Clint Eastwood is known for his libertarian views and support of the Republican party, so it was a surprise to see him narrate a Super Bowl ad holding up the revival of Chrysler and other Detroit auto makers as a model for a new American resurgence.
As recently as last year, Eastwood was criticizing President Obama's 2009 bailout of the auto industry, which set the stage for Chrysler's resurgence.
"I'm a big hawk on cutting the deficit," Eastwood told the Los Angeles Times in November. "I was against the stimulus thing too. We shouldn't be bailing out the banks and car companies. If a CEO can't figure out how to make his company profitable, then he shouldn't be the CEO."
In the commercial, called "It's Halftime in America," Eastwood points out that Americans are hurting, then adds: "The people of Detroit know something about this. They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together. Now Motor City is fighting again."
Commentators on both sides of the political divide were taken aback by Eastwood's apparent reversal.
"Agh. WTH? Did I just see Clint Eastwood fronting an auto bailout ad???" Michelle Malkin, the conservative columnist, tweeted during the game. Greg Mitchell, blogger for the liberal paper The Nation, also weighed in, tweeting, "Republican Clint Eastwood claims 'we all pulled together' to save Detroit--wrong, your party did not, big guy."
UPDATE: Eastwood's rep, Leonard Hirshan, spoke with NY Magazine about the spot and refuted any charges of Eastwood pushing a political agenda. While some, including Fox News' commentator Karl Rove, have called the ad an example of tax dollars going toward pro-Obama corporate advertising, Hirshan likened the ad to a PSA.
"I think that Rove and everybody, if they're sensible, would wonder why a longtime Republican and Libertarian would do that," he said. "Just think about that, how silly that is: It's not like [the ad] was done by a left-winger, like Paul Newman in his day. It was done by a Republican, and he was doing it about America. There's not anything political to do with it whatsoever. I don't want him to do commercials, and as far as I'm concerned, it's a PSA [public service announcement]. Period."