Many Republicans want President Obama to fail. That's completely understandable and defensible, if one is talking about success or failure in his re-election campaign. It's stunning when that's extended to the performance of the economy as a whole or any of the nation's job-supplying industries.
Thus we have uber-political operative Karl Rove complaining about how offended he was by a Super Bowl TV ad, sponsored by Chrysler, which extolled the recent resurrection of the nation's auto industry. The ad featured tough-guy actor Clint Eastwood talking about the remarkable comeback of the auto industry, and underscoring the qualities which truly characterize the best of America—resilience, optimism, sacrifice, and hard work. The script of the commercial, "Halftime in America," is as inspiring as any speech made by an actor in a movie or a political candidate in a campaign:
It's halftime in America, too. People are out of work and they're hurting. And they're all wondering what they're going to do to make a comeback. And we're all scared, because this isn't a game.
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.
I've seen a lot of tough eras, a lot of downturns in my life. And, times when we didn't understand each other. It seems like we've lost our heart at times. When the fog of division, discord, and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead.
But after those trials, we all rallied around what was right, and acted as one. Because that's what we do. We find a way through tough times, and if we can't find a way, then we'll make one.
All that matters now is what's ahead. How do we come from behind? How do we come together? And, how do we win?
Detroit's showing us it can be done. And, what's true about them is true about all of us.
This country can't be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do the world is going to hear the roar of our engines.
Yeah, it's halftime America. And, our second half is about to begin.
Really, could anyone have a problem with that ad? It featured scenes of Detroit, and of middle-class people, working hard in a struggling economy and trying to make their city and their lives better.
Yes, Rove had a problem with it. He said he was "offended" by the spot, adding on Fox News:
I'm a huge fan of Clint Eastwood, I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, but it is 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.
Rove seems to be referring to President Obama's bailout of the auto industry, and suggesting that somehow that money was used to pay for a thinly-disguised campaign ad for the Obama re-election campaign. A lot of Republicans were opposed to the bailout, saying the companies should be subject to the rules of capitalism. GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney famously penned a New York Times op-ed entitled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."
What is it about Detroit that so many conservatives despise? That it's a still-breathing example of the "old economy?" Is it Motown music they hate, or the fact that it's full of labor union members? Is the distaste for struggling Detroit so pronounced that people actually want the city to fail?
Had the auto companies indeed failed despite the bailout, Rove and Romney would have looked brilliant. But the companies are recovering nicely, paying back their loans (with interest), and making profits, in part because of concessions made by the labor unions so despised by conservatives.
There is surely a legitimate philosophical argument to be made that the government should not bailout out big businesses (an argument not often extended to include huge tax breaks for profitable industries). Pure capitalism indeed stipulates that businesses should succeed or fail on their own. Critics can legitimately argue that government should not prop up any industry, no matter what the implications for employment. They can be angry that the auto bailouts happened, but it's unconscionable to be angry that the bailouts worked. Comebacks—as the New York Giants proved, winning the Super Bowl after an uneven season—are about as American as it gets.