I missed it, but 111 million Americans didn’t, Chrysler’s 2012 Super Bowl commercial, “Halftime in America”. Staring Clint Eastwood, with enough vocal fry in his voice to outfit the entire McDonald’s hamburger chain, he growl’s out this two-minute ad’s narration. He gives America a pep talk, like the two other pep talks that were occurring simultaneously in opposing locker-rooms. He recounts how our country was first knocked down, and then it picked itself up and dusted itself off again.
This country can’t be knocked down with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do, the world’s going to hear the roar of our engines. Yeah. It’s halftime, America. And our second half is about to begin.
This year’s ad comes on the heels of last year’s Super Bowl ad, starring Detroit’s own Eminem and introducing the tag line “Imported from Detroit.” That ad was content to wrap itself in the Michigan flag, this ad has national aspirations. The ad was not overtly political, nor partisan. No politician or party is explicitly mentioned, but it wasn’t just a car commercial. Both David Axelrod and Karl Rove quickly acknowledged this fact. Axelrod tweeted, “Powerful spot”. While, Rove said, “I was frankly offended by it,” and that Chrysler executives “feel they need to do something to repay their political patrons.”
In Las Vegas, on Super Bowl Sunday morning, Chrysler’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne, was addressing the Chrysler dealers at the annual meeting of the National Automobile Dealers Association. He unveiled the ad there, for the first time. At its conclusion there was a pregnant pause, followed by a thunderous standing ovation. “Nothing more needs to be said”, concluded Marchionne, who then overcome by emotion left the stage. By happenstance, former President George W. Bush was also at this meeting. “I’d do it again,” Mr. Bush said, “I didn’t want there to be 21 percent unemployment.” The $80 billion dollars lent to the auto industry came from both Bush and President Obama. A fact that Rove has somehow forgotten.
What about Mr. Eastwood though? He is a self-professed libertarian, who has only voted Republican and can’t recall ever voting for a Democrat. He has publicly spoken against the auto industry bailout in the past. Was this ad just a paycheck for him or did he, as he and his pressman have stated, not view this advertisement as anything political? Eastwood is a fine actor. He has demonstrated this many times. This statement, coming from a spokesman, from the opposite side of the aisle, only serve to give his words more gravitas. While political troupes run through and through this commercial, their origin here gives them a freshness that won’t be surpassed before Election Day.
In People Magazine, Obama recently quoted Mario Cuomo, “campaigning is poetry, and governing is prose”. The lofty rhetoric of the candidate can’t match the day-to-day communications of the official. Has President Obama matched every promise of candidate Obama? No. Could things have been worse, if Obama didn’t do the things that he did? Yes. I guess it all comes down to whether you feel that things are getting better, or that things still suck. Is the cup half empty or half full? “Yeah. It’s halftime, America. And our second half is about to begin.”
On a more personal note, my mother, God rest her soul, once had a close encounter of the automobile kind with Clint. It was in Carmel, she in her Benz and he in his Rolls. There was no metal contact, so no harm, no foul.