A Refresher on Clint Eastwood’s Libertarian Politics

While many have jumped on Clint Eastwood’s use of an invisible president in an empty chair as a rhetorical device as being “weird,” Romney and Republicans have focused on Eastwood’s anti-Obama comments while largely ignoring all the comments that could easily apply to both parties, or the fact that he criticized both wars started by the last Republican president. Meanwhile, the Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan took the time out to chastise Eastwood’s comments on Guantanamo Bay, saying that mocking the decision to try the 9/11 masterminds in New York City was representative of what “Republican courage” actually was, fear. Later, in responding to our own Jesse Walker’s breakdown of the meaning of Clint Eastwood’s speech, Sullivan wrote he suspects “the weirdness of that chair eclipsed anything else of any interest.” Though apparently Eastwood’s comments on Guantanamo were of enough interest to note, Eastwood’s opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and his articulation of an anti-war sentiment on national television just minutes before the Republicans' warmongering candidate was going to make his first speech as the official nominee was not. Not to mention just how lukewarm Eastwood’s endorsement of that nominee was.

Eastwood is not your typical Republican. In fact he identifies himself as one of the libertarian variety, economically conservative and socially liberal. From a Daily Mail interview last year for those needing a refresher:

Eastwood may be a conservative with a small ‘c’ but his politics are not so easily defined. 

‘My dad was fiscally conservative and I was influenced by that. He didn’t believe in spending more than you had because it gets you into trouble. But he was also very understanding of other people’s feelings – religious or whatever – and letting people live the lives they wanted, so he was socially a liberal.

‘And I became more of a libertarian – let’s leave everybody alone, quit screwing with everybody and don’t over-regulate. It’s about giving people a chance to live by their own decisions. And today the liberals aren’t really liberal at all because they won’t leave people alone, and a lot of the conservatives have lost their way fiscally. That’s why the UK, America, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain are all in a mess right now.’

He was opposed to the war in Iraq. 

‘I didn’t understand why we invaded, and I still don’t. It’s the same with Afghanistan. I want the troops from Great Britain and the U.S. to be successful, but by the same token Afghanistan has always been a screw-up. The Russians, who live right next door, couldn’t prevail there, so what are we doing?’

In the last U.S. election he voted for the Republican candidate John McCain rather than Barack Obama. 

‘The first time I voted I was in the army. It was during the Korean War and I voted Republican because it was Eisenhower and he was somewhat heroic to all of us from World War II. So I became a Republican, but I’ve supported Democrats at times, and I don’t necessarily adhere to one line. Sometimes parties make mistakes – they both have. And our parties are in terrible shape – these days we don’t know where the hell they are.

‘I voted for McCain, not because he was a Republican, but because he had been through war (in Vietnam) and I thought he might understand the war in Iraq better than somebody who hadn’t. I didn’t agree with him on a lot of stuff. 

'I loved the fact that Obama is multi-racial. I thought that was terrific, as my wife is the same racial make-up. But I felt he was a greenhorn, and it turned out he didn’t have experience in decision-making.’

A 2005 Salon piece looked at his transformation from “conservative icon disparaged by much of the critical establishment to Hollywood statesman (and Academy favorite) widely vilified on the right” in an interesting and rather detailed overview of Clint Eastwood’s political history. His appearance at the Republican convention and his unorthodox heterodoxy-laced remarks there, as well as the vitriolic response from some on the left and the queasy uneasiness of some on the right is reflective of much of how Clint Eastwood’s largely libertarian politics have often been misunderstood and misinterpreted.

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  • Mr. FIFY||

    Good on ya, Mister Eastwood.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    I think we all know that Mr. Eastwood best summarized his political leanings with this line:

    "A man's got to know his limitations..."

    As should a government, Clint, as should a government.

  • ||

    Well when an adult male is chasing a female with intent to commit rape, I shoot the bastard. That's my policy.

  • ||

    Nothing wrong with shooting as long as the right people get shot!

  • ||

    And when I see six weirdos in tunics stabbing a man in the park in full view of a hundred people, I shoot the bastards, that's my policy.

  • Loki||

    Which bastards? The six weirdos, or the hundred people standing around doing nothing?

  • goneGalt||

    All of them. Let God sort 'em out!

  • Voros McCracken||

    Is that from Sledgehammer? I know that the joke is that it was a stage production of Julius Caesar but I don't remember where the joke was from.

  • ||

    As nice as it is to see that someone as accomplished as Clint has libertarian views, he could be a raging leftard or a hardcore socon and his work would still be good and stand on its own.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Very true. Politicizing achievement in general (and art in specific) is just obnoxious.

    That said, it is sort of nice to know that there are some good director/actors out there who have reasonable politics.

  • ||

    Anyone who publicly reports on or comments on politics but can't recognize or identify a libertarian perspective should find another job.

  • Killazontherun||

    Funny seeing Maddow completely befuddled by libertarianism.

    Hey, she's got a doctorate in political science. If they never discussed libertarianism in her classes, it can't be THAT important!

  • Mensan||

    I took one political science class in college, Intro to Political Science. We did (very briefly) discuss libertarianism once.

    One thing that stands out from that class is the first lecture when the instructor asked what form of government we have in the U.S. About 2 dozen hands went up. The first girl he called on very confidently answered, "a democracy."
    "No, that is incorrect." All hands immediately dropped. "Anybody else?"
    After a few moments of everybody looking around confused I raised my hand and correctly answered "a constitutional republic." The professor responded something to the effect of "at least one of you paid attention in junior high."

  • wef||

    Eastwood was very effective at getting across the normal frustration of emotionally balanced people.

    The deranged, truly dangerous types that feel compelled to pursue politics are threatened by Eastwood's disapproval.

  • kinnath||

    The thing I liked most about his speech last night was he addressed Obama, Romney, and Ryan as "Mr" and not by titles of office.

  • T||

    Nothing bugs me more than calling somebody who's out of office by their former title. It's not a patent of nobility, it's not a lifetime sinecure, it's a fucking job. Once you leave it, you're back to being to Mr. or Ms. Random. That's one the reasons we do this, isn't it?

  • Mensan||

    Are you saying I shouldn't ask people to address me as Staff Sergeant?

  • R C Dean||

    You and me both, T.

  • josh||

    as i get older, i understand this better and better.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Addressing someone as 'Mr. President' is as unsophisticated as a little kid addressing their teacher as 'teacher' and not by their name. Or calling your coach 'coach'. Its dumb.

  • Mensan||

    When I met George W. Bush I addressed him as Sir. But I was in the Army at the time, so I kind of had to.

  • ||

    We all know if some liberal douchebag actor like George Clooney or Matt Damon did the empty chair routine at the DNC the media and the blogosphere would be praising it as "inspired" or "bold" and an all-around indication of how cool and hip President Dreamypants is.

    But since an 82 year conservo-libetarian dared to be irreverent to Obama, they are mocking him as having dementia and being a race-baiter because he said "we own this country", even though he was speaking on TV to a national audience and not just the people at the convention.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I'll bet right about now Michelle Obama wishes she hadn't taken an Eastwood line as her obesity slogan.

    So I lied. So I can't tell time. So maybe some communist bastard's going to make an appointment pop you a new asshole in your forehead. You're Marines now. You adapt. You overcome. You improvise. Let's move. Four minutes!
  • ||

    FoE...you must think in Russian.

  • ||

    I can tell you, the best damned poontang I ever paid for was in Da Nang. The girls were checked out daily. And we got ourself laid in a safe, orderly, proficient, military manner. That is until some suckhead writes home mama and says he dipped his wick in the Republic of South Vietnam. Then the shit hits the fan. A committee of congressmen who asshole to asshole who couldn't make a beer fart in a whirlwind, start telling your basic-ass-in-the-grass, Marine " No more short time ". We responded in true Marine Corps fashion. We salute, do an about face, double time back to the boom-boom garbage dump where we get the clap, and the drip, and the crabs and a generally poor attitude towards the female of the species. War is hell, boy. That's a fact!

  • Killazontherun||

    Lines are a bit overcooked coming one after the other like that. Sounds like a screenwriter trying to put his toughie face on. Forrest Carter and Randall Wallace were always convincing when they put lines in a guy like that's mouth as they never stuffed it to the gills, and usually did so in toss away fashion as not to call more attention to it than warranted.

  • GILMORE||

    Hamburger Hill: Good Role for Clint; Pretty Crap Movie Overall.

    I watched it on Netflix a few months ago. I was disappoint.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Was I the only one who found Clint's speech the most "normal" and non-contrived speaking event in the Republican convention?

  • Pro Libertate||

    That was the best part of it.

  • R C Dean||

    Followed but Rice's speech. They may have been the only two who didn't teleprompt.

  • josh||

    that was part of its brilliance. it dropped the pretense. we know how pols talk when they're not trying to get us to vote for them. they talk like us, and that's what clint did. i also love how he's not releasing a statement about all the criticism. he may talk about it one day, but in the meantime he doesn't give a sh*t.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Wonder if Maddow will apologize for her ageist remarks against Clint?

    Nah, she wouldn't do that. It's okay when leftists do it.

  • ||

    great speech. the only thing i can hold against eastwood was his love/admiration for sondra locke that caused him to have her as his "leading lady" in various movies etc. she has/had little charisma/stage presence and was a mediocre actor at best. including her wasn't egregious like coppola's including of his daughter in godfather III (the worst casting decision in the history of cinema), but locke still kind of sucked. she's just unappealing too - mousy and boring, kind of like that actress from cheers whose name escapes me

    a few buddies of mine from college surf team were from carmel, the city where eastwood served honorably (as far as i know) as mayor

  • T||

    Give it a day or two. If there's any dirt to be dug from his tenure as Mayor, we'll hear about it shortly.

  • Killazontherun||

    Can't blame Cappola for Rider bailing on him though.

  • Lisa||

    I didn't think the chair thing was weird, but then I took drama in school. It was a normal improv performance. He's an actor. I have to wonder if the people who didn't understand the performance even know how films are made.

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    I was disappointed to see someone who had once described himself as "libertarian" lend what was left of his star power to the campaign of someone who was most definitely not a libertarian. But today, when I watched the entire speech with my class and we did our best to identify Eastwood's rhetorical techniques, it seemed clear he was not just Mitt's dancing monkey. While his appearance could be seen as a disappointing, capitulating endorsement, I found it interesting that he followed his description of Romney as a "stellar businessman" with "quote unquote." Maybe he is not so deep in Mitt's pocket after all. Still, if you are a sincere libertarian of any kind, how can you possibly let yourself be associated with a machine like the Romney campaign? Who did Clint owe and how much did he owe?

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    xxx Whom did Clint owe ...

    Sorry; hit SUBMIT before I was finished checking...

  • sasob||

    I thought Eastwood's speech was pretty entertaining. The empty chair thing just seemed a rhetorical device - I've seen something similar before. And senile? Hell, he seemed lucid enough to me. Who knew he had such a wicked sense of humor? I know I've often wished I could tell Obozo to shut up.

  • Sporty||

    Eastwood is not your typical Republican. In fact he identifies himself as one of the libertarian variety, economically conservative and socially liberal.

    This is why Eastwood was at the republican convention ,
    attacking Obama on Bush's actions , destruction and program..

  • Sporty||

    Also the reason the democratic party has the problems we have today is because of the blue dog and right wing centrist So called democrats which are controlling and watering down our actions and policies.

    Most Americans would liked to have a single payer option or one which gave the health and drug companies competition but this group made sure it did not happen.

    Americans wish the tax cut to the top one percent stopped in 2010 , not extended two years.

    Americans wish to have Bush , Cheney , Rove , Rice prosecuted along with wall street but that never happen.

    I believe the 2010 election would have been much different it that had taken place.

  • ||

    That's the Democrats' problem alright. Not statist enough.

    Did you accidentally confuse this website for Democratic Underground or something?

  • Kennon||

    Thanks for the article. For info on people using voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues, please see the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization @ http://​www.Libertarian-Internation​al.org ....

  • Richard Sands||

    Did Clint Eastwood steal Romney's thunder? Dirty PoliTricks Message 4U
    All right. I started, you finish it. Go ahead.
    AUDIENCE: Make my day!
    I wondered about when the -- what do you want me to tell Romney? I can’t tell him to do that. I can’t tell him to do that to himself.
    (APPLAUSE) Clint Eastwood’s message was brilliant social engineering that said, “YES WE CAN” His own Party and US Democrats will in November....

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