February 6, 2012
It’s Halftime in America
Was the Super Bowl ad featuring Clint Eastwood, “It’s Halftime In America,” a Chrysler ad or an Obama re-election ad?
After all, the spot seemed to tout the success of the auto bailouts, which the four remaining Republican presidential candidates were against. Halftime is also an easy metaphor for a president who’s nearing the end of one term but seeking a second.
As soon as the ad ran, my Twitter timeline lit up with people who thought it was a re-election ad. To which I tweeted:
@CharlesMBlow Charles M. Blow
Some of you make a good point: Did David Axelrod find a way to sneak an Obama re-election ad into the Superbowl? #Clint
That was a joke of course. But the ad was no laughing matter to Karl Rove, the Bush-era Minister of Machiavellianism. On Monday, Rove told Fox News, “I was, frankly, offended by it.” There was more:
This is a sign of what happens when you have the government getting in bed with big business like the bailout of the auto companies. They begin to, the leadership of the auto companies feel they need to do something to repay their political patrons. Remember, we lost $1.8 billion as taxpayers on the government bailout of Chrysler, and we’re going to lose $14 billion in the bailout of Chrysler and General Motors. And you got to bet in the boardrooms and management suites of these two big car companies, they are saying to themselves, “Look, the president bailed us out rather than making us go through the normal bankruptcy, he bailed us out. We’re going to end up not having to pay back this money to the taxpayers.”
Rove went on to say:
This is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising and the best wishes of the management, which is benefited by getting a bunch of our money that they’ll never pay back.
First, let’s be clear about Clint, if that’s possible. He was actually opposed to the bailouts. He told the Los Angeles Times in November:
We shouldn’t be bailing out the banks and car companies. If a C.E.O. can’t figure out how to make his company profitable, then he shouldn’t be the C.E.O.
As for his political ideology, things are a bit ambiguous. As the Washington Post noted on Monday:
He was the nonpartisan mayor of Carmel, Calif., for two years. George H.W. Bush considered asking Eastwood to be his running mate in 1988. While he has supported some Democrats in California, Eastwood said in 2011 that he couldn’t recall ever voting for a Democratic presidential candidate. In 2008, he supported Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
There is a lot of confusion swirling around under that furrowed brow.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to Rove’s deceptive lateral pass of all the Chrysler bailout blame to the Obama administration.
The Detroit News was quick to point out yesterday that it was George W. Bush who stroked the first check to Chrysler.
Rove didn’t mention that it was Bush who first agreed to save Chrysler. How convenient. Chrysler nearly collapsed in late 2008 under private equity ownership. Bush agreed to a $4 billion bailout of the company.
Chrysler received $4 billion on Jan. 2, 2009, (18 days before Obama took office) and $8.5 billion on April 30 (when Obama was president), according to this Government Accountability Office report (page 9) on TARP.
FactCheck.org went on to outline what happened next, citing a Government Accountability Office report issued on May 10:
When Chrysler filed for bankruptcy on April 30, 2009, the “new Chrysler” that emerged assumed only some of the $4 billion loaned by the Bush administration. In a new reportissued last month, the G.A.O. explained that Treasury — under the Obama administration — “wrote off $1.6 billion” of the “original $4 billion loan extended to the old Chrysler.”
As of May, Chrysler had “returned more than $10.6 billion of that amount to taxpayers through principal repayments, interest and cancelled commitments.” However, Treasury conceded that it “is unlikely to fully recover its remaining outstanding investment of $1.9 billion in Chrysler.”
In July the government sold its stock in the company, further reducing the loss. As The Times reported:
The federal government on Thursday shed the last of its stake in Chrysler, giving majority control of the carmaker to Fiat, the Italian company, while leaving taxpayers $1.3 billion short of recovering the full investment they made two years ago to keep Chrysler from going out of business.
The article continued:
The Treasury Department said in a statement that it had recovered $11.2 billion of the $12.5 billion it lent to Chrysler and that it would write off the bulk of the balance. The unpaid portion is on the balance sheet of the “old Chrysler” — a collection of unwanted assets being liquidated in bankruptcy.
Now, let’s weigh whatever losses there may be against the benefits. As David Kiley, editor-in-chief of AOL autos, put it in May:
In all, the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in Ann Arbor, Mich., reckons the government’s bailouts of the U.S. auto industry spared more than 1.14 million jobs in 2009, and prevented ‘additional personal income losses’ of nearly $97 billion in 2009 and 2010. Another 314,400 jobs were saved in 2010. The research organization based its conclusions on the potential impact of auto-industry collapse for jobs at U.S. automakers and suppliers, and ripple effects on the economy at large.
When viewed this way, a $1.3 billion loss, or as Rove puts it a $1.8 billion loss, is negligible and well worth it.
Trying to eschew Bush’s role in order to tarnish Obama’s results is fundamentally dishonest.
Trying to put the bailouts or the loss solely on Obama is simply dishonest.
Oh, Karl. That thing slapping you in the face is called the truth. As Clint Eastwood might say, “Get off my lawn.”
- It’s Halftime in America (campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Chrysler’s “Halftime in America” ruffles more political feathers than Reagan’s “Morning in America” (adland.tv)
- Halftime In America (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- Karl Rove’s hissy fit: “Offended” by Chrysler ad (kaystreet.wordpress.com)
- Eastwood Super Bowl ad raises Karl Rove ire (cbsnews.com)
- Karl Rove says he was ‘offended’ by Clint Eastwood’s Chrysler Super Bowl commercial (popwatch.ew.com)
- Video: Chrysler ad a stealth Obama promotion?; Update: Video restored (hotair.com)
- A follow-up to Clint Eastwood’s view of America (the can opener story) (viewfrommiddleclass.wordpress.com)
- Chrysler’s Popular and Controversial Super Bowl Commercial: Clint Eastwood in It’s Halftime in America (UPDATED) (themoderatevoice.com)
- George Bush on Auto Bailouts: ‘I’d Do it Again’ (thestreet.com)