Chrysler's patriotic, Clint Eastwood-narrated Super Bowl commercial about halftime in America hit a nationalistic tone while striving to be apolitical. To Karl Rove, however, the ad smacked of Chicago-style politics.
Rove, President George W. Bush's political guru, implied during a Monday Fox News interview that Chrysler was using tax payer money to boost President Barack Obama's chances for reelection by touting a resurgent Detroit, though there was no mention of the administration's bailout that buoyed the U.S.' auto industry and Michigan's economy.
The leadership of the auto companies feel they need to do something to repay their political patrons, Rove said.
I was, frankly, offended by it. I'm a huge fan of Clint Eastwood. I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, he added. But it 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.
Chrysler repaid the loans it received along with General Motors during the bailout. After Bush gave the auto giants conditioned loans, Obama pumped tax-payer money into the ailing companies in 2009 so they could stay afloat during bankruptcy proceedings.
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Obama's likely chief rival in 2012, Mitt Romney, said he would have let the auto companies go into bankruptcy without the bailout. Despite the companies' successful reorganization, the U.S. is still at risk of losing billions of dollars because of its stake Chrysler.
Chrysler's the two-minute spot, called Halftime in America, features a gravelly-voiced Eastwood boasting about the resilience of Americans, even at a time of economic uncertainty, a recovering-yet-painful economy and ugly political atmosphere.
People are out of work and they're hurting and they're all wondering what they're going to do to make a comeback, Eastwood said. 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.
Though the ad implicitly acknowledges the auto-bailout, a centerpiece of Obama's reelection campaign and key point of contrast between himself and Romney, the CEO of Chrysler's parent Fiat, Sergio Marchionne, said the company is as apolitical as you can make us.