January 10, 2009

Clint Eastwood, admitting he voted Republican, said "but Republicans are supposed to be libertarians, aren't they?"

He said it to Randy Barnett, who's back posting at Volokh Conspiracy — with the comments turned off. Barnett does not detail the circumstance under which he met Eastwood and got the chance to interrogate him about his politics. I'm picturing something along the lines of...



Anyway, Randy's post bounces off my post about the new Clint Eastwood movie "Gran Torino." He writes that the character Walt Kowalski is basically the same as Harry Callahan ("Dirty Harry"):
[I]n Gran Torino he treats the character with complete respect--without a hint of self-parody--thereby respecting and satisfying those who always liked the character. Anyone who enjoyed this character then, like Ann ("a guilty pleasure for us peace-and-love hippies"), will enjoy him now all the more. The big difference is the critical hype that Eastwood gets today, that he never got back then, thus permitting those who despised Harry to buy Walt. OK, I admit that Eastwood has grown over the years as an actor though, like John Wayne, he was always far better than the critics would admit.
Do you remember back when Pauline Kael was reviewing movies and she deplored Dirty Harry for his "fascism"? I can't find her old review on line, but I did find this 2005 article by Christopher Orr which reads "Million Dollar Baby" as Eastwood's attempt "to make amends for his early career, when he became famous as the vengeful loner, the angel of violent retribution, the Man with a Gun":
Eastwood is the rare artist who has gone from being condemned as a fascist propagandist by the left to being condemned as a fascist propagandist by the right. The former charge was leveled in 1971, when the New Yorker's Pauline Kael described "Dirty Harry" as "fascist medievalism"; the latter, earlier this month, when Ted Baehr, the head of the Christian Film and Television Commission, declared "Million Dollar Baby" to be a "neo-Nazi movie." The particulars of the accusations have little in common: Kael was objecting to "Dirty Harry's" enthusiasm for vigilante justice, Baehr to "Million Dollar Baby's" perceived support of euthanasia....

[W]hile it's true that Eastwood's work, as an actor and especially as a director, has espoused a vague political philosophy -- and one that has evolved over time -- it has never been nearly as programmatic as either his admirers or his detractors imagine. The films he made early in his career were never as "conservative" as their reputation, and even his most prominent revisionist works -- "Unforgiven," "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby" -- are not as "liberal" as theirs. Both the fascist medievalist of the 1970s and the neo-Nazi eugenicist of today have been largely the projections of his accusers' own political nightmares.
Or maybe he's a libertarian!

IN THE COMMENTS: Chuck b. writes:
Clint Eastwood should play Tim Gunn in the movie version of Project Runway. He can sing too, so make it a musical.

"That's a lot of look. Make my day!"

"I'm not sure about this marabou trim. Don't bore Nina." [pulls back his jacket to reveal holstered Colt .45]

"In this world there's two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who pick carefully and wisely from the Blue-fly accessories wall."

"I know what you're thinking. Do you need six zippers on that pleather skirt, or only five?"

48 comments:

AllenS said...

We need more Libertarians and Conservatives shooting bad guys.

Ron said...

hmmm...I'll go back to the grace and charm of the shower pooping post (say those last 3 words fast, 3 times!) over Pauline Kael...

I view Unforgiven as an argument for hewing to what you know best, in this case, drunken violence, as opposed to being a failed pacifist, father, farmer, and religious person.

ricpic said...

Only a confirmed lefty could claim Eastwood's recent films don't quite make the liberal grade. Eastwood has, for whatever internal reasons, surrendered his soul to the devil; or as the beeyootiful people say, he's grown.

Bob said...

Yah, he seems to be mildly libertarian with a strong Protestant work ethic.

I'm definitely going to see Gran Torino this afternoon. If the music is as good as the snippet on the website, I'll be buying the soundtrack CD, also.

One side-effect to look for in gun shops if the movie is a hit is a run on old M1 Garands and 1911 pistols. Smith & Wesson should have given Eastwood an award for helping their sales of .44 Magnums for all these years.

Michael said...

Or maybe he's an actor!

Ralph said...

I suspect he doesn't like high tax rates, and he's been in the top bracket for decades. That's what made Reagan a conservative. It's difficult for self-employed actors to shelter their income.

Bissage said...

It might have just occurred to me that Clint Eastwood had a cameo role in “Fellini Satyricon” but I can’t be really sure because I’m probably still hallucinating.

Original George said...

World needs a sheriff.

Something Barry's gonna learn.

I wonder, when he was growing up, how many westerns he watched. Did the values in those shows get under his skin? Independence. Honesty. Courage.

My kids have grown up watching Pokeman and other pathetic Japanese cartoons about puffy grobeasts. No sense of our mythic past.

The only character tougher than anyone Eastwood's played is Lucas McCain.

"Paw, paw...! Sheriff says come to town!"

Just a single parent doing volunteer work around North Fork.

save_the_rustbelt said...

If I remember correctly, the liberals were all over Eastwood because Dirty Harry shot a serial killer in the leg - which told us a lot about liberals back then.

That Eastwood now deals with more complex characters hardly makes him a lefty, except to the dittoheads.

Bob said...

save_the_rustbelt said...

If I remember correctly, the liberals were all over Eastwood because Dirty Harry shot a serial killer in the leg - which told us a lot about liberals back then.


Dirty Harry not only shot the serial killer in the leg, but tortured a confession out of him by grinding his heel into the wound. Liberals would still condemn that, although Harry did it to save the life of a kidnap victim who was buried underground with limited air. (The girl was already dead, but Harry didn't know it at the time). For leftists, better that the girl die than Harry torture the information out of the bad guy.

The Drill SGT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Drill SGT said...

I wonder, when he was growing up, how many westerns he watched. Did the values in those shows get under his skin? Independence. Honesty. Courage.

I think you ought to add Justice to the list. That seems to me to be a common theme in Clint's films.

Not Law and Order. Justice

I could relate to Clint's concept of "Social Justice" :)

The Drill SGT said...

Dirty Harry not only shot the serial killer in the leg, but tortured a confession out of him by grinding his heel into the wound. Liberals would still condemn that, although Harry did it to save the life of a kidnap victim who was buried underground with limited air. (The girl was already dead, but Harry didn't know it at the time). For leftists, better that the girl die than Harry torture the information out of the bad guy.

something Alan Dershowitz would disapprove of, but understand, and the rest of Harvard Law would abhor.

Sounds like your basic waterboarding discussion of 2008.

"if the terrorists had planted a bomb in.... and we captured one of them.... should you get him an attorney or call for a couple of Marine Gunnies?"

Michael H said...

Well, do ya, punk?

AllenS said...

I wonder, is Clint Eastwood, Chuck Norris' father? Norris' magical powers must come from somewhere.

Bob said...

YouTube has the torture scene we've mentioned above.

somefeller said...

Clint Eastwood is one of the greatest American artists of the post World War II era. Movies like "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and "High Plains Drifter" are masterpieces, not to mention his later works. The fact that he has been chastised by boring ideologues of the Right and Left only adds to his distinction.

Also, it's amusing to see people still complaining about the (admittedly naive) positions on crime and punishment among some people on the left in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It's as though the last couple of decades (big drop in crime stats, large-scale bipartisan return to capital punishment, harsher prison sentences, etc.) didn't happen. Keep on nursing those ancient grudges and partying like it's 1979, folks. That'll get you real far, I'm sure.

The Drill SGT said...

Thanks Bob,

I had knew Alan had written on various "ticking bomb" scenarios, but had no idea that somebody had connected the obvious dots to Dirty Harry.

William said...

John Wayne's toughness, at least later in his career, was that of the father-protector. He was the man you wanted to grow up to be. I think Sean Connery had in later films that same type of mellow violence. Gary Cooper in High Noon was the archetype... There was something more deranged about Eastwood. Murder and torture weren't the grim necessities of Dirty Harry's job; they were the perks. The sheer delight that Harry took in making the bad guys squirm was what made him so different than previous heroes. A sociopathic era required a sociopathic hero....I've always liked Clint Eastwood but IMHO I think Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Sean Connery were way cooler.

SteveR said...

I agree with somefeller who picks two of my favorite Eastwood films. Its only adds to his greatness that his body of work, individually and collectively, defies simplistc analysis.

He's an actor and filmaker and I have been entertained by a lot of what he has done. In that regard he can do what he wants.

Cedarford said...

Eastwood is more circumspect and ambiguous in his politics and lifestyle than the typical Hollywood liberal Democrat.
I don't ever remember Eastwood fawning over political candidates at fundraiser or at inaugurals like Babs and thousands of others.

Eastwood is a moderate.

He is not his various film personas he helped craft with the likes of Siegel, Sergio Leone, or he did in solo efforts like the callow DJ of "Play Misty for Me" or a drunken countryboy, or was somehow making a "statement" in Mystic River employing some big-time liberals like Penn and Robbins, or "anti-violence" through "Flags" or "the Unforgiven".

Unlike Wayne and Cooper, he has taken on a fair share of roles of personas that were not heroic good guys. He has played failures. Amoral characters.

A moderate, whose pals include a lot of liberal black musicians he has known and played jazz with since the 50s...

Trooper York said...

Both Wayne and Cooper took on roles where they were not solely heroic good guys. Wayne in Red River and the Searchers played deeply flawed men who were redeemed at the end but where far from iconic good guys. Cooper in They Came to Codura and Vera Cruz were not full blown heroes. There was a lot of dare I say "nuance" in many of their roles.

knox said...

"but Republicans are supposed to be libertarians, aren't they?

Well, Clint, I'd sure like to think so, but all the evidence speaks differently.

Trooper York said...

Walt Kowalski: Jesus, Joseph and Mary. These Hmong broads are like badgers.
(Gran Torino, 2009)

mariner said...

If Mort were awake he'd say Walt Kowalski is a misogynist because he put Joseph ahead of Mary.

chuck b. said...

Clint Eastwood should play Tim Gunn in the movie version of Project Runway. He can sing too, so make it a musical.

"That's a lot of look. Make my day!"

"I'm not sure about this marabou trim. Don't bore Nina." [pulls back his jacket to reveal holstered Colt .45]

"In this world there's two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who pick carefully and wisely from the Blue-fly accessories wall."

"I know what you're thinking. Do you need six zippers on that pleather skirt, or only five?"

1jpb said...

I'm w/ Althouse; liberatarianism, not Republicanism, is at the core of a lot of his characters/caricatures. And, as Cedaraford/Somefeller, noted the old stuff is informative.

Looking at the older westerns, his characters/caricatures don't seem party line, as much as they seem blow-up party line common sense and self reliance--could be seen as shades of libertarianism.

For example, how awesome is it when he blows up the bridge in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly?

Or, playing off idiots in For a Few Dollars More.

Or, Fighting evil business men, while highlighting the selfishness and fear of victims in Pale Rider. Then, another take on this sort of thing in High Plains.

Or, Josey Wales blowing apart cliche understandings of good and bad.

Or, Jed's struggles w/ the sloppiness when core right and wrong don't track with power in Hang Em High.

Sure, these characters/caricatures represent in your face messages (no need to extrapolate, or discover meaning), but they're sort-of anti-cliche in your face messages, so I'm a huge fan.

Zach said...

From the comment quoted in Barnett's post:

I kind of despise Clint Eastwood ever since . . . [Unforgiven.] That movie took the glamour of violence to a new level of hypocrisy. It was all about how awful violence is — lots and lots of violence for you to deplore, and the hero who hated it but was really good at it, talk about Hollywood having their cake and eating it too.

I always read Unforgiven not as a commentary on violence but as a commentary on Eastwood. Here is a man who was violent in his youth. He feels guilt for the violence, and has trod the narrow path as long as he can. In the end, he discovers that violence is all he's good at.

The first title card read

She was a comely young woman and not without prospects. Therefore it was heartbreaking to her mother that she would enter into marriage with William Munny, a known thief and murderer, a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition. When she died, it was not at his hands as her mother might have suspected, but of smallpox. That was 1878.

The final title card reads


Some years later, Mrs. Ansonia Feathers made the arduous journey to Hodgeman County to visit the last resting place of her only daughter. William Munny had long since disappeared with the children... some said to San Francisco where it was rumored he prospered in dry goods. And there was nothing on the marker to explain to Mrs. Feathers why her only daughter had married a known thief and murderer, a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition.


Note the question raised in both cards: what does the comely young lady (the audience) see in a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition (Eastwood and his violent roles).

Kirby Olson said...

I have heard that there are many closet Republicans in Hollywood. Another one is Dennis Hopper. Hopper has been Republican for years, but claims he voted for Obama.

traditionalguy said...

The attraction of Eastwood's display of violence more or less under your social group's control is attractive the same way firearms are attractive. They represent the power to defend the social group from attack by the most dangerous animals on earth. That well known animal is another tribal group of homo sapiens seeking to hunt you down and steal your resources such as women and children to be slaves for themselves, and then kill you and destroy your group's identity and thereby win a victory for that tribe's Demon Gods who directed them to do it. Other than that, weapons and violence are totally unnecessary and always socially unacceptable. What ever happened to those Neanderthals anyway?

The Drill SGT said...

traditionalguy said...
The attraction of Eastwood's display of violence more or less under your social group's control is attractive the same way firearms are attractive.


I think that great non-Orwell quote describes it in fewer words.

Good people sleep safe at night in their beds, because rough men are prepared to do violence on their behalf

ex-rough-man :)

Tibore said...

"Ralph said...
I suspect he doesn't like high tax rates, and he's been in the top bracket for decades. That's what made Reagan a conservative. It's difficult for self-employed actors to shelter their income."


Sorry... not trying to be picky or overly pendantic here, but if I remember correctly, what moved Reagan out of the Democratic party was what he viewed was the increasing embrace of collectivist principles and movement away from the New Deal type principles that he embraced when he was younger. I'm sure economic issues had a great deal to do with his conversion, but as I recall, that was merely a component of his overall philosophy, not the sole reason in and of itself.

----

"1jpb said...
I'm w/ Althouse; liberatarianism, not Republicanism, is at the core of a lot of his characters/caricatures."


Yes, agreed. In his characters I see an idealism of the lone person using his freedoms to the limit written into them. And those characters were also much more about reliance on one's own skills and abilities than relying on external entities or authorities. Totally libertarian.

EDH said...

Bob,

I always thought the movie Dirty Harry did an excellent job of exploring the morally ambiguous territory into which Eastwood's charater waded during the "ticking bomb" torture scene.

As the camera recedes into the fog above San Franscisco, it not only powerfully symbolizes that moral ambiguity, but also changes perspective on the scene enough to question whether there is a larger interest to be protected outside of the interests of this one cop, kidnapper and victim.

Cinimatically, very well done in my opinion.

The Crack Emcee said...

"Eastwood is more circumspect and ambiguous in his politics and lifestyle than the typical Hollywood liberal Democrat.
I don't ever remember Eastwood fawning over political candidates at fundraiser or at inaugurals like Babs and thousands of others.

Eastwood is a moderate."


Bullshit: Eastwood is a Democrat. Perfectly respectable.

The rest of 'em are slimy "progressives."

Duscany said...

Ann had it right. Eastwood is a libertarian. Always has been.

Jeff said...

Clint Eastwood on his political philosophy: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2008/jun/06/1

"I've always been a libertarian. Leave everybody alone. Let everybody else do what they want. Just stay out of everybody else's hair. So I believe in that value of smaller government. Give politicians power and all of a sudden they'll misuse it on ya."

I think he might be a libertarian.

newton said...

Isn't (or wasn't) Eastwood the major of a CA town? (If anyone knows about this...)

Larry said...

Am I alone in realizing when Eastwood went off the reservation? It was in a CHICK FLICK--The Bridges of Madison County. He's never been quite right since.

Larry said...

Oh, and the answer to Newton's question is "yes," he was mayor of Carmel. That's where the Pebble Beach Gold Tournament and Clssic Car shows draw people from all over the world. A rich person's enclave, but he ran as a conservative. That was before Bridges of Madison County, of course.

Larry said...

And of course I meant "golf" not "gold," even though a lot of gold changes hands at that tournament.

SteveR said...

Yeah Larry but look what he got to do to Meryl Streep.

Franco said...

I think we are all reading a little too much into Clint.

First, he is an actor as someone has already pointed out. Certainly all those old westerns and Dirty Harry movies were not under his directorial control. He either took the part or didn't.

Second, films start with a screenplay, so directors may choose a given screenplay as reflective of their political philosophies but I don't think even the most partisan director would turn a film down because he holds a subtly differing view of the script.

( while Zach's point is very interesting, I doubt that Clint wrote that into the screenplay of Unforgiven)

Third, I believe it is exceedingly difficult to be a multimillionaire with a thriving directorial career and also have a fully formed political philosophy that somehow can be imparted to audiences through different films with any consistency.

Forensic Philosophy is not an exact science.

Lastly, any analysis leaving out the little known, "Bronco Billy" Clint's directorial debut and one of my absolute favorite films of all time, should be steeply discounted.

jeff said...

Has your wife ever mentioned not giving away the ending to movies that a lot of us have not seen yet?

Ann Althouse said...

Michael wrote:

"I saw Gran Torino last evening. Brilliant movie.

"The Walt Kowalski character seemed to me to be a late-in-life version of Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway, the character Eastwood played in Heartbreak Ridge.

"My wife, who teaches film, pointed out..."

I deleted his comment because it has a terrible spoiler! And btw, we all notice that. The reason no one else is saying it is because we don't want to spoil the ending.

Ann Althouse said...

That was Michael H, not "Michael," the commenter who annoys so many of you.

Michael H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael H said...

Althouse - Thanks. Sorry. Inadvertant.

MH

Werner said...

Conservatives are always complaining about "state control" but they are the ones responsible as much as the "other" side. Run a country like an army and you have got a general idea how marxism works BUT that is also the "ideal" to a neo-con. There are plenty of people who claim to be right wing working in industries that would not exist without government subsidies or military types whose entire lives exist without contact with "private" enterprise.