Can Clint Eastwood Bring the Troops Home from Afghanistan?

In what Jesse Walker rightly called “the greatest speech in the history of political conventions,” the veteran actor/director and American icon Clint Eastwood talked about the folly of the war in Afghanistan to President Obama, who he imagined sat in a chair next to him during his surprise appearance at the Republican National Convention in Tampa Thursday night, for which Eastwood used no notes and no teleprompter.

A word to those mocking Eastwood speaking to “an empty chair” as a way to belittle his message: some other speakers, unlike Eastwood largely professional politicians, addressed the president directly at some points in their speeches. It’s a matter of debate just how many (or few) of the questions and comments directed at the president in the Republican National Convention Obama heard. But can you honestly deny the president was watching, and listening, as Eastwood was addressing him?

After asking the president about broken promises (mentioning only Guantanamo specifically),  Eastwood told him:

“I know you were against the War in Iraq and that's okay. But you thought the war in Afghanistan was, was okay. I mean, you thought that was something that was worth doing. We didn't check with the Russians to see how they did there for the ten years. We did it. It’s something to be thought about.”

It ought to be noted here that the American war in Afghanistan began in the fall of 2001 as a response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and after much of Al-Qaeda’s forces and their allies the Taliban, who ruled the county, were routed, President George W. Bush decided to stay and nation build. The war in Afghanistan is now America’s longest war, with no end in sight.

Eastwood continued:

“You mentioned something about having a target date for bringing everybody home and you give that target date and I think Mr. Romney has the only sensible question, though, why are you giving the date out now? Why don’t you just bring them home tomorrow morning?”

This decidedly anti-war stance actually received a good amount of applause from the delegates who this week nominated the pro-war Mitt Romney over the anti-war Ron Paul (votes for whom at the convention were not counted).

Romney, of course, did ask Obama why he would announce a date for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, but he questioned the decision because he doesn’t support a withdrawal from Afghanistan. Romney’s stance on the war America is embroiled in as he runs for president stands in stark contrast to the one his father, George Romney, took on the war in Vietnam, which dominated the nation’s attention when he was running for president himself in 1967. He actually came out against that folly and pointed out that the military was “brainwashing” politicians into supporting the war in Vietnam. Then considered a gaffe, it was actually an accurate description of the political establishment’s misguided and blind commitment to escalating military involvement in Southeast Asia.  It ended, of course, the elder Romney’s  chances at winning the nomination.  

This year, Ron Paul ran for the Republican nomination for president advocating a decidedly non-interventionist foreign policy. Though mercifully I did not watch every Republican presidential debate this season, Paul could have easily asked the question of the president about bringing the troops home that Eastwood misattributed to a decidedly pro-war Mitt Romney.

While Clint Eastwood advocated a Ron Paul-style approach to Afghanistan, his view on Gitmo was a bit more muddled. While addressing the president about broken promises, he said this of the American detention camp in Cuba:

Even some of the people in your own party were very disappointed when you didn't close Gitmo, and I thought, well, I think closing Gitmo, why close it up? We spent so much money on it… I thought it was just because someone had the stupid idea of trying terrorists in downtown New York City. I've got to hand it to you... you did overrule that, finally. Now we're moving onward.”

Onward Eastwood moved immediately into the riff on Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the end, Eastwood turned his attention from the president to all Americans (“whether you're Democrat, or whether you're a Republican or whether you're libertarian or whatever”), saying that “politicians are employees of ours, so they're just going to come around and beg for votes every few years and it's the same old deal… We don't have to be masochists and vote for somebody we don't really want in office just because they seem to be nice guys, or maybe not so nice guys, if you look at some of the recent ads going out there, I don't know.” Responding to the sporadic chants of “make my day” throughout the speech (at the first outburst he told the crowd to “save some for Mitt”) and a call from the floor that interrupted this final thought of his, he added:  “But, okay. You wanna make my day, huh.”

Whether the Republicans will make Clint Eastwood’s day (which appears to include bringing the troops home now), he certainly made the day of anyone disturbed by the lack of attention this election season to the ever-continuing war in Afghanistan, many pundits’ best attempts to talk about anything about Clint Eastwood’s speech other than the monumental diss of the Republican Party and its presidential candidate’s blind embrace of the war in Afghanistan notwithstanding.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    “You mentioned something about having a target date for bringing everybody home and you give that target date and I think Mr. Romney has the only sensible question, though, why are you giving the date out now? Why don’t you just bring them home tomorrow morning?”

    Is Eastwood repeating that line in an equally mocking tone, or does he believe the war should be brought to a speedy end? I can't tell which.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    I took it as an "in it to win it" type thing; you either fight to an end, or you stop now.

    My overall takeaway is that, if you want Republicans to take criticism on their war policies, you have to do it in a roundabout way by criticizing the Democrats that continue those policies.

  • Cenotaph||

    Eastwood is anti-war.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's sad that governments are chiefed by the double tongues. There is iron in your words of death for all Comanche to see, and so there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron. It must come from men. The words of Ten Bears carries the same iron of life and death. It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life. . .or death. It shall be life.

  • WTF||

    Dyin' ain't much of a living, boy.

  • Brutus||

    One of his greatest lines, ever.

  • MJGreen||

    Oh, so is the picture of the back of Obama's chair basically saying, "Fuck you, I'm not listening"? I thought a big part of modern political lore is that the President "works for" and is supposed to listen to "us."

    But LOL he's rad and Eastwood's just some square conservative.

  • Mike M.||

    "Fuck you, I'm not listening" is Obama's implicit and explicit message to virtually the entire country, not just old Clint.

  • Russell||

    If your party's left out
    On Afghanistan's plains
    Why lift up Clint's magnum
    And blow out its brains?
    Just go , to the polls,
    Like a soldier.

  • NeonCat||

    +1 Barrack Room Ballad

  • Russell||

    When Mitt's been left out
    On Afghanistan's plains
    And Bob Dole comes out
    To cut off what remains
    We'll remember Clint's speech
    Was worth both their brains
    And just say no
    At the polls here

  • ||

    The left's reaction to Clint's "betrayal" is amusing. Haven't seen any speeches other than Rand's, was it any good?

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Apatheist,

    Haven't seen any speeches other than Rand's, was it any good?


    For me, it was great. I thought the "Harvey the rabbit" bit was hilarious, even if some on the humorless left found it offensive. He also dropped the "L" bomb out there.

    (No, he didn't say "Lesbianism")

    Did you catch Stossel yesterday on FBC? Hopefully, Reason will post the whole video because it was quite good - even the part where Nick "The Jacket" Gillespie dropped the "A" bomb on a eerily silent audience.

    (Yes, he said "Abortion")

  • Tonio||

    Call me cynical, but I see this as simple oppositional politics. Team Blue fails to close the prison at Gitmo; Team Red suddenly discovers that they are all in favor of closing the prison at Gitmo. Etc. And this isn't a slam on Eastwood, my impression is that he's far more libertarian-leaning than the Team Red base and establishment. And both of the teams do this sort of thing.

    Also, can anyone read the plaque on the back of that chair in the Oval Office?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think it's interesting that they let Eastwood speak so freely and so much off the cuff. It's no secret that he has some libertarian leanings.

  • Tonio||

    That, too. My best take on that is that he's a Reagan-surrogate. But once he starts speaking live, there's really not much they can do other than cut his mic and then have to explain that.

    Also, he's not perceived as a threat the way Ron Paul would have been.

  • Pro Libertate||

    To be fair to the silly Republicans, it was a fairly gutsy call. They knew he'd go off the reservation, but they took the chance, anyhow.

  • GILMORE||

    can anyone read the plaque on the back of that chair in the Oval Office?

    "If you can read this, it means no one is listening to you any more and you can let yourself out"

  • Pro Libertate||

    "The buck stops over there, with the Republicans."

  • ||

    "Made in China"

  • MWG||

    The Bill and Monica commemorative leather swivel chair.

  • OldMexican||

    The Bill and Monica commemorative leather swivel chair.


    That's stain-resistant leather swivel chair.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "Team Blue fails to close the prison at Gitmo; Team Red suddenly discovers that they are all in favor of closing the prison at Gitmo. Etc."

    huh? This works if you think Clint Eastwood = Team Red. Unfortunately that's not the case. I think his point was about not doing the things you said you would do.

  • Tonio||

    And calling out your opponents on their failure to keep their promises, even if you opposed those promises from the beginning, is also standard fare.

    And he's Team Red enough for them to have invited him to speak during primetime.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "And calling out your opponents on their failure to keep their promises, even if you opposed those promises from the beginning, is also standard fare."

    Is it your contention that there is a faction in the realm of politics that is immune from "standard fare"?

  • Cenotaph||

    Eastwood isn't a Republican or a conservative. Don't take what he says as the voice of "Team Red".

  • Broseph of Invention||

    I think you're right, Tony. The kind of people likely to listen due to Clint's persona are the kind for whom pointing out Obama's flaws will have more of an impact than selling GOP ideas. Republicans need to be sold on Romney. Everyone else needs to be turned away from Obama, and probably wouldn't listen to the rest of the GOP anyway.

  • Tonio||

    Tony's not here, Bro.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    Apologies. Something didn't seem right.

  • Dan's brother Jeff||

    Talking to an empty chair? Crazy!

  • Brutus||

    Bob Newhart made a career of talking to a disconnected phone receiver.

  • ||

    Good lord the media is in full retard attack mode. Eastwood suddenly has become the crazy grampa that needs to go soak his teeth and take a nap.

  • WTF||

    I didn't see his speech, but based on the reaction it must have hit home.

  • SKR||

    Is it just me or was the dialog an homage to Jimmy Stewart and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington?

  • ||

    I can't wait to watch TEAM BLUE and TEAM RED fight over a classic, legendary actor. TEAM BLUE should get especially retarded. This is going to be fun.

  • Dan's brother Jeff||

  • Cenotaph||

    The people of the future will know nothing about Dirty Harry or Josey Wales or a Million Dollar Baby. They WILL know about the night a crazy old man hijacked a national party's most important gathering so he could tell the President to literally go do something to himself (i.e. fuck himself).

    I didn't realize Michael Moore was so concerned with the purity of the Republican convention from being "hijacked" by outside interests. It was also helpful of him to clarify what "go do something to himself" means for his brain-dead readers.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Incredible. Now they're going to make the Eastwood speech the focal point of their response? Really? I bet they bring in several actors--younger and hipper than Eastwood--to speak at their convention. Which would be stupid.

  • RBS||

    Or they'll go full retard and bring in Sean Penn. Viva Chavez!

  • Pro Libertate||

    Sure, why not?

  • RBS||

    Then they'll have Michael Stipe perform and destroy the remaining fond memories I have of REM.

  • Cenotaph||

    Not young enough. Aston Kutcher is the anti-Eastwood.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    And everything will be fine because, rather than blackening the image of the DNC, it will show what a big tent they have. Even commies are welcome!

  • Brutus||

    I'm sure Priebus is relieved beyond measure that Mikey Moore is looking out for his best interests.

  • Tonio||

    The people of the future will know nothing about Dirty Harry...

    Easy to say, and impossible to disprove given the vagueness of the statement and the nature of time.

    However, some things become iconic even if nobody knows where they came from or who they were: Slim Pickens riding the h-bomb, Eastwood's "punk" speech, etc.

    I suspect Moore's work will not survive in the same way, but I'm not dumb enough to make an absolute claim.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    The people of the future will know nothing about Dirty Harry or Josey Wales or a Million Dollar Baby. They WILL know about the night a crazy old man hijacked a national party's most important gathering so he could tell the President to literally go do something to himself (i.e. fuck himself).

    Yeah cause people totally remember what happens at political conventions, not good movies. That's why reruns of the '72 conventions always have better ratings than dirty harry movies.

  • Pro Libertate||

    How absurd. I bet more people remember Eastwood than Obama years from now. They can stick that in their pipe and inhale the bitter smell of truth.

  • MJGreen||

    People won't even remember Clint's speech by the weekend.

    Jesus, politics makes people delusional.

  • RBS||

    Via Facebook

    It was a pitiful site and painful to watch. I just don't see how he fit in the lineup when they were trying so hard to reach out to women
  • Pro Libertate||

    I saw the speech. He rambled some, but I thought it was fine. I get a distinct impression the attack dogs are hitting him quite a bit for being 82. I don't think that's a smart approach, nor does personally attacking someone most Americans love make a whole lot of sense.

  • RBS||

    Clearly it's a Team Blue War on Old People.

  • ||

    Well, ProL, they have to attack him; he criticized their leader. Secondly, since they are extremely limited in their thinking, the vast, vast majority of attacks will focus on his age, and I guarantee every single one will use the words "rambling", "old man", and probably "crazy".

    These are retarded sheep, ProL. They will do exactly what you expect them to do, because they're too fucking stupid to do anything but that.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's just so fucking stupid. Ignoring it altogether would've worked just fine. This petulance and inability to take any criticism at all just smacks of incompetence and insecurity. Great messages to send in a down economy, huh?

  • Cenotaph||

    Right, but as soon as it becomes clear that it's damaging, the media will disappear it from the news cycle and ramp up the Akin "controversy".

  • SKR||

    Rambling crazy and old man probably won't sit well with seniors. Could be a good troll bait strategy.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    I was flipping through and caught a little bit of it and he was stumbling a little bit and my first reaction was:
    "What the hell is this?"

    After I realized he was doing it without a prompter and got the point of the empty chair I changed my mind. I'm not 82 and I know I couldn't pull that off.

    Probably helps being considered an acting icon though.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    I just don't see how he fit in the lineup when they were trying so hard to reach out to women

    Because he's more of a man than the beta goons most feminists desire?

  • RBS||

    More

    His family has an E! show. That's really all you need to know.
  • James Anderson Merritt||

    Do you actually think that feminists desire "beta goons?" I don't. They might deign to go out with or cohabit with a "beta goon." But I think that desire is incited from at least not being a beta or not being a goon. I would bet money that the two together would KILL genuine desire. On the other hand, if you are the type of person who desires to please others by living up to some kind of stereotype, then I suppose a "beta goon" would be a good PC prop for your pretended desire.

  • ||

    "Well, opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one."

  • Mike M.||

    And most of them stink.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Seen on another board:

    "The empty chair gave more honest answers than anyone in the administration would have."

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "Whether the Republicans will make Clint Eastwood’s day (which appears to include bringing the troops home now)"

    IMO, this wasn't the point of the statement:

    “You mentioned something about having a target date for bringing everybody home and you give that target date and I think Mr. Romney has the only sensible question, though, why are you giving the date out now? Why don’t you just bring them home tomorrow morning?”

    The point is about the arbitrary date, not whether we should be there. He pointed out that Obama supported going into Afghanistan. If you support the idea of ridding Afghanistan of Taliban influence and leaving them with the ability to defend themselves from being taken over in the future, why would you set a date to leave? If it's not worth doing, then we shouldn't be there. If there is no expectation to be successful we shouldn't be there. Why wait for some arbitrary date? If the goal is to be successful does it mean the goal ends on that date? Does the date mean we succeeded and this is how long it takes to get troops out?

    I think the statement has nothing to do with whether or not we should be there in the first place. It's made to provoke an examination of Obama's logic on the issue.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Logic? I don't see any logic here. . .at all.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Okay, replace "logic" with reason. If you supported going into Afghanistan what reason is there for publishing a date to leave?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I was just making a joke. I don't think they have a very well articulated--even to themselves--reason for staying. Or even leaving. It's all political calculus. Which, frankly, is sickening.

  • Jack the Reaper||

    drink! drink!

  • josh||

    the wife of one of my cousins, who along with her husband are about as liberal as you can get, but are otherwise good people, and she was openly mocking eastwoods age this morning on facebook.

    it goes without saying that she would've found it endearing if he had addressed an empty suit at that "other" convention. it's been mentioned, but of course he rambled slightly....he's 82. democrats just found it objectionable because old people should know their place and know that no one is really interested in their ideas anymore.

    if they continue to mock eastwood, it's going to really backfire. embracing the empty chair like it's a harmless joke, and makes eastwood look bad, just misses the point. maybe they forgot, but this is going to be a close election and florida is where we send the old people. obviously, contrary to what some think, they do still have an idea or two.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    "While Clint Eastwood advocated a Ron Paul-style approach to Afghanistan, his view on Gitmo was a bit more muddled."

    Why do you say his view "was a bit more muddled"? A bit more muddled than what? I didn't understand you to say that his view on Afghanistan was muddled at all. I think you meant to say "While Clint Eastwood advocated a Ron Paul-style approach to Afghanistan, his view on Gitmo was a load of crap, the sort of right-wing hysteria this convention has been pushing all week long." That's what I think you meant to say.

  • ||

    MJGreen| 8.31.12 @ 1:04PM |#

    People won't even remember Clint's speech by the weekend.

    You think it will all be down the memory hole less than 11 hours after you obviously haven't forgotten it?

  • streamfortyseven||

    In the grand tradition of Lloyd Bucher and ‘We Paean You’: Eastwood did an ad lib, no teleprompter, spontaneous send up of the GOP and everything it pretends to stand for, including the neverending war on terror (“I know you were against the War in Iraq and that's okay. But you thought the war in Afghanistan was, was okay. I mean, you thought that was something that was worth doing. We didn't check with the Russians to see how they did there for the ten years. We did it. It’s something to be thought about.”) and then went on to say that “politicians are employees of ours, so they're just going to come around and beg for votes every few years and it's the same old deal… We don't have to be masochists and vote for somebody we don't really want in office just because they seem to be nice guys, or maybe not so nice guys, if you look at some of the recent ads going out there, I don't know.” The only person who could have done it better would have been the late and much lamented Dr Hunter S Thompson.

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