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Halftime in Pink America

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The Super Bowl was, well, super. The game had its moments: the first "free" touchdown in the big game that was, supposedly, not meant to happen (but once a running back turns around in a sitting position on the goal line, he's only gonna fall in backwards, pushed by all the momentum he already generated) and Tom Brady's last-second Hail Mary pass that was almost caught by a Patriot, but not quite.

But there were other Hail Marys thrown that night. First there was Madonna, the original Hail Mary -- her namesake, that is. The present Earth-bound Madonna, all 53 years of her, did the cougar world proud, all those hours working out over the years paying off big. Now there was a production! Those folk know how to put on a show. I kept wondering how many of its participants were in the Actors Equity union, but it was abundantly clear that this sort of spectacle has replaced the Broadway musical in the hearts of the younger generation, used to these sorts of extravaganzas at the concerts of pop singers for at least two decades now.

Madonna's performance might have been aimed at her faux protégé, Lady Gaga, showing Gaga who's who and what's what. But there were also echoes of other, older grand dames, for instance Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, given all the beefcake "slaves" supposedly hauling Madonna onto the Lucas Oil field's 50-yard line. After the Material Girl's exhortation of capitalism unbound, she signed off with World Peace. Ho, ho, ho.

But it was another halftime performance that seems to have more legs: Clint Eastwood and his Chrysler commercial. It was instantaneously clear that it would be taken as an Obama endorsement -- from Chrysler, which we, the people, more or less, still own. But what struck me was that this commercial may be the first time the word "halftime" was used, or understood, politically, to stand for a second-term presidential election.

I wrote a book about the '96 second-term election, Clinton v. Dole (Campaign America '96: The View from the Couch), which covered how the campaign was covered, and I don't recall any of the hundreds of commentators I heard ever using the term "halftime" that way. But its usage was unmistakable in the Eastwood commercial.

Which is why Republicans are complaining. But it's been another bad week for the GOP, because of yet more Hail Marys: the Susan G. Komen for the Cure pink ribbon flap, defunding Planned Parenthood, and, consequently, the women of America reacting and Komen's decision eventually reversed. This, too, was a commercial of sorts, but one aimed at Mitt Romney, not Barack Obama. The Komen "charity" had managed all these years to avoid scrutiny the way anyone not running for president avoids scrutiny.

But defunding Planned Parenthood put them in the election-season spotlight, and what was seen was not very pleasant. It was like seeing Mitt Romney's 2010 income and the "summary" of his 2011 taxes: all those Swiss and Cayman accounts. In Komen's case, it was the ratio of what was raised yearly and what was given to breast cancer research, roughly 20 percent, while around 80 percent went into the fundraising itself. It was the same, it appeared, as the salaries and bonuses of the 1 percent, because the Komen foundation was run like any Wall Street hedge fund. The lion's share in expenses, a pittance for the disease in question. Komen, though, is certainly a job creator, since it does employ a lot of lawyers suing people who want to use the word "cure" in their fundraising.

Those who were paying attention learned more about the Komen foundation in the last 10 days than they ever knew the last 10 years, and what they had known was next to nothing: how Republican it was, how its new, and now resigned, V.P., Karen Handel, was a GOP losing candidate running for governor in Georgia, like Romney is currently doing, on the I-hate-Planned-Parenthood GOP platform.

Karen Handel carries on the GOP tradition of calling black "white" when she said, in her resignation letter, that "no one's political beliefs" were involved in Komen's decision to defund Planned Parenthood. This is all an election-period neurosis, an emperor's-new-clothes phenomenon. The naked truth is clothed. What everyone can see is false I will claim as true.

But back to the Super Bowl: Madonna said there would be no "wardrobe malfunction" in her show. Maybe not, though that malfunction had to do with a breast, and, thanks to the Komen foundation and Karen Handel, the malfunctions have been many and frequent, and now Komen's world stands as naked and exposed as poor Mitt Romney.