31 August 2012

Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood's presentation at the Republican National Convention has provoked praise and criticism. Few are neutral. Eastwood is a fiscal conservative whose social views diverge from those of cultural conservatives.

Many critics found his remarks disorganized, but others praised the drama. While addressing the crowd, he also carried on a conversation with an empty chair representing President Obama. The crowd and viewers were left to fill in what he heard from the chair. Enthusiastic cheers and laughter made clear that the crowd could hear President Obama's profanities.

Eastwood explained that not all Hollywood people are liberals, despite what a lot of people seem to believe. "It's just that conservative people by the nature of the word itself play it a little closer to the vest; they just don't go around hot doggin' it."

Eastwood then introduced the empty chair and stated that he had some questions for the President. He mentioned everyone crying when Obama was talking about hope and change four years ago. "This is great. Everyone was crying. Oprah was crying. I was even crying. I haven't cried that hard since I found that there's twenty-three million unemployed in this country."

A historian might interrupt here with the observation that tears for the unemployed were shed while President Bush was in office. At least that's the sequence established by Eastwood's sentence.

"That is a disgrace, a national disgrace. ... This administration hasn't done enough to cure that."

Eastwood then turned to the chair to ask President Obama about promises he made. "What do you say to people?"

Eastwood's performance indicates that President Obama had little to say here. The actor then turned to Obama's promise to close Gitmo. Obama's response, as the actor presented it, was clear and to the point.

Eastwood faulted President Obama for supporting the war in Afghanistan because, "we didn't check with the Russians to see how they did for the ten years."

Was former President Bush sitting in the invisible chair next to President Obama?

Eastwood's only reference to specific proposals by Mitt Romney came next.  He contrasted the President's target date for bringing troops home from Afghanistan with Romney's, "why don't you just bring them home tomorrow morning?"

In his dialogue with the empty chair, Eastwood began suggesting what President Obama might be saying. "What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. He can't do that to himself." Any ambiguity concerning the words the actor was hearing was soon resolved, even for the least imaginative viewers. The crowd loved the performance. Many liberals suggested that Eastwood seemed confused.

Later in the performance, Eastwood suggested that electing attorneys seemed like a bad idea (Romney, as well as Obama, has a law degree). Among the problems with attorneys: "they are taught to weigh both sides." Eastwood suggested, "it's time for a business man ... a quote unquote 'a stellar business man'."

He suggested that President Obama should step aside, mentioning that he could still use a plane, a smaller one, though. He contrasted the fuel economy of the Presidential plane with Obama's ecological views.

Responses to the performance appear to closely follow partisan alignments. It was a novel performance designed to fire up the GOP crowd prior to Romney's formal acceptance of the Republican nomination for President. It accomplished that much.

Many news sources are presenting portions of the performance with commentary. The performance deserves to be viewed as a whole.

The performance began with an image of Eastwood as Dirty Harry behind the podium, and concluded with Dirty Harry's signature line: "Make my day!" Michael Paul Rogin's classic piece is worth remembering: "'Make My Day!': Spectacle as Amnesia in Imperial Politics," Representations 29 (Winter 1990): 99-123.

Rogin recalls the scene of Eastwood's use of the line on the silver screen.
Eastwood is daring a black man to murder a woman, in other words, so that Dirty Harry can kill the black. No question this time about whether the gun is empty and Eastwood at risk. The lives he proves his toughness by endangering are female and black, not his own. (103)

Rogin opines that President Reagan, when he uttered these same words to Congress, endangered the same lives.

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