Clint Eastwood: Squint-eyed liberal.

It was a bit loud at the father-son Super Bowl party my oldest son threw. But despite the din of clanking bottles, lips smacking on smoked ribs and bawdy references no mother should ever hear, I was startled to see Dirty Harry, former Republican mayor of Carmel, squint into the camera and tell 113 million fans that Detroit/America was bouncing back up off the mat and the world was going to hear “our engines roar” again.

Arthur Bryant super sauce dribbling off my chin, I thought, “Old Clint is making a pro bail-out statement of fact … the usual suspects aren’t going to like this.” And indeed they haven’t. The modern conservative intelligentsia, the “movement’s” deepest thinkers, talk radio jockeys, bloggers like Michelle Malkin, Sean Hannity and empire-builder, Karl Rove — all rushed to their nearest microphone to denounce the ad, while being careful not to tar so noted, an old-school, crusty Republican icon as Clint Eastwood.

I am forever amazed at the morbid, faithless messaging of conservative tacticians. The image of America they sell is constantly one where change of any kind, even in the face of obvious failure, equals doom, often full-out apocalyptic doom. Pick an issue. Adequate health coverage for everyone = total government control of whether grannie lives or dies. Full disclosure of SuperPAC funding = socialist assault on the God-given Constitutional freedom to slide hundreds of millions of dollars to whomever without having to admit anything publicly, not to mention suffering the high likelihood that with public disclosure (something the rubes giving $50 have to accept) comes inevitable, harrowing harrassment. From who? From, take your pick, “jack booted union thugs”, Red Hat ladies and/or Occupy protestors who will call donors mean names from the streets beneath their Wall Street office towers.

But that’s their game. Fatalism, and selling the belief that nothing about a vibrant 21st century culture and economy can change without risking (hell, guaranteeing) collapse of everything we hold true and dear is quintessential politics uber alles, the only game and idea modern conservatives really have. (I await an example of an actual policy proposal from Mittens Romney). The status quo, a fossil fuel dependent economy and a massively lobbied tax system works for them, ergo it works for the Tea Party organizer living in a trailer in beautiful exurban Pahrump, Nevada. Everyone wins, by the operative cognoscenti winning most.

The irony of Clint Eastwood lending his Hollywood tough guy gravitas to the message, from Chrysler, which did work a few shots of its better, but still not great, cars into the spot is that he embodies in so many ways the Republican mind set of yore. Iconoclastic guys like Eastwood are the ones the Roves, Malkins, Hannitys and Limbaughs have muzzled and pushed aside in their fantastically lucrative drive to convince the fearful — those who see in Barack Obama “the face of the future they fear” — that health insurance and financial reform are the matches that light the fuse of the Mayan apocalypse.

You don’t turn to Eastwood (or Brad Pitt for that matter) for your deep thinking on socio-political matters. But the truth is anyone who has become successful in the snakepit business of Hollywood knows a thing or hundred about negotiating, collaboration, motivation and bouncing back from the occasional hammering.

Rove et al are rightfully afraid (that word again) that too many Americans will accept the meme that the auto industry bail-outs succeeded. Much as they continue to sell (mostly at rallies with their choir) that all the bail-outs, especially those that maintained a semblance of union authority, failed miserably. Old school characters like Eastwood, with commendable skepticism and disdain for political messaging of all stripes, prefer the more Darwinian approach to human resilience. Namely, that if something worked, it worked. Accept it gratefully and live to prosper.

In modern conservatism’s hyper-partisan fantasy land where the only viable truth is what destroys the opposition, there is no such thing as conceding any fact, even one that put legs back under the “salt of the earth” “real Americans” all their flag-waving messaging purports to care so much about. An outcome for the new school Republican party, which it sounds like ol’ Clint finds as tedious as your average hysterical lefty, is never successful unless and until the check is in the bank.





18 thoughts on “Clint Eastwood: Squint-eyed liberal.

  1. Jeremy Powers says:

    All I can guess is that the Republicans not only want Obama to fail, they want America to fail. That’s the only reasoning why you would complain about a half-time pep talk from famous libertarian curmudgeon.

  2. I’m not convinced it was even pro bailout. Was it? It seemed like one of those image spots that flood the airwaves on Sundy morning. Feel good was the message — nothing more.

    It appears that the Smack Radio crowd starts out loking for something to hate, something to tear down, and works backwards from there.

    “Look, it’s a Hollywood guy — he has to be wrong about something. And Chrysler? They took bailout money (unlike the banks we do not criticize) so they have to be wrong, too.”

    1. There was nothing explicit, of course. But in the etherized atmosphere of (nothing but) hyper-partisan apocalyptic messaging, the mere suggestion that Detroit/America is coming back is pro-Obama, and therefore “Chicago style politics”.

      BTW, what was the last time Rove (or Malkin or Hannity or Limbaugh) exposed himself to a rebuttal on anything but FoxNews?

      1. So true. The ad worked – it made me feel good, damnit! And Chrysler is a great success story – that the “bailout” – loans and loan guarantees – along with Fiat made possible.

        At the end of the day, the strategy worked, that’s the what really matters, here. GM & Chrysler are building the best cars in their history, people are employed, they are expanding, etc., etc.

        IF McCain had won (shudder), me thinks you would have seen a similar scenario play out. The amount of jobs lost would have gone FAR beyond just the automakers. And it would have hit Ford as well, as suppliers and support companies would have been adversely affected.

        Rove and company have nothing, besides “Obama: Bad!” And its been that since Day One – actually, prior to Day One, thank you, Mitch McConnell.

  3. Joe Loveland says:

    You captured it, Brian. What is different with this Republican Party compared to the one I grew up with is the degree to which it overstates arguments. The temperature of the hyperbole is exponentially hotter. The talkradioization of governance.

  4. PM says:

    Yeah, it is a stark difference from the old Republican “Morning in America” theme, isn’t it? This relentlessly negative tone of the current Republican crop is a real problem for them, particularly if things actually start to get better.

    But onto the really important issues: Arthur Bryant sauce? Really? Personally, I really like Bryant’s sauce, but, frankly, every time I expose a Minnesotan to this gritty, grainy delight, they always recoil and reach for the brown sugar/fake smoke stuff that dominates this wasteland of barbeque. You apparently have hidden depths, Brian.

    1. The Lambert family had Easter dinner at Arthur’s not so long ago. And very long ago I had my picture taken with Arthur. His sauce is a splendid albeit acquired taste, but those baked beans … damn! The quiet old guy made a pact with the devil. Maybe at a crossroads, like Robert Johnson.

      1. Ellen says:

        Was Clint Eastwood in a commercial? I don’t remember a thing after David Beckham…
        As someone posted on twitter:
        David Beckham – 1. American Husbands – 0.

    2. PM says:

      I have managed to eat at Bryant’s numerous times in my life. Loved the bullet proof glass and the old wooden stump chopping block, not to mention the red and white checked vinyl tableclothes. Probably been a decade since I’ve been back in KC, and am sort of afraid of what it might have become in the meantime.

      So why is MN such a BBQ wasteland? I have found at least one great place for ribs and wings, but the sauce is terrible (at least they serve it on the side–C&G’s BBQ:

  5. Erik says:


    Detroit is emblematic of the larger question: is the national economy coming back?

    The salient figures are that 200,000 jobs created in a month apparently ticks the unemployment rate down to 8.3%. But we’re apparently to ignore the 1 – 2 million people that drop out of the workforce each month. You know… baby boomer mortgage guys, auto workers, and journalists for that matter who aren’t old enough to retire but whose industries are dead. They’ll never have a regular job again.

    So forgive our very warranted skepticism. The car companies are not back. Debt was discharged and they were stabilized as smaller operations. Detroit is in fact dying. There aren’t enough people working within the city limits to sustain it. Cash for Clunkers was an irresponsible, stupid waste of money. This is not a matter of semantics or imperviousness to fact.

      1. Erik says:

        I’m not sure what it is we’re to be disabused of having taken your guidance to read this article.

        To the extent Clint’s motives are in question, they shouldn’t be. He’s a filmmaker and he got paid to make a short film. If Clint’s and Chrysler’s artistic vision were not compatible it wouldn’t have gotten made, and that’s all well and good. But Chrysler’s motives are certainly worthy of examination. And despite his bogeyman status, Rove’s critique is perfectly legitimate. The whole things smacks of a ring kissing exercise by Chrysler.

        This is the beef, in fact. Not whether Detroit is or isn’t back.

  6. Erik says:

    Even if the car business were fixed, by the way, housing is not, and this is a bigger problem and bigger drag on the economy. The administration has been both incompetent and malfeasant in their timidity to the banks. Again, this is not a matter of semantics or imperviousness to fact. It is however another reason this victory dance is absurd.

  7. PM says:

    Wow. What a terrible night for Mittens. To be swept by Rick Santorum?

    Seriously, it seems the only way the Romney wins is when he spends massive amounts of cash and goes hugely negative. And what happened to all of his supporters from 2008? If I remember correctly, in 2008 he was supposed to be the conservative alternative to the moderate (McCain). Now he is losing all of his support because he isn’t conservative enough? Is that because he has changed his positions, or because the electorate has changed?

    And, I suppose it must be said–what a terrible night for all of the Republican establishment. This is as much a rejection of Pawlenty as it is of Romney.

  8. john sherman says:

    I’m not certain right-to-lifers would care much for Million Dollar Baby which as I recall Clint both starred in and directed.

    My take on the ad was: “It’s morning in America, but it’s cold, snowy and I’ve got a hangover.”

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