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Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" Super Bowl Ad Inspires Political Debate

Amid all of the buzz surrounding last night's Super Bowl commercials, something of a political debate emerged over Chrysler's two-minute spot that hailed the virtues of the Detroit-based auto industry.

One Republican congressman, encapsulating the negative response of many conservatives, pointedly put the ad in the context of the taxpayer bailout Chrysler received.

"'Imported from Detroit'...'borrowed from China,'" Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.)tweeted last night.

Detroit's own Democratic congressman, meanwhile, and other liberals praised the ad as a fine representation of the hope that lives on in the downtrodden city.

"I can't think of a more fitting way to depict Detroit's story than to have fellow Detroit native, Eminem, announce that the city is back and to remind Americans that the revitalized Southeast Michigan auto industry is brimming with new investment and optimism," Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) told the Hotsheet. "This year marks a serious upturn for the city of Detroit."

In case you haven't seen it, the ad features popular rapper Eminem driving through the desolate, rundown remains of Motor City. "What does this city know about luxury?" a narrator with a hardened, deep voice asks. "What does a town that's been to hell and back know about the finer things in life?" The beat to Eminem's song "Lose Yourself" is heard in the background.

Images flash of a statue of boxer Joe Louis's fist and Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry mural, as the narrator continues, "It's the hottest fires that make the hardest steel. Add hard work and conviction and the know-how that runs generations deep in every last one of us. That's who we are. That's our story... When it comes to luxury, it's as much about where its from as who it's for."

Promoting the new Chrysler 200, the ad ends with the tongue-in-cheek slogan, "Imported from Detroit."

Liberal blogger and Michigan resident Marcy Wheeler called the ad "as much a tribute to a city and a way of life our elites would like us to forget as it is an ad for a car."

She noted the irony of the ad, given that Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy after selling the bulk of its good assets to Italian automaker Fiat, with the assistance of the federal government's Treasury and the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

"We've been sold to the highest-the only-bidder, for scraps," she wrote. "And it took the genius of a metrosexual Canadian-Italian to reclaim the dignity of America's industrial base. Made in America isn't as simple as it used to be."

The ad, she suggests, is intended to restore a sense of pride in American consumers for buying domestically-produced goods.

Congressman Ross told the Hotsheet in an e-mail that he thinks the "Made in America" brand is alive and well; most of the cars advertised during last night's football game are being made or will be made in the U.S., he noted.

"Whatever the intention behind the ad, the fact remains that the auto bailouts were wrong for the taxpayer, wrong for competitive innovation, and unfair to all of those hard working folks at companies that would have grown had the government not bailed out poor decisions," he said.

Conservative writer J.P. Freire at the Washington Examiner blasted the ad in a column today, asking, "Is spending millions on a Super Bowl ad appropriate for a company that received a taxpayer bailout to recover from a bankruptcy?"

Freire contends that the ad has less to do with selling cars than it does with garnering more political support for Chrysler, which continues to pay back its $15 billion government bailout. He points to a Detroit News article that reports on Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne's interest in refinancing the company's expensive government loans.

Chrysler hopes to reach a deal with banks by the end of March to refinance the loans, according to the Associated Press, which carry rates of 11 to 12 percent. The company owes the U.S. government $5.8 billion and the Canadian government $1.3 billion.

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