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Eastwood Super Bowl ad was news to White House

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The White House is denying any advance knowledge of or involvement in a gritty Super Bowl ad starring Clint Eastwood that played up the auto industry’s resurgence and called on the nation to come together and rebuild — a message taken in some quarters as an implicit endorsement of President Obama.

“It was news to me when I saw it,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Monday, referring to the halftime Chrysler ad with the familiar rough-hewn voice, which heralded the car industry’s comeback. Mr. Eastwood recently played a heroic former Detroit auto worker in “Gran Torino,” making the ad all the more gripping.

The unsettling but inspiring spot has spurred comparisons to an Obama re-election campaign video, especially considering the president’s recent series of events celebrating the rebound of Chrysler, GM and other car companies in the wake of a federal bailout. The ad also seemed to suggest that President Obama is only half-way through his tenure at the White House.

“It’s halftime. Both teams are in their locker rooms discussing what they can do to win this game in the second half,” Mr. Eastwood intones. “It’s halftime in America, too. … Detroit’s showing us it can be done. … This country can’t be knocked out with one punch. …Yeah, it’s halftime in American, and our second half is about to begin.”

“Powerful spot,” David Axelrod, Obama’s chief political strategist, said on Twitter Sunday night. “Did Clint Eastwood shoot that, or just narrate it?”

While Mr. Carney would not say whether he liked the ad, he didn’t pass up the opportunity for the president to take credit for the car industry’s renewed success.

“[It] does point out a simple fact, which is that the automobile industry was on its back and potentially poised to liquidate three years ago and the president made decisions that were not very popular at the time,” Mr. Carney said.

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About the Author

Susan Crabtree

Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at

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