Chrysler Super Bowl commercial: Was it really pro-Obama?

Some Democrats thought so after they watched the Chrysler Super Bowl commercial, which features Clint Eastwood. Some Republicans were aghast.

Undated photo shows actor Clint Eastwood appearing in the Chrysler Super Bowl commercial 'It's Halftime in America,' which aired on Sunday.

Was the Chrysler Super Bowl commercial a boost for President Obama’s reelection campaign? Some happy Democrats thought so after they watched the spot, which features Clint Eastwood talking tough about Detroit and the auto industry’s recovery.

“Another great Chrysler ad – the US auto industry is back,” tweeted the Michigan branch of Mr. Obama’s reelection campaign following its broadcast just prior to the second-half kickoff.

David Axelrod, once and (likely future) top political aide to Obama's national campaign, added this tweet: “Powerful spot. Did Clint shoot that, or just narrate it?”

Some Republicans, on the other hand, were aghast. “Agh. WTH? Did I just see Clint Eastwood fronting an auto bailout ad???” tweeted conservative pundit Michelle Malkin as the Super Bowl's second half began.

Calm down people. Sometimes an auto ad is just a promotional tool for vehicles, not another division point in the endless war of words between the political red and blue. We think ordinary voters will see the ad as a good example of a common commercial category: the corporate flag-waver.

Yes, we can see how the excitement got started. The ad is a great piece of work. Mr. Eastwood narrates in a voice hard as granite chips. He walks down a dark alley, talking about how it’s half time in the game, and half time in America, too. People are worried and out of work, and they're wondering what they’re going to do to make a comeback, because their lives aren’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,” says Eastwood.

Eastwood goes on to say he’s seen lots of tough eras, and in the end Americans all rallied together and found a way out. While he talks, sepia cuts of industrial activity segue into shots of moms, kids, firefighters, and so forth.

Then, suddenly, at 1 minute 27 seconds into the commercial, Eastwood emerges into the sun, and the face of the toughest octogenarian in America looms into the camera. “All that matters now is what’s ahead. How do we come from behind? How do we come together? And how do we win?” he says.

Whoa. Images matter in ads, to point out the obvious. When that craggy visage appears, viewers aren’t thinking, “I guess it’s great the Obama administration ushered Chrysler through a managed bankruptcy, providing temporary financing that allowed assets to be bought by Fiat.”

No, they’re thinking, “That guy is over 80, but it looks like he could still take Eli Manning.”

The ad is selling pride, American pride. It implies that the good people of the United States rolled up their sleeves and brought the firm that controls Jeep back from the brink. It elides the fact that without government intervention, no amount of sleeve-rolling would have kept Chrysler alive.

You’ll notice that the brief shot of an actual identifiable auto in the commercial is of a Jeep, a brand whose strong sales are helping Chrysler into the black. No Fiat 500s anywhere. (Though Fiat had its own Super Bowl spot for the high-performance Fiat 500 Abarth.)

For the record, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne issued a statement saying that the Eastwood ad has “zero political content.” And Eastwood himself is a well-known Hollywood Republican. He’s said he always votes GOP for president, although he’s yet to indicate any preference in the current race.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to