Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Iconic, ironic or patriotic?

Each of my favorite Super Bowl commercials, posted here yesterday, promotes a venerable American brand.

Chevy. Chrysler. Budweiser.

None of those corporate icons represents what it once did. Chevrolet (founded in 1911) and Chrysler (1925) survived Chapter 11 thanks to billions in taxpayer-funded bailouts and, in the case of Chrysler, because an Italian carmaker bought almost 60% of the company. Budweiser (1876) is the flagship brand of a brewer headquartered not in St. Louis, but in Belgium.

Ever since the commercials ran on Sunday, pundits have been cranking out commentary after ironic commentary. The Chrysler ad has come in for special criticism.

Pres. Obama's backers see the spot as supporting his approach to our national economic crisis. Conservative klaxons view it the same way, accusing Clint Eastwood of being a shill for the administration.

When you're a hammer, as it's said, everything looks like a nail.

Of all the perspectives I've read and heard, only three ring remotely true with me. The first came from Jay Leno:
"One of the most talked about [Super Bowl] commercials was the one with Clint Eastwood, where he said, 'It's halftime in America, and our second half is about to begin.'

"The bad news? China has the ball and we're down $15 trillion."
The second belongs to John Avlon:
"When the next Republican assumes the Oval Office, whether in four years or eight, he or she will find that the political culture is set up to destroy rather than build. Unifying the nation absent an urgent crisis is increasingly difficult, if not impossible. The organized activist class from your own party will not tolerate dissension from ideological purity, even in the face of real-world responsibilities. The opposition will have been conditioned to reflexively attack, demonizing the duly elected president almost regardless of what policies he proposes. This cannot be good for the country."
Last, here's what Eastwood himself said to FOXNation:
"I just want to say that the spin stops with you guys, and there is no spin in that ad. On this I am certain.

"I am certainly not politically affiliated with Mr. Obama. It was meant to be a message...just about job growth and the spirit of America. I think all politicians will agree with it. I thought the spirit was ok.

"I am not supporting any politician at this time.

"Chrysler, to their credit, didn't even have cars in the ad.

"Anything they gave me for it went for charity.

"If...Obama or any other politician wants to run with the spirit of that ad, go for it."
Now permit me, please, to offer my own view: Attacking Chrysler's "Halftime in America" commercial because it's somehow pro-Obama is intellectually dishonest and ideologically crippled.

There's nothing so patriotic as (to quote Avlon) "making the case for American resilience." That's what the ad did, simply and with the conviction of an independent citizen, and that's why I love it.