A 120-second ad aired at half-time of Sunday's Super Bowl featuring Clint Eastwood talking about Detroit's comeback sparked a sharp debate among political partisans. Was it a covert pro-Obama re-election ad? Was it part of the payback for massive bailouts that kept Chrysler afloat? It depends on who you talk to, and plenty of people were talking.
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the ad had zero political content.
Eastwood, who described himself as leaning more toward libertarian fiscal views and has been quoted by the Los Angeles Times as opposed to the auto bailout, said the ad was about job creation.
GOP high priest Karl Rove told Fox News the ad offended him and smacked of Chicago-style politics.
Obama campaign staffers in Michigan called it "another great Chrysler ad," while the President's political advisor David Axelrod extolled it as a "powerful spot."
And then there are all the tweets and Facebook mentions arguing one side or the other. Thousands of them, which continued on into this week.
Most of the commentary seemed to bypass the policy choice behind all the brouhaha. Commentators and tweeters apparently left that for actual politicians to duke out. Obama touts the bailouts, which actually started under President George W. Bush, as the savior of the U.S. auto industry. Or as one wag summed up Obama's re-election pitch, "Osama bin laden is dead, but GM is alive." Republican presidential hopefuls pan the bailout, calling it an unfortunate intrusion by government into the free market.
Rapper Eminem got the ball rolling on tough-looking, edgy ads celebrating Chrysler's return from the dead, with the memorable signature sign-off, "Imported from Detroit." Sunday's Eastwood ad, which he said he helped to write, sustains a similar dark environment contrasted to a hopeful message, akin to the message in his award-winning movie, Gran Torino, which was filmed in Detroit.
"They almost lost everything," Eastwood says coming out of the shadows. "But we all pulled together. Now Motor City is fighting again."
Critics drew an underlying, sinister meaning to Eastwood's reference that it's "Half-time in America, and our second half is about to begin." They said it was a covert endorsement of a second term for Obama.
The next thing you know, skeptics will say Obama had ulterior motives when he invited Matt Lauer, co-host of NBC's Today Show, and a film crew over to the White House to watch the Super Bowl.
And it's not yet half-time in the presidential election season.