We have become so polarized in this country that even a patriotic car commercial can prompt ideological hysteria.
When Clint Eastwood surfaced last Sunday in that Superbowl ad for Chrysler, lauding the traditional can-do American spirit, and growling with pride about how “this country can’t be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do, the world’s going to hear the roar of our engines” – well, I merely took the message for what it was. The ad was about teamwork and optimism and community. The stuff that has typically brought us together as a people. Who could possibly be against all that?Silly me. I plumb forgot, at least for those two minutes, that those who marinate in their hatred for President Obama would be reflexively appalled at any suggestion – directed at 110 million viewers – that America may be getting “right back up again.” Worse yet, from their perspective, the ad conveys alarming images of Americans being (gasp) put back to work. And it spreads the word that Detroit automakers are (oh no) back in business cranking out cars for the export market. Such blasphemies!The car ad is a classic Rorschach test. The average person likely sees it as a nonpartisan paean to resilient American greatness – and, at the very worst, an overly slick attempt to sell new cars. But anti-Obama ideologues are so hooked on their hatred that they see the ad as leftist trickery. They hear Eastwood say “it’s half time in America” (the ad ran at half time), and they think it’s an endorsement for a second Obama term. Most importantly, they’re totally invested in pessimism; they abhor any suggestion that things might actually be getting better. Teamwork, community, comebacks – apparently they’re against those all-American themes.Karl Rove naturally declared on Fox News that he was “offended” by the Chrysler ad, which smacked of “Chicago-style politics.” Rove’s other beef was that Chrysler “received billions in taxpayer dollars they’ll never pay back,” somehow overlooking the fact that resurgent Chrysler has already paid back 90 percent of the taxpayer dollars.Elsewhere, a New York Post commentator called the ad “an Obama campaign commercial.” And Rush Limbaugh insisted that the ad’s message – which he rightly described as “We’ve got to start working together” – is really code for “Republicans need to shut up. Conservatives need to shut up.” As for Eastwood, “I think he got scammed. I think he got roped into doing something he thought was patriotic and ended up being played…he got suckered into this.”Of course, there’s no evidence that Eastwood, a famously independent character and powerful Hollywood player, ever gets suckered into anything he doesn’t want to do – indeed, Eastwood’s agent, Leonard Hirshan, said this week that his client rewrote the ad copy to “suit his needs” – and it’s a waste of space to fact-check Limbaugh anyway. But the attention he paid to Eastwood is noteworthy in itself, because Eastwood’s role in this episode is a key facet of the conservative meltdown.The right has always viewed Eastwood – a lifelong Republican who voted against Obama in ’08 and reportedly intends to do so again in ’12 – as one of its own. Back in the ’80s, for instance, Ronald Reagan frequently invoked Dirty Harry (“Make my day!”). So it’s apparently a shock that someone like Eastwood would presume there is still some middle ground in America, because, after all, the right doesn’t want to believe there is any middle ground. It doesn’t want to believe we can get knocked down and “get right back up again.” At least not while Obama is in office, anyway.And if the iconic Clint says in a car ad that such a middle ground does exist, that optimism and teamwork and community are nonpartisan concepts, then (uh oh) a lot of Americans might believe him. The other day, in fact, Eastwood said on Fox News that the ad was merely “meant to be a message…just about job growth and the spirit of America.” In his view, those concepts transcend ideology.What heresy. Doesn’t that turncoat realize it’s Incorrect to laud job growth and the American spirit?”That’s the problem,” Eastwood’s agent lamented the other day. “Everything is political now…It saddens me personally how every little thing is twisted to satisfy or dissatisfy one side of the spectrum.” But that’s where we are. The car ad likely lives forever on YouTube, where one commenter asks, “Would someone please tell the right-wing hyperventilators that ‘working together’ is not a code for communism?” Ask in vain, pal.
For the first time ever, a federal court of appeals has essentially ruled that gay marriage is a constitutional expression of equal rights. As a political issue, gay marriage is virtually dead. So says my Thursday newspaper column.
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