The “Fix It Again, Tony” Bailout



Supposed rugged individualist Clint Eastwood was clearly promoting Obama’s vision of statist America in his controversial Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler. Rich Lowry comments:

Eastwood’s two-minute ad during halftime was one of the most memorable of the Super Bowl (putting aside all the Doritos spots, of course). Eastwood walks toward the camera in a dark tunnel and says, in his slightly threatening near-whisper, “It’s halftime.” Lest you think that’s a cue to get up and reload on nachos and beer, he intones, “It’s halftime in America, too.”

What follows is a half-baked tale about the revival of the automotive industry wrapped in economic nationalism: Dirty Harry does chest-thumping corporatism. Eastwood says that Americans are hurting and that “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.”

We all pulled together? As euphemism, this is clever; as history, it is false. Congress never approved the bailouts. Given the option to do so explicitly, it declined. The Bush and Obama administrations acted on their own, diverting TARP funds to Detroit regardless of the letter of the law. In Eastwood’s telling, a legally dubious act of executive highhandedness qualifies as patriotic collective action.

By this standard, any initiative of government must be a stirring exercise in people’s power. Remember when we all pulled together to back the solar-panel maker Solyndra to the tune of $500 million? Right now, we are all pulling together to try to force Catholic institutions to pay for contraceptives and morning-after abortifacients for their employees. See? There’s nothing we can’t do — together.

What Chrysler and GM desperately needed in their extremity was to go through Chapter 11 reorganization to pare down wages and benefits, shed uneconomical dealerships, and ditch unnecessary brands. When the government got its hooks in them, it politicized this process and threw some $80 billion at the companies. Since we’ll never get an estimated $23 billion back, we all must be “pulling together” behind Detroit still.

Amid all the patriotic piety, Eastwood neglects to mention that Chrysler is now 58.5 percent owned by Fiat, an Italian company. The heart-tugging images of Turin, Italy, apparently were left on the cutting-room floor…

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