Clint Eastwood says his Super Bowl ad not pro-Obama

The Globe and Mail

Director and producer Clint Eastwood (Victoria Will/AP)

It has the ring of a modern-day line from Clint Eastwood’s 1970s police inspector, Dirty Harry.

“I just want to say that the spin stops with you guys,” the Hollywood actor and director told FOX News the day after a Super Bowl ad featuring Mr. Eastwood was described as supporting President Barack Obama and his bailout of the American auto industry.

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Frequent FOX News commentator and former President George W. Bush’s chief of staff Karl Rove said he was offended by the Chrysler ad.

“It is a sign of what happens when ... 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 money that they’ll never pay back,” he told FOX News.

The Detroit-based auto industry and its factories across North America lost more than 400,000 jobs in 2008, leading the Bush administration to start an auto bailout that continued under President Obama in 2009.

Having seen public funds used to bail out banks and having sensed the growing unease among the electorate, the Obama administration weighed the political costs of pouring more money into the country’s failing auto industry and calculated that not helping the famed Detroit auto industry was not an option.

In the 2012 election cycle, the Obama campaign is going to the make the bailout a key part of its election campaign: more than 100,000 auto industry jobs have been recovered, most of the money given to auto makers has been recouped, and the industry is in a stronger position because President Obama would not allow carmakers to “collapse and disappear,” as his press secretary reminded reporters yesterday.

Mr. Eastwood’s raspy-voiced delivery in the Chrysler ad, which was seen by Super Bowl audiences and has been viewed online by nearly 3 million viewers, is, in fact, a patriotic message that is likely to move most Americans.

“I’ve seen a lot of tough eras, a lot of downturns in my life. This country can’t be knocked out with one punch.

“We get right back up again – and when we do, the world is going to hear the roar of our engines. Yeah, it’s halftime, America. And our second half is about to begin,” the 81-year-old Mr. Eastwood says, concluding the ad.

David Axlerod, former senior advisor to President Obama and currently a campaign strategist tweeted after seeing the Chrysler ad during the Super Bowl, describing it as “powerful.”

With Republican commentators quick to pounce on the ad’s perceived pro-Obama message, Mr. Eastwood clarified his role in the ad to FOX News on Monday.

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

“If any Obama or any other politician wants to run with the spirit of that ad, go for it,” Mr. Eastwood said in a statement.

He also added that he is not supporting any candidate at the moment, and that any money he earned went to charity.

Running with the spirit of the ad, as Mr. Eastwood suggests, would likely mesh with the Democratic Party agenda: America is resilient, job creation is up and Detroit is back on its feet.

Republicans are keen to make the case that President Obama has failed to revive the economy, Americans are suffering and there is no plan to restore growth.

Mitt Romney, who has amassed the most delegates so far after five contests, was critical of the auto bailout, as was Mr. Eastwood.

President Obama took a swipe at Mr. Romney, without naming him, recently at the Washington auto show.

“It’s good to remember the fact that there were some folks who were willing to let this industry die,” he told the auto show audience.

Mr. Romney has been confronted on the campaign trail for this position that the auto industry should have been allowed to go through bankruptcy rather than received tax payer dollars.

Mr. Romney was raised in Michigan, where his father served as governor, and later this month he faces a key primary contest in Michigan.

Mr. Eastwood played a retired Detroit auto worker in his 2008 film Gran Torino, which he also directed.

A one-time mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., Mr. Eastwood voted for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election and every Republican candidate since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, tempted only once to vote for a non-Republican: the independent presidential candidate Ross Perot in 1992, he told the Los Angeles Times newspaper in November 2011.

The Los Angeles Times described him as a "Republican with a twist": he supports gay marriage, abortion rights and protecting the environment. In the interview, he expressed his admiration for Herman Cain, who has since dropped out of the GOP leadership race over allegations of extra-marital affairs.

“He’s a guy who came from nowhere and did well, obviously against heavy odds. He’s a doer and a straight-talker,” Mr. Eastwood said.

And his take on Mr. Romney?

“I mean, if you were casting a movie where you needed someone to play president, you’d definitely pick him.”