By James Rainey
Los Angeles Times
If you saw “Trouble With the Curve,” you know Clint Eastwood can play flinty American authenticity as well as ever. When it comes to political messaging, though, he’s got problems.
The latest came recently with the release of an ad from American Crossroads, in which the actor supports Mitt Romney. That’s all fine and expected, since Mr. Eastwood did that empty-chair thing for the former Massachusetts governor two months ago at the Republican National Convention.
But listen to the ad closely, because something else has an odd ring. The man who had great faith in the U.S. of A. as recently as a big Super Bowl ad payday now thinks the country might be on the road to doomsday.
The ad, intended for seven swing states and funded by the conservative “super PAC,” begins with a litany of economic woes under President Obama. Then Eastwood echoes one of his lines from his appearance at the Republican National Convention in August: If the guy doesn’t do the job, you “hold them accountable.” Fine.
It’s the ad’s kicker that comes as a surprise to students of Eastwood’s marketing history: “Obama’s second term,” Eastwood declares, “would be a rerun of the first and our country just couldn’t survive that.” Our country wouldn’t survive that?
That’s the sort of stuff you hear out on the far fringes of the political spectrum. The country will, variously, collapse, slip from its high perch, go into free fall, if Obama is re-elected.
But as recently as his long-form ad for Chrysler during February’s Super Bowl broadcast, Eastwood had quite a different idea. In that gritty, black-and-white spot, the actor talked about the country taking some tough economic shots. Then he added: “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.”
Eastwood’s Super Bowl gospel was inspiring. “This country can’t be knocked out with one punch,” he said in the stirring conclusion. “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.”
That was the message eight months ago. It sounded so real. But maybe it was just another payday for Mr. Eastwood.
James Rainey is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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