The Plymouth Volaré of car commercials

The Super Bowl has become one of the few mass-audience appointment TV events left, to the extent that for several years the Super Bowl commercials have been avidly watched and scrutinized.

The title of best commercial is a matter of personal opinion. The title of most controversial commercial undoubtedly was the halftime Chrysler ad.

Neither Chrysler nor NBC is saying how much the 2-minute spot cost, but 30-second ads were going for $3.5 million. Suffice it to say that the ad cost Chrysler — which, remember, took more than $13 billion of our tax dollars — several million dollars.

I believe this counts as Eastwood’s first media experience with Chrysler products:

Reuters summarizes the theme of Sunday’s spot:

Rugged Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood proclaimed it was “Halftime in America” in the spot that did not mention a Chrysler car or truck but intoned that the automaker’s successful turnaround could be used as an example for the United States as it struggles with high unemployment and a slow economic growth rate.

“Detroit’s showing us it can be done,” Eastwood said.

Eastwood — or, more accurately, the script writer — left out the rest of Eastwood’s sentence — “by a bailout funded by non-Chrysler owners to benefit President Obama’s buddies, the United Auto Workers, in time for Fiat of Italy to buy Chrysler.”

(This probably is a good place to explain the headline: The Volaré and Dodge Aspen was the highest-rated, if you want to call it that, Chrysler product on Edmunds Inside Line‘s 100 Worst Cars of All Time list, described as “terribly built and rust-prone” while “subject to a long series of recalls.” One of my Boy Scout Scoutmasters was a Madison police officer, and he told me of an squad that had Aspen logos on one side of the car and Volaré logos on the other wide. I could have included two higher-rated AMC products, the Pacer or Gremlin, but they we”re built before Chrysler bought AMC in 1987.)

If Obama advisor David Axelrod felt compelled to tweet what a wonderful spot it was, then it counts as propaganda, irrespective of the White House’s and Obama campaign’s denials — and for that matter, the denials of Sergio Marchionne, Fiat’s (which means Chrysler’s) CEO, whose company is sticking the taxpayers with billions of dollars that won’t be paid back.

It particularly counts as propaganda on behalf of the unions, who worked hard to destroy their Detroit employers, as Christian Schneider points out:

While most cheeseheads saw the Super Bowl as a rare night off from the sucking hole of union politics, there it was in the ad — an image of the state capitol occupation by union protesters nearly a year ago.

While the video of the capitol’s illuminated east wing plays, Eastwood growls, “I’ve seen a lot of tough eras, a lot of downturns in my life. [Edit. note: “Huh?”] And, times when we didn’t understand each other. It seems like we’ve lost our heart at times. The fog of division, discord, and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead.”

Of course, the “division, discord, and blame,” in Wisconsin began when unions tried the burn the state down over Governor Scott Walker’s plan requiring them to begin paying into their own pension accounts, and to pay a little more toward their health insurance (although still half the private-sector average.) Walker scaled back their ability to collectively bargain, although they still retained more bargaining rights than federal workers, who can’t bargain for wages and benefits.

Everyone knows the results. Union protesters calling the Lieutenant Governor a “f***ing whore” to her husband’s face after a Walker speech. Screeching demonstrators being dragged out while attempting to disrupt Walker’s State of the State address. WWII veterans being greeted with Nazi salutes at a capitol Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony. Protesters disrupting a Walker-led ceremony for Special Olympics award recipients. Forged recall petition signatures. Lawmakers having beers dumped on their heads. The list goes on and on.

According to Chrysler, these are times when we just “didn’t understand each other,” and where both sides can be ascribed “blame.” In fact, it was the union protesters that understood perfectly — that their boorish behavior would probably one day land them in an ad lauding their activism. …

It also seems somewhat incongruous that Chrysler would lionize the Wisconsin union movement in such a way. Organized labor’s pay and benefit demands are what brought U.S. auto makers to their knees in the first place. As George Will is fond of saying, American car companies actually became health-insurance companies that happened to sell automobiles. It’s no coincidence that the American entities who have struggled the most in recent years — car companies, the American educational system — are the ones that are the most heavily unionized. (Wisconsin, of all places, should recognize this, as a major GM plant in Janesville closed in 2008, tearing the heart out of that union town.)

Schneider could have mentioned Milwaukee and Kenosha, which used to have Chrysler plants, but now do not. Wisconsin has no auto assembly plants, which means the $23.6 billion we will lose on the GM and Chrysler bailouts were of no real value to Wisconsin.

Eastwood had his own, uh, clarification Monday to Fox News:

Following the fall out over the controversial Chrysler Super Bowl halftime ad, Clint Eastwood spoke exclusively with O’Reilly Factor producer Ron Mitchell…

“I just want to say that the spin stops with you guys, and there is no spin in that ad. On this I am certain.

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

I am not supporting any politician at this time.

Chrysler to their credit didn’t even have cars in the ad.

Anything they gave me for it went for charity.

If any Obama or any other politician wants to run with the spirit of that ad, go for it.”

Evidently Eastwood, formerly known as a conservative/libertarian, misjudged the reaction to the ad. His reaction came out before the late Monday news that Eastwood opposed the Chrysler bailout, according again to Reuters:

“We shouldn’t be bailing out the banks and car companies,” actor, director and Academy Award winner Eastwood told the Los Angeles Times in November 2011. “If a CEO can’t figure out how to make his company profitable, then he shouldn’t be the CEO.” …

Eastwood’s manager Leonard Hirshan said the actor has not changed his views on the auto bailout.

“He did a commercial that had nothing to do with politics,” Hirshan said. “What he did was talk about America. If anything, this was a pro American commercial not a Chrysler commercial. Chrysler just sponsored what he had to say.”

(And if you believe any of these denials, I have a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird with a 426 Hemi to sell you. It was driven only to church on Sundays.)

Truth be told, the most outrageous part of the ad doesn’t have to do with Chrysler, but with Detroit:

“People are out of work and they’re hurting and they’re all wondering what they’re going to do to make a comeback,” Eastwood said. “The people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together, now Motor City is fighting again.”

That would be the same Detroit with, as a National Review comment put it, “a downtown that looks like a bombed-out ruin, large tracts of land and ornate buildings in a state of advanced decay, an indicted mayor, and a mass exodus of everyone with the means to escape.”

This ad is, in the words of Karl Rove, who was to George W. Bush what Axelrod is to Obama, “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 benefitted by getting a bunch of our money that they’ll never pay back.” Yet it’s unlikely to make much difference in November. It won’t even make a difference in sales of Chrysler products, given that no one is buying cars or other big-ticket items these days unless absolutely necessary.

A former actor whose birthday was yesterday poses the correct question for November:

Presty the DJ for Feb. 7

Today in 1969, Jim Morrison of the Doors was arrested for drunk driving and driving without a license in Los Angeles:

The number one British album today in 1970 was “Led Zeppelin II”:

The number one single today in 1970:

The number one single in 1981 over there …

… and over here:

The number one British single today in 1999:

Birthdays begin with saxophonist King Curtis:

Jimmy Greenspoon played the organ for Three Dog Night:

Brian Travers played saxophone for UB40:

David Bryan played keyboards for Bon Jovi:

One death of note today in 2000: Dave Peverett of Savoy Brown and Foghat: