A Refresher on Clint Eastwood's Libertarian Politics

The self-described socially liberal, economically conservative's libertarian politics have often been misunderstood


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.