his week, Ford Motor Co. briefly pulled down a YouTube ad bashing competitors for taking federal bailout money, reportedly after receiving an unhappy call from the White House (watch the ad below). In the commercial, a Ford customer says in a mock press conference that he wanted a pickup built by a company that is "standing on their own." Ford, which publicly advocated the bailout but declined the money itself, says it removed the clip as part of a routine ad rotation — not because of pressure. And White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer says the Obama administration didn't ask Ford to pull the ad, which the company put back up on YouTube late Tuesday. What does this flap say about Detroit — and Washington? Here, three possible lessons:
1. It's a bad idea to let government meddle in business
"A free market doesn't stay free when government begins competing in it," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. Nothing illustrates that better than reports that a mere phone call from the White House could scare a powerful automaker into yanking a commercial. A government that uses its regulatory authority to favor certain companies over all others "will distort market behavior in significant and freedom-chilling ways. Knocking an ad critical of government policy off of television and the internet is simply a more visible symptom of those dangers."
2. Conservatives will distort any meaningless event to bash Obama
This is just another Fox News-inspired, right-wing attempt to fabricate a tale of "Obama administration bullying," says Media Matters for America. Ford and the White House independently and emphatically say there was no intimidation in this case, and even the columnist who sparked the dustup said that while the administration asked questions, it never asked Ford to kill the video. The truth is, this commercial has been publicly available since May, and its scheduled four-week run in Ford's ad lineup is already over.
3. Bailout bitterness lives on
This controversy is proof that the auto bailout isn't something that simply "happened and now resides in our memories," says Dan Ikenson at Forbes. "It is an ongoing tipping of the scales of competition — intentionally and inadvertently." As long as the White House is trying "to tout the bailout as evidence of its 'successful' economic stewardship," it will continue to feed the perception, at Ford or on the street, that it "might stir up trouble" for anyone who challenges its story.
Take a look at the Ford commercial:
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