Esquire magazine has published a wide-ranging interview with movie icon and director Clint Eastwood and his son, actor Scott Eastwood. Over the years, Eastwood pere has identified as a small-L libertarian and he infamously appeared at the 2012 Republican National Convention to carry on a dialogue with an empty chair meant to represent Barack Obama.
This time around, the 86-year-old Eastwood says he has yet to endorse anyone but…he knows he really dislikes Hillary Clinton and is somewhat empathetic toward Donald Trump.
I mean, [Hillary would be] a tough voice to listen to for four years. It could be a tough one. If she's just gonna follow what we've been doing, then I wouldn't be for her….
What Trump is onto is he's just saying what's on his mind. And sometimes it's not so good. And sometimes it's … I mean, I can understand where he's coming from, but I don't always agree with it….
[If it's a choice between Clinton and Trump,] I'd have to go for Trump…you know, 'cause she's declared that she's gonna follow in Obama's footsteps. There's been just too much funny business on both sides of the aisle. She's made a lot of dough out of being a politician. I gave up dough to be a politician. I'm sure that Ronald Reagan gave up dough to be a politician.
The Esquire interviewer, Michael Hainey, didn't bring up third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein and The Squint didn't go there on his own. Yet just a year ago, Scott Eastwood volunteered that his father was "a total Libertarian—everyone leave everyone alone. Everyone live their own private life." In fact, Clint's politics certainly seem to lean that way rather than standard-issue Republican or socially conservative (he's declared, "I don't give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else!") and he opposed the Iraq War from its inception.
Regardless of his likely vote in November, Eastwood seemed more annoyed by larger social trends than any particular election.
[Trump is] onto something, because secretly everybody's getting tired of political correctness, kissing up. That's the kiss-ass generation we're in right now. We're really in a pussy generation. Everybody's walking on eggshells. We see people accusing people of being racist and all kinds of stuff. When I grew up, those things weren't called racist. And then when I did Gran Torino, even my associate said, "This is a really good script, but it's politically incorrect." And I said, "Good. Let me read it tonight." The next morning, I came in and I threw it on his desk and I said, "We're starting this immediately."…
Cineastes will recall that Eastwood's character in 2008's Gran Torino, Walt Kowalski, is a grouchy, racist Korean war vet who comes to bond with two teenaged Hmong siblings (that the sister gets brutally raped by gang members and the brother gets Walt's prized car in the end is a sign of cinematic sexism, in my opinion). If the Esquire interview is any indication, Eastwood may still be having trouble snapping out of the reactionary character fully:
All these people out there rattling around the streets and stuff, shit. They're boring everybody. Chesty Puller, a great Marine general, once said, "You can run me, and you can starve me, and you can beat me, and you can kill me, but don't bore me." And that's exactly what's happening now: Everybody is boring everybody. It's boring to listen to all this shit. It's boring to listen to these candidates….
I'd say get to work and start being more understanding of everybody—instead of calling everybody names, start being more understanding. But get in there and get it done. Kick ass and take names. And this may be my dad talking, but don't spend what you don't have. That's why we're in the position we are in right now. That's why people are saying, "Why should I work? I'll get something for nothing, maybe." And going around and talking about going to college for free. I didn't go to college for free. I mean, it was cheap, because I went to L. A. City College—it wasn't like going to a major university. But it was okay.
Writing off an entire generation—I assume he means millennials, more or less—is an odd way to begin a dialogue, especially if the cure to the current "sad time in history" is to "start being more understanding of everybody." Certainly Donald Trump is nobody's idea of a good listener (or even a bad one). I'll add that essentially every generation berates the ones that follow as soft and weak—as kiss-asses and pussies, if you will. Is political correctness a thing? For sure, but as even the curmudgeonly P.J. O'Rourke has noted, it's also "a nicer, kinder, more decent society we live in today then the society when I was a kid." Plus, we've got South Park, which has given younger generations the ability to read through P.C. pretty effectively.
We rely on celebrities and artists, even ones as accomplished as Eastwood, for guidance to life at our own peril. Yes, political correctness is a thing that needs to be beaten back, especially when it gets in the way of free expression. Yes, the students who benefit from going to college should pay all, most, or certainly some of the cost. Yes, working hard is better than being a slouch and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are fundamentally boring in how they talk about politics.
But to quote Edward Snowden, the subject of a September release featuring Scott Eastwood in the title role, "The individual is more powerful today than they have ever been in the past." That is no small advance during the span of Clint Eastwood's career, which began in the 1950s under the old studio system. While you can forgive an 86-year-old movie star for glossing over how much things have improved since his early days, that doesn't mean we need to join in his downbeat assessment of the current moment.