In Defense of Clint Eastwood
People are talking trash about Clint and frankly, its kind of tasteless and bullshit. He's an old man. He looks a little frail. He may be a bit senile. And frankly, when you live to be his age, you get to be a little bit ornery and addled. It's your god given right as an American. Making fun of him is just kind of crass.
It doesn't really need pointing out that Clint Eastwood is a living American treasure. He may well be the last of an era of Hollywood stars the likes of which the film industry doesn't seem to be creating anymore. And as he has matured as a director, he has made some genuinely great contributions to cinema. This shouldn't need to be said, but briefly, this is the man who starred in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, directed and starred in High Plains Drifter, Unforgiven, Pale Rider. He directed Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. He's Dirty Harry and the man with no name. He directed Mystic River, Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima. And he made Changeling, a film that I dare anyone to watch and not re-assess their feelings about the death penalty no matter what their view might be going in. There are very few people in the world of film that have a record as solid as that.
But that is all beside the point, because what I really think needs to be said is that despite the rambling ad libbed nature of Eastwood's speech at the Republican convention, there were numerous elements within the general thread that were both refreshing and sincere and a welcome break from the general insipid mendacity of Eastwood's fellow Republicans. In particular he made three points over the course of his speech that He was absolutely right about.
First, and foremost, his criticism of Obama's decision to go with the neocon permanent war footing in Afghanistan was spot on. Notably, it was on this point where Eastwood was most out of synch with the rest of the GOP excepting the Paulbots. It was that group, I suspect, who responded so enthusiastically when Eastwood put the question to his imaginary Obama: Why bother publishing a timetable for withdrawal at some future date? Isn't it time to pull the troops out starting tomorrow? And shouldn't we have checked with the Russians to see how that whole occupation of Afghanistan thing went?
These are points that the anti-war crowd, at least the coherent portion of it, have been making since 2001 when the Bush administration made the disastrous decision to treat September 11 as an act of war rather than as a horrific criminal act. So when Eastwood expressed similar feelings, including some skepticism about Obama's mishandling of the the attempt to close the Guantanamo bay prison, it was a refreshing surprise to hear a room full of Republicans—the same people who cheered John McCain, Paul Ryan, and Mitt Romney's warmongering towards Iran—react so enthusiastically to the idea that it was time to cut our losses and get out of that hellish quaqmire. It suggests that maybe there's room in our political dialog to make something good happen in the not too distant future on that front and is reason to be encouraged. And I don't care what political stripe you have, that's a good thing.
And without Clint Eastwood, we wouldn't have known that.
Second, his criticism of Obama's handling of the unemployment crisis. Eastwood is absolutely right, 23 million Americans out of work is a crying shame, and Barack Obama didn't do enough about it. But Eastwood avoided the disingenuous attacks of the rest of the GOP, who seem to think that if Obama had just made the Bush tax cuts permanent in his first 100 days the economy would be booming now. That's nonsense. You know it, I know it, Clint knows it, and they know it. Instead Eastwood said Obama hasn't done enough, and on that point, he's again, 100% right.
Obama hasn't done enough, and that's something that those of us on the left have been saying since the stimulus first passed. The stimulus was too much of a give away to the Republicans who weren't going to support it anyway, since almost a third of it tax cuts to businesses and special interests in a failed attempt to even try the GOPs One Magnificently Dumb Idea that cutting taxes stimulates jobs growth. And more importantly, the Stimulus was nowhere near big enough, and Obama squandered an opportunity to send even more money to the states to help shore up their hemorrhaging budgets hampered by ridiculous right wing tax initiatives and moronic balanced budget amendments written into their constitutions in the 1990s. Estimates are that more aid to the public sector to prevent those job losses woud bring overall unemployment down between 2 and 3 percentage points, which starts edging us toward full recovery by the end of 2013, rather than the ridiculous prospect of still not fully having recovered by the time the 2016 election rolls around.
Eastwood was absolutely right there, Obama hasn't done enough and he should have done more. Granted, Clint probably wouldn't have liked that extra stuff and still would have been bitching about it, but he was still substantively correct in his criticism.
Third, Eastwood correctly made a call for detente between republicans, democrats and moderates liberals and conservatives. He said that you can be a good person no matter what your political views are, and that's true. It's becoming less true with the GOP as Ernie so colorfully pointed out a few days ago, but we have not yet reached such a depraved state that conservativism itself is indefensible. And it is time American politicians stopped talking about other American politicians as if they represented a hostile foreign power intent on subversion and overthrow from within. That's an issue that the Republicans are far more guilty of, although this is probably one case where the Mainstream Media narrative that there's plenty of blame to go around is probably true. Eastwood spoke truth to power in that moment when he told a room full of Republican resentment junkies that liberals Democrats and moderates are Americans and are good people too, among the best in the world that is the true decency that we all should believe is present in most of our fellows regardless of our political differences, and no matter how poorly delivered his Bob Newhart Telephone routine was, he deserves praise for that.
And finally, lets knock it off with the feigned delicacy about his "implied use of the F-word." Give me a fucking break. You don't get to at one point crown the monumentally rude and obnoxious dickhole Chris Christie a rising star in the Republican party well positioned to run in 2016 if Romney loses, and then in the same breath act like your poor refined sensibilities are so offended because Clint Eastwood tricked you into thinking the phrase "go fuck yourself." Christie is famous for his insessant whining, his constant self-aggrandizement and his tendency to insult people rather than actually address genuine bones of contention. He's a piece of shit and if you don't find him offensive, or all of the Romeny campaign's racist dogwhistle politics offensive, or the fact that the whole RNC had a theme that was based on a misrepresentation of something Obama said that nobody thinks means what the GOP is claiming it means, and then act like you've never heard the word fuck before. And if you do do that, frankly, you can go fuck yourself.
In fact, Clint Eastwood was probably the best thing that happened in that convention all week long. It was funny and touching, a little sad to realize that this bright light of American culture is starting to fade, and it was embarassing in how genuine the old man's ad lib ended up being. And that's fine. Because at least he told the truth about a few things and had the decency to not demonize people who disagree with him. And that's a hell of a lot more than you got from any other speaker at the Convention. So yeah, fucking leave Clint alone. There are more deserving targets of your mockery out there, and picking on the old guy just makes you bully. And we have enough Bullies already in this country, as was clearly observable in Tampa the last couple of days.