Clint Eastwood's suddenly political Super Bowl ad

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Dirty Harry's bit for Chrysler and Detroit was moving -- in fact it moved the politicos to question why it was done.

By Steve Doyle

Maybe you were watching the Super Bowl on Sunday with a heartfelt interest in whether the Giants or the Patriots won in what became a sensational and scintillating scenario.
Maybe you, like most of the tens of millions who watched, were more interested in the overpriced and overdeveloped – and sometimes overly stupid – commercials that have become so famous.
Maybe you were wanting to see how Madonna was holding up as a senior citizen, or maybe you were, like I,  oblivious that you were supposed to recognize some of those folks dancing with her, much less one’s obscene gesture.
Each was certainly a defining point in the most transfixing event of our times, but here’s what I took from it:
Clint Eastwood for president.
That was a bandwagon I leaped aboard during one of those overpriced commercials, a 2-minute spot during halftime, sponsored subtly by Chrysler, in which Clint, in his best if aging Dirty Harry persona, narrated a video portraying the reemergence of the auto industry and that America metaphorically was at halftime as well.
Regardless of the product placement, this bit was impressive, inspiring and – it now seems – incendiary.
On Sunday night, Eastwood’s narration exploded on Twitter under #clintforpresident and inspired a broad range of citizens to post links to video of the commercial from You Tube on their Facebook pages.
It spun in those tornadic transfers of information and commentary that are becoming the foundation of instant connection among all of us, and nary a negative word was spoken or typed.
Until Monday.
That’s when the commercial exploded across the cable – and I’m sure talk radio – news shows because critics started to call it nothing but a government-subsidized campaign ad for Barack Obama.
I will repeat that: Talking heads actually opined that an ad constructed by a car company – that did receive a government bailout – was designed to re-elect the president, not inspire confidence in the brand being sold.
That certainly would not be in keeping with the overwhelming American spirit of Super Bowl advertising, which is founded on the deep principles of commercialism.
What will be next – that dog that covered up killing the cat with a Doritos bribe being called a softness on crime? Animal abuse advocacy?
Budweiser’s take on the end of Prohibition as endorsing public consumption of alcohol? Or maybe General Motors’ depiction of how the company survived the apocalypse or the one with a box of Twinkies as a hint that foundering Hostess needs a bailout, too?
OK, maybe I could see the last one, especially if Clint’s soliloquy was considered cloaked coercion.
At least GM and Chrysler both received government money to help them over their economic humps.
If anyone should be angry, you would think it would be Ford, which didn’t get any help and worked its way back to the top. I’m sure Ford officials wished they had spent the $3.5 million for 30 seconds of exposure, too.
Now, I have no idea of Clint Eastwood’s politics, nor do I care.
I visited Carmel By The Sea, Calif. – an idyllic little burg, to be sure – during the days when Eastwood was its mayor, but there was no sense of that being an overly Democratic populace, if you get my drift. Neither did the Hog’s Breath Saloon, where he was reported to hang out.
That wasn’t long after Dirty Harry cleaned up crime in movie theaters and Eastwood’s reputation had exploded. I’m sure, too, it was a time when he had many philosophical discussions with some of his conservative contemporaries – Charlton Heston and John Wayne, come to mind.
But I simply can’t imagine he would be lured into a commercial because he thought it might sway the upcoming presidential election. That just doesn’t compute.
More likely, I suspect, he did it because he liked the company and its cash, which is sort of the way he replied when someone asked him about it.
Still, if you saw that commercial – which had a feel of Clint’s Detroit-based homage to autos, Gran Torino – you had to be inspired, no matter your leanings to red or blue.
And maybe you were like the thousands of us tossing our praise around the world during Sunday’s game, suggesting he seemed far more presidential than some of those who climb onto podiums these days and spout thesis and theory.
You have to consider Eastwood’s qualifications, too – I mean, other than that Carmel mayoral gig – like how he has been to the White House, having caught the president en flagrante while robbing the place in Absolute Power.
And how he served in the Secret Service to protect another president from a mad assassin in In the Line of Fire.
Does Barack, Newt, Mitt, Rick or Ron have that breadth of training for what really goes on in Washington? No way.
And, besides, Clint would come with his own ready-made campaign slogan:
“Go ahead, make my day.”