems like we’ve lost our heart at times. When the fog of division, discord, and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead. ..."

As Eastwood spoke, images of protest and unrest played on the screen. Eastwood continued, making a parallel between the two Super Bowl teams in the locker room, preparing to play the second half of the game: "It’s halftime in America, too. People are out of work and they’re hurting. And they’re all wondering what they’re going to 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 fighting again."

The images turned positive, scenes of working Americans — farmers, factory workers, cowboys. The message was clear, as Eastwood concluded: "It's the second half for America. ..."

Or maybe it wasn't so clear. Conservative pundits saw the ad as an endorsement for the reelection of President Obama, a call to give him a "second half." Karl Rove said he was "offended" by the spot. Michelle Malkin tweeted: “WTH? Did I just see Clint Eastwood fronting an auto bailout ad???”

Call me a commie libtard, but I didn't see it as an endorsement of Obama. Eastwood, after all, is known to be a conservative with a libertarian bent. I saw as a "feel good" brand-builder for Chrysler, linking the purchase of a Dodge or a Jeep to feeling good about America. American auto-makers have run variations on this theme for years. In 2008, for example, Chevrolet promoted its Silverado pickup with a patriotic song by John Mellencamp, "Our Country." The ads evoked some controversy for using stirring images — Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Vietnam, Hurricane Katrina, even the 9/11 attacks — to sell trucks. The campaign was an extension of the broader "An American Revolution" theme.

I suppose it's a measure of how loony the political discourse in the U.S. has become, when a patriotic car ad divides us into left and right camps. Of course, there's another possible theory: Maybe ol' Clint is doing some subtle promotion for a possible Gran Torino II.

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