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Half Time in America; We Need a New Quarterback

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If you are keeping score at home it’s Chrysler $12.5 billion, NBC $12 million, with a taxpayer loss of $133 billion. Oh, and the city of Detroit is just minutes away, literally, from being more broke than Greece.

Look, I’m a sucker for marketing as much as the next guy, but I have a lot of friends who were rightly outraged by Chrysler’s political ad for the auto bailout that starred Clint Eastwood and aired at halftime on NBC during the Super Bowl. It was more than just the subverted boosterism for Obama that was outrageous. There were many levels of outrage for even discriminating tastes.

If you missed it, the commercial was a two-minute, Chamber of Commerce-type pitch for more government money to make America great, with, um, Detroit leading the way.

Sure; technically, it was well-produced with compelling visual images and the iconic narrative voice of Clint Eastwood.  The TV time alone cost Chrysler $12 million.

Chrysler came up $1.3 billion short paying the US Treasury, but they have money for junk-food like Super Bowl commercials.  

And it almost made me want to believe. But as Yahoo Autos points out: “There's no better example of the difference between sentiment and sentimentality, and just how many of us no longer notice.”

Because unfortunately, I’ve looked under the hood of the Detroit/Chrysler story the filmmakers are selling and this one’s a lemon.  

“I’ve always been very liberal when it comes to people thinking for themselves,” Eastwood told the Los Angeles Times back in November, “But I’m a big hawk on cutting the deficit. I was against the stimulus thing too. We shouldn’t be bailing out the banks and car companies. If a CEO can’t figure out how to make his company profitable, then he shouldn’t be the CEO.”

Think for ourselves, except when you are pitching policies you disagreed with three months ago?    

For those with a less acute political and financial antenna, let’s make this simple:

It was bad enough that we bailed out private corporations. It’s even worse that those bailouts tended to favor Obama’s biggest donors in 2008- financial services and unions. The latest inspector general report says the bailout losses so far equal about $133 billion, with about 19 percent of that loss coming from the automotive industry.  Over time, some of that money may be recouped, but total losses are expected to be from $50 billion to $75 billion, and they could be higher. The total bailout cost for automakers is expected to be about $25 billion.

“Look at me. I’ve had to make films for less money or go out and find my own money,” Eastwood said in the Times article in response to the reporter’s pro-bailout pushback. “On ‘Mystic River,’ I had to cut my salary and everyone else’s to get it made. I know the score. If I start to grind out two or three turkeys, I’ll be unemployed, just like anyone else.”

Well, not everyone.

Despite the “Happy Days are Here Again” theme song coming from automakers GM and Chrysler, both companies are deeply broke. If they weren’t, the US Treasury wouldn't be looking at losses of $25 billion for the bailouts.

But for the politically connected here in the USA there are always bailouts or some such federal program that will take care of unions, or banks, or green energy companies, or federal contractors like GE, Fannie Mae, GM and Chrysler.  

That’s why the Eastwood ad resonated with Democrats from David Axelrod, to Obama’s Michigan campaign.

From the CSMonitor:

“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?”

So to add a little more salt to taxpayers' wounds, football fans, whose only partisan worries at halftime of the Super Bowl should be Giants vs. Patriots, bathroom vs. Madonna, have to watch our tax dollars fund one of the main themes coming out of Obama’s reelection campaign: “The US auto industry is back thanks to my generous donation to their campaign- if you don’t believe me, you’ll believe Clint Eastwood.”

And… oh, by the way… Detroit, the City That’s Back, according to Chrysler, is on the verge of bankruptcy because of: 1) shrinking population due to mismanagement in the auto industry and 2) public unions are out of control.

“The fiscal crisis in the city that has lost a quarter of its population since 2000 is coming to a head,” reports Bloomberg. “The state is combing Detroit’s books for evidence of financial emergency. Meanwhile, Democratic Mayor Dave Bing is racing to wrest concessions from 48 bargaining units to erase a $200 million deficit in the home of General Motors Co. and the cradle of the U.S. auto industry. Otherwise, the city of 714,000 dominated by Democrats may face a Republican-appointed manager with authority to sell assets and nullify contracts. State Treasurer Andy Dillon has said Detroit will run out of cash by May, and called for concessions by early February.”

Ohmygosh! A Republican? Balancing the books without a bailout?   

Look, Detroit’s been in crisis for decades, not a few years, and the culprit is unions, unions, unions.

So let’s sum up what the taxpayers got for the $12 million commercial produced by Chrysler: A great visual experience, filmed in two entirely different cities than the subject city, with a wonderful narration by Eastwood about policies that he doesn’t agree with, pushing a message about a car company and the city of Detroit that isn’t true in any factual or even literary sense.

See? That’s proof that it has to be an Obama campaign commercial.

But here's why we are really offended: Because if this commercial represents halftime in America, we need a new quarterback.   

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