Halftime for Obama

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“Halftime in America” is a punchier version of Wag the Dog’s reelection slogan, “Don’t Change Horses in Midstream.” They might have tried, “The Best is Yet to Come,” but Bloomberg already took that one.

It’s one of those wonderful side benefits of socialism that the gap between corporate advertising and a campaign commercial blurs. What’s good for GM is good for America and what’s good for Chrysler is good for Obama. We may not have the pipeline, but we’re still pipelining taxpayer money to a few precious union jobs with car companies that look a lot like the UK’s car companies did in the seventies.

You can’t really blame Chrysler for trying to preserve its Motor City brand, even if it’s with a commercial that wasn’t actually filmed in Detroit. It’s much easier to put together some inspiring scenes of a Detroit recovery if you shoot it in Los Angeles, a place that has its problems, but which is much more likely to have cheerful couples waking up in apartments that seem to be entirely made of glass.

The Motor City brand is one of those things that doesn’t mean a whole lot anymore, but still stirs up sentimentality, like the immigrant experience or freedom of speech. That Detroit is as real today as the Chicago depicted in Sandburg’s poem which served as the hog butcher, tool maker and wheat stacker to the world. Today Sandburg might have called a food stamp scanner, scammer and welfare taker instead.

American industry is a ghost of that former vigor, its hog butchering, tool making and wheat stacking done in by the progressive vision of a post-industrial society. Today it’s Shanghai that might qualify for a Sandburg poem and it’s also the only place to find that kind of aggressive industrial growth, but Halftime in Shanghai doesn’t sound the same even if Shanghaiing American industry is the name of the game.

Chevy, another government bailout recipient, eschewed the phony clip show patriotism and cut right to showing that their truck could survive an apocalypse. Unlike Halftime in America, that ad could have been filmed in Detroit, which has major apocalypse potential. If you have to choose between trying to convince Americans that Motor City is back or convincing that the end of the world is near but that the right truck can help you make it out alive, go with the second one.

But Chrysler needs the Motor City brand, because it doesn’t exist anymore. After a brief two year period of being an American company again after its sale by Daimler-Benz, it is now owned by Fiat, which is as All-American as its CEO, Sergio Marchionne, who does not sound very much like Clint Eastwood. It needs that image of American industry, even if it’s an Italian company still employing some American workers and an American brand.

Everyone needs their myths, even if it’s the myth of a booming Motor City created in Los Angeles, starring a California movie star by a company headquartered in Turin, Italy. It beats the tawdry reality of Detroit. It’s not as if anyone confuses myths with reality, or commercials with substance.

Some of Eastwood’s most famous Westerns were actually filmed by Italian directors in Italy. If Sergio Leone could give us Eastwood staging six gun duels in the Apennine Mountains off the Adriatic Sea, then why can’t Sergio Marchionne give us Clint Eastwood pacing around an LA stage and breathily pontificating on how hard it is to keep the people and car companies of Detroit down.

We needed the Westerns at a time when the frontier was closing, and if toward the end they were ugly vicious little tableaux of unredeeming violence being filmed in Spanish ghost towns, no one really cared anymore. As the American car company goes the way of the Wild West, we have spaghetti car commercials instead of spaghetti Westerns reassuring us that we are still the same people we used to be. Strong, resilient and capable of recovering from anything with enough bailout money.

Halftime in America didn’t explicitly set out to promote Obama, but it didn’t need to. Its theme was hope. Its purpose was a defense of widely unpopular policies. It didn’t need to mention him by name, any incumbent would have done. Its come on is the same one used in every casino and by every street corner three-card monte dealer. “Don’t stop now. Sure you may be behind, but if you throw it all in, you’ll double your money.”

Halftime in America depends on the metaphor of halftime to convince us to discount the past and embrace hope and change all over again. Forget how badly we fumbled the ball and believe that this time we’ll make the touchdown.

But the right metaphor isn’t a closely fought game where the lovable underdogs are behind and they just need one golden moment to make it all worthwhile. It’s a game where the quarterback has spent most of the game playing golf a 100 miles away, where the players are angry people who can’t play football but sued their way onto the team, and the coaching staff only knows how to incite the home crowd to assault the opposing fans, but have no idea how the game is played and think rules are for suckers.

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  • stevefraser

    Nice essay…. the GOP is either afraid to consistently and loudly tell the American people the truth about the background of the extremist they have elected or, like Clint,they don't have a frame of reference to appreciate the "Democratic Party" is a front for an anti-American cabal of Marxists cum Fascist/Progressives.

  • Ecube

    Excellent article Daniel. It puts the "Mess" we are in more succinctly than just about anything I've read in the last 2 years. I am not optimistic about the future primarily due to how few of our fellow citizens realize how bad things really are. Articles like this one, if read by many are my hope. Thanks.

  • Dean

    I did not even read this whole article. It's just so sad! the media is not content to let us form our own opinions about this ad. They have to tell us what they think. Pick apart every aspecte of the ad. Tell us what which different lifftle detail represents. The only detail I need to know is that Clint Eastwood did the Ad. I liked the Ad!! And you don't "F___" with Clint Eastwood.

    Nuff Said!!

    • Gunner57

      "The only detail I need to know is that Clint Eastwood did the Ad. I liked the Ad!! And you don't "F___" with Clint Eastwood".

      Nuff said is right. What a stupid post.

    • Cynic

      That’s why you don’t let the facts get in the way when you have to decide on some course of action.
      No wonder America is in such a mess.
      I might like someone but there comes a time when I have to decide whether they are wrong or right, and if I’m a really nice person I will weigh what’s wrong to see if it’s worth continuing liking them.
      Weigh it up!

  • oldtimer

    I think CE has dementia.
    Who cares about what any of them think or say. I sure don't. I learned long ago to think for myself, do my own reasearch, and make up my own mind, and not follow the crowd. I hope the younger generation wakes up soon. They follow pied pipers and are heading over the cliff.

    • davarino

      Yes, the younger gen doesnt even know how a primary works, who the Vice Pres is, what Obama Care is about. They are to busy texting to their friends about how cool texting is……blaah

  • WilliamJamesWard

    The Democrats may be having half-time and morning but if they still control our
    government after November we will all be out of time and mourning………….William

  • ThePittsburghSteeler

    VERY good article; great use of metaphor. Yes, it emphasizes the fact that Stinky and his bizarre policies have atomized the community; because the bailouts have contributed to the destruction of any relation between cause and effect. And on an individual level, our Food Stamp President has made it, in many cases, counterproductive to work; with the only option being to support Stinky's bizarre policies; which will lead to fascism and destruction. And I might add, to conditions that will pave the way for the imposition of Sharia law.

  • jacob

    Finest irony I have read in years….
    I couldn;t stop laughig at the way he dissects the mess the parachutist a legion of
    morons (among them 80% of Jews) allowed to land in the White House….
    But weren't the unions who buried the US automobile industry ???
    Anyone able to decipher an American car's VIN, would stay away from any one built
    on Fridays and Mondays as otherwise he would be getting what was knows as a
    LEMON and I can fully and sadly attest to it….
    Needless to say, all these bailouts were not to keep alive GM or Chrysler….
    They were to keep alive their unions and nothing else but the American people still
    do not do anything about getting rid of the rotten unions, whose usefulness was
    outlived already, as the Simon Legree boss kind went long ago the dinosaurs way

    • Hexmate70

      Jacob – grab your ears and pull real hard. Your head is buried up there somewhere and you need to buy a new car so you can experience reality instead of perception.

      • fiddler

        I wouldn't buy anything built by the UAW.

        • Hexmate70

          Exactly, but the American companies are not solely made up of UAW employees so that is a stupid comment. Like I said keep sending your money to Japan, Korea, etc., it only keeps the cash flowing into their economy. In the mean time your perceptions continue to disable your common sense and in the long run you are the loser. It is obvious you know nothing about American automotive products, but they are superior and apparently others have recognized that since GM is number 1 again.

          • voted against carter

            "It is obvious you know nothing about American automotive products, but they are superior and apparently others have recognized that since GM is number 1 again."

            YOU are the one with the asshat on IF you think your above statement has ANY truth in it.

            I live in the metro Detroit aria. I Have been indirectly and directly involved with ALL three car companies since 1983.

            Unions AND management are BOTH responsible for their demise.
            Unfortunately the "rules" were stacked AGAINST Management by the DemocRAT Party.

            Of the "big Three" Ford has always been the most hostile to the UNIONS.

            And funny how that worked out for them in the long run, as they are the only one of "the Big Three" that is viable financially and STILL A PRIVATE company.

            Having said that,…
            Union Dues are nothing more that LEGAL EXTORTION.

            If you want a JOB you HAVE to join the UNION,.. AND you HAVE to PAY DUES.

            When I was in Unions If I could have NOT payed dues I wouldn't have payed it.

            I HATE UNIONS. You want UNIONS.


            Go get a job in DETROIT. Oh,.. wait you can't.

            THERE ARN'T ANY!!!

            AND THE REST OF AMERICA pretty soon too.
            UNIONS are Destroying America.
            Look at Detroit MI to see what the UNION's AND
            the DemocRAT party have planned for America.

            A ONCE Great American City COMPLETELY DESTROYED
            BY the DemocRAT Party and their UNION masters.

            WAY to go AFL-CIO, UAW, USW, AFT,TUA, WGA and SEIU.

            This IS what Obama AND his UNION masters have planned for America,…
            they WILL do the same to YOUR town if you LET them.

          • Hexmate70

            Looks like you are wearing a pointed hat sitting in the corner again. I have forgotten more about the automotive business than you will ever know. 40 plus years with GM in global product development and I'm not a union member. Yeah a lot of mistakes were made, but we were working our way out them beofre the economy crashed. Ford hocked the whole company lock, stock, and barrel in 2006 so they had a huge pile of cash they were sitting on. If you think they knew the economy was going to crash then you are more naive than I thought you were. Bob Lutz characterized Ford's good fortune very accurately – "Dumb luck!" You really need to pull your head out of your arse.

      • voted against carter


        YOU are the one wearing an asshat.

        Jacob is correct on ALL ACCOUNTS.

        GM and Chrysler should have been allowed to file for bankruptcy and been able to re organize and re negotiate their Union contracts.

        BUT NOOOO.
        Obama is owned by the unions so there was no way that would happen.

        Silly libratard.

        • Hexmate70

          Hey voted…
          Thanks for showing us your ignorance. Can you produce some facts to support your rant? I didn't think so! Chrysler & GM did file for bankruptcy you moron and they did re-negotiate their union contracts. You need to get your head screwed on right.

          I'm a Conservative you silly idiot

  • Jay

    The ad actually ruined my Superbowl Sunday. It made me realize how easy my friends were duped and how they represent most of the electorate in this nation. They saw Clint! They saw "Yes We Can"!. They saw American industry and "hope". I was saying "are you kidding"! That was pure propaganda! It was saying that bailouts and redistribution and all the failed policies and business models of Detroit were all OK now that we spent billions of OUR tax dollars to say so. I hope this ad gets debated over and over so that people can see the scarey side of big government.

  • tanstaafl

    So success nowadays is seeing how much money you can get the government to give you.

  • mrbean

    Clint Eastwood is either a closet liberal or has seen too many winters and is senile to have the gall todeny the obvious political implications of this ad by the very lines he had to read. Whose second half are we talking about? The first half was all government subsidies. Chrysler had amost a 2 billion dollar loss over the last four years and still owes the federal government 1.3 billion dollars. This is about saving the highly overpaid union jobs in Detroit. Car sales now are at an all time low for Chrysler and GM.
    We are not Chrysler. The "We" are Cerebus Equity Corporation and Fiat who own Chrysler and owe us the people 1.3 billion dollars still. The overpaid UAW are the only benefactors from "operating at a loss" Detroit which will not be bailed out again. Ford Motor Company is an exception in Detroit with a profit and they told the government to shove their money.

    • Hexmate70

      Mr Bean…
      So I see you missed the memo and you still have no idea what you are talking about. Who owns Chrysler? Try again! How much does Chrysler owe? Try again! You really are out of touch with reality and the facts.

      • mrbean

        Published in Politico 2011. "The Treasury Department said in a statement that it was unlikely to recover the $1.3 billion loss, but hailed the Chrysler sale as faster than expected progress in buoying a beleaguered industry and protecting UAW jobs."

        Fiat now owns almost 35% of Chrysler. Chrysler's current owners other than Fiat are the UAW retiree health care trust fund (59.2%), the U.S. government (8.6%) and the Canadian and Ontario governments (2.2%). The additional 5% stakes come proportionally from those three owners, according to the AP.

        • Hexmate70

          Mr Bean…

          Your data is old. You need to stay current on these issues and get your facts straight. Fiat owns 52% of Chrysler as of June 2011. Thanks for trying Mr. Bean maybe you can play again another time.

    • Hexmate70

      Mr. Bean…

      Oh and sales are up significantly at both Chrysler and GM. In fact GM is the number ONE company in global automotive sales again making them what? FIRST! BTW Ford didn't tell the government anything because they did happen to borrow 7 billion dollars from the Feds in 2008. They also hocked the entire company back in 2006 so they would have a big pile of cash to pull them through their recovery. As Bob Lutz acurately described Ford not taking any a bail out money as – "Dumb luck!" You see they didn't know the economy was going to crash but if you believe they did I have some property you can buy.

  • BLJ

    I am hoping that Obama gets punted to start the second half. That ad was a disgrace and reminded me of something out of a Soviet propoganda machine. If the WH wants to tout a successful American automaker go with Ford.

    Oh, I forgot Ford didn't take any of the bailout scam money. They are not on the Chosen One's good side. I have drove Jeeps since 1990, but I am going to buy a Ford for my next vehicle.

    Obama, Clint and the rest of those losers can kiss my butt!

    • Asher

      Many have had it with Government Motors and are going to Ford!

  • Hexmate70

    What a cheap shot artist you are Danny! Good job of trying to make something out of nothing. Yeah we're an easy target under the circumstances, and of course it doesn't mean anything that Detroit was the arsenal of democracy during World War II, so make up some spin to link us into the political game. Never mind the fact your analysis is an over simplification of a very complex subject. To listen to you, it would have been better to turn over the American auto market to the foreign companies, and let the 3 U.S. companies go down. Yeah Ford would have gone down if the other two went out of business, but you know it all Danny so we in the auto industry should not question your omnipotence. I can’t believe the peanut gallery bought into this crap hook, line, and sinker, too. Keep going after us so you can alienate those of us who despise this administration just as much as you do.

    • mrbean

      Ahhh,,, China owns Hummer 100%, Cerebus Equity and Fiat own Chrysler 100% and they both owe the US government billions of dollars. And by the way, we owe China billions of dollars for bailing the overpaid UAW workers out not the car companies out – as they lost billions over the last 4 years.

      • Hexmate70

        You really need to educate yourself about the automotive industry before you make any comment. China doesn’t own Hummer it was dissolved by GM and the brand is no longer in existence. Cerberus Capital was forced to take Chrysler into bankruptcy by the government and Obama and his gang gave Chrysler to Fiat for all intents and purposes. Cerberus no longer has a stake in Chrysler and neither does the government since Chrysler repaid their loan to the satisfaction of the U.S. government. The money given to GM has been paid back and the government still owns GM stock that it can sell to complete the financial obligations GM has. All of the U.S. automotive companies are making more money than their foreign competitors are and now have huge sums of money sitting in their bank accounts . How about those American companies? I know it so disappointing to see them come back isn’t it? Thank you for your support!

        • voted against carter

          NO the MONEY has NOT been paid back and likely NEVER will be.

          And GM stock continues to lose value. Your continued MAKING up BS does NOT make it true.

          Silly Libratard. You are a sycophant obama zombei no dout.

          You have your asshat on too tight AGAIN.

          • Hexmate70

            YES it has been paid back and if you notice GM stock is on the rise again. You should get out more often dimwit.

  • NotaBene

    "It’s one of those wonderful side benefits of socialism that the gap between corporate advertising and a campaign commercial blurs"

    Please tell us what drugs you're on, Danny boy. Must be some powerful stuff.

  • george a. way jr.

    hey america !!! look in the mirror !!!! , "we" are the problem , you can whine , bitch and point fingers but the government that we have is just a reflection of the " cesspool" that we have become collectively ( this includes everyone) greed, corruption , hate , envy etc. this is what this country and for that matter the world has sunk into !!!!!!!!!!!!!! , WE as a human race are incapable of governing ourselves so this is what you get !!!!!!!! , when left to our own devices what do you expect !!! , we all think we know whats best yet this world is fast heading over a cliff !!!!

  • Facts About Politics

    "Don't change horses in the middle of the stream" was Abraham LIncoln's 1864 campaign slogan.

    Wag the Dog merely appropriated it.

  • BS77

    Detroit the Potemkin village made for TV

  • voted against carter

    To ALL you GM boosters,.. EVER actually BEEN to Detroit? NO? didn't think so.

    Google the "Ruins of Detroit" and tell me with a straight face that that's what you want for your town.

    Just for fun then google "Detroit 1950 pictures" to see what was Detroit BEFORE the DemocRATs and Unions took over.

    A 2 block radius of "Down Town Detroit" is ALL that is left of the ONCE vibrant "Arsenal of Democracy" city that built the U.S. automotive industry into the power house it once was.

    It took the DemocRAT party AND the UNION's 50 years to DESTROY Detroit with NO hope for recovery.

    Go down Brush Street or Alter Road, or just drive down Woodward a few blocks away from down town. Just don't stop very long at the intersections and keep your doors locked.

    You HAVE NO clue what you are posting about AT ALL.

    • Asher

      You are so right….Detroit looks like a ghetto that was hit by Poverty! Total ruination by the Dems.

    • Hexmate70

      Hey voted…

      Yes I do! Why don't you move somewhere where you can get a better perspective on life you are making us all sick here DEEtroit!

  • tagalog

    The American frontier was closing in the 1960s, and that's why we needed spaghetti Westerns?

    Excuse me, but I think not…