A Gay Day is a Good Day

NEW SLAUGHTERAny day 20% of the population has a basic right affirmed — otherwise known as a “freedom” by our conservative friends — is good day. So it’s easy to appreciate the enthusiasm and celebration taking place over a law putting to rest decades of legal prejudice against gay people in Minnesota.

But I have to confess to a certain emotional detachment. While this may be another symptom  my chronic, morbid, sociopathic tendencies, (I should probably drink more to modulate them), an easier explanation is that as a straight male I’ve never had a direct personal investment in the gay rights campaign.

As a squishy liberal it’s not like I had to be educated in the fundamental injustice at play in the treatment of gays. But since it wasn’t me, it was simple enough to consign gay prejudice to the sloshing bin of intractable cultural malignancies doing their rotting work on the American promise. The same applied, I guess, to the civil rights movement of the Sixties, when all I could do as a kid was watch from a small Minnesota town. (The highest pitch of anti-Semitism was before my time.)

Continue reading “A Gay Day is a Good Day”

And Now for Something Completely Different…

Well, that was different.

I’m not much of a Rachel Maddow sycophant, but I have to agree with her that Clint Eastwood’s 11-minute performance at last night’s RNC was the most bizarre thing I’ve seen in a major party convention.  Maddow was left speechless – for once – and so was I by the surreal sight of Mr. Eastwood rambling and ad-libbing to an empty chair.  Between the mumbling and the fly-away hairdo, Mr. Eastwood came off less like Dirty Harry and more like the old guy down the block who was pretty normal and neighborly in a curmudgeonly way until the day he started cutting the lawn in his underwear with a katana strapped to his back.

His performance makes two things abundantly clear:

1) Nobody – I mean NOBODY – vetted Eastwood’s remarks.  Not even so much as a “Mr. Eastwood, what do you need with the chair?”

2) Actors without good writers to give them good material are rarely worth listening to.

You are, of course, welcome to disagree with me on this point, but I am 100% sure that Team Romney counts this as a hot mess that is stepping all over the next-day coverage of what was supposed to be “All About Mitt.” Instead, The Big Speech (which in the words of Fox’s Chris Wallace was “workmanlike” at best) has to contend with headlines like:

  • “After a Gunslinger Cuts Loose, Romney Aides Take Cover” – New York Times
  • “Ann Romney: Eastwood Did “A Unique Thing” – CBS News
  • “Clint Eastwood Riff Distracts From Successful Romney Convention” – Washington Post
  • “Clint Eastwood Speech Backfires on Republicans” – Boston.com
  • “Clint Eastwood at the GOP convention: effective, or strange?” – Christian Science Monitor
  • “Clint Eastwood’s empty chair at RNC sparks Internet buzz” – NBC News
  • “Clint Eastwood puts liberals in full panic mode” – New York Daily News
  • “Eastwood mocked for kooky speech at GOP convention” – San Jose Mercury News
  • “Clint Eastwood speech with empty chair upstages Mitt Romney at GOP convention” – Newsday
  • “Eastwood, the empty chair and the speech everyone is talking about” – CNN

And on and on and on.  As of now, Google News is serving up more than 1,500 stories related to the Eastwood speech.  Every one of them distracts, detracts from or otherwise obscures the message Romney and company were hoping we’d be talking about today but aren’t.

Check out the New York Times‘ story this morning on who was responsible for this clusterfuck:

Clint Eastwood’s rambling and off-color endorsement of Mitt Romney on Thursday seemed to startle and unsettle even the candidate’s own top aides, several of whom made a point of distancing themselves from the decision to put him onstage without a polished script.

“Not me,” said an exasperated-looking senior adviser, when asked who was responsible for Mr. Eastwood’s speech. In late-night interviews, aides variously called the speech “strange” and “weird.” One described it as “theater of the absurd.”

Finger-pointing quickly ensued, suggesting real displeasure and even confusion over the handling of Mr. Eastwood’s performance, which was kept secret until the last minute.

A senior Republican involved in convention planning said that Mr. Eastwood’s appearance was cleared by at least two of Mr. Romney’s top advisers, Russ Schriefer and Stuart Stevens. This person said that there had been no rehearsal, to the surprise of the rest of the campaign team.

But another adviser said that several top aides had reviewed talking points given to Mr. Eastwood, which the campaign had discussed with the actor as recently as a few hours before his appearance. Mr. Eastwood, however, delivered those points in a theatrical, and at times crass, way that caught Romney aides off guard, this person said.

Mr. Stevens, in an interview, said he would not discuss internal decision making but described Mr. Eastwood’s remarks as improvised.

There’s some profiles in courage there. I can hardly wait for a Romney presidency in which the aides race one another to their iPhones to rat out their colleagues – anonymously of course – when real decisions go wrong.

Couple last  night’s mess with everything else that went wrong or off-message in Tampa (cancellation of Day 1, the Christie keynote (aka “It’s All About Me”), the cult of Paul Ryan, the peanut tossers, being upstaged by his wife and Condeleeza Rice, the untruths of the Ryan speech, the Ron Paul distractions) and this was NOT a good convention for Romney. Anne Romney, maybe, but not Mitt.

Yes, the GOP talking points would have us believe otherwise, but the reality is that Mitt Romney got less out of this convention than almost anyone. Instead of a bounce, I’m expecting more of a post-convention “thud” in the next set of polls.

Oh well, there’s still the debates.  Governor Romney was pretty good in the Republican debates where he could play Snow White to the Seven Dwarfs but I’m not entirely sure he’ll come across so well in a one-on-one comparison with Obama.

– Austin


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.