Chrysler's campaign to convince Americans how great it was that automaker got bailed out has the side effect of helping the man who did the bailing: President Obama. Republicans' gloomy message -- that the U.S.A. is toast if we don't stop Obama's socialist economic policies, like bailouts -- only works if the economic news stays gloomy. The president's campaign is clearly enjoying what is essentially a trailer for the economic recovery in which Republican manly man Clint Eastwood echoes themes Obama has talked about for years. It's fitting that the ad would air hours before posting of the latest issue of The Weekly Standard, in which Bill Kristol, in a mild panic, writes that Bill Clinton's slogan "It's the economy, stupid" has lulled certain presidential candidates into thinking the economy's the only thing worth talking about.
The economic disaster movie image the Republican presidential candidates have painted all year (see: Mitt Romney's photo ops in abandoned factories) was captured in the beginning of a Saturday Night Live sketch from this weekend that imagines Newt Gingrich's as President of the Moon. In a Star Wars-style intro to the 2014-set scene, we learn: "Obama no longer hides his socialist agenda. The unemployment rate skyrockets and foreign armies gather their forces for an attack. Chaos reigns. But from the darkness, a visionary emerges..."
As for that Chrysler ad, Time's James Poniewozik writes, "Chrysler, I’m sure, made the ad purely in its own interests, which just happen to overlap with the politics of 2012. But I’m guessing that President Obama would not mind if this ad campaign was on the air in, say, Michigan in October." This can't please Mitt Romney, who looks more and more likely to be the Republican nominee, has made the economy the center of his campaign, prompting NBC News' First Read to ask, "What role is there for a turnaround artist if something is already turning around?"
Romney's strategy is risky, Kristol writes, because, the economy "may end up doing well enough in 2012 that it doesn’t automatically help the Republicans." Kristol suggests following the example of Ronald Reagan, who defeated a Democratic incumbent president in a bad economy. Reagan, Kristol writes, "never left any doubt that the fundamental problem wasn’t just a few quarters of subpar economic performance. The problem was the arrogant destructiveness and wrongheaded fecklessness of modern liberalism. It still is."
So it's funny that not only did "Halftime in America" insist that we're halfway to good times, it did so with language Obama's been using for years about people helping each other, because that's what Americans do. Eastwood says there've been "times when we didn't understand each other," of "discord and blame," but then we "rallied around what was right and acted as one." Discord and blame? You mean like "arrogant destructiveness and wrongheaded fecklessness"? Or maybe like Karl Rove's reaction to the ad: "I was, frankly, offended by it. ... 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." The Hill's Christian Heinze posts the video:
National Journal's Michael Hirsh writes that Obama should emulate Eastwood in one of his gunslinger movies. But Sunday night Eastwood was emulating Obama. There were plenty of calls for bipartisan team-building in Obama's State of the Union Address this year: "This nation is great because we get each other’s backs," he said. But what the ad really reminded us of was the speech that made people admire Obama in the first place, his address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Obama said that red states and blue states would come together, and then "this country will reclaim its promise, and out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.