The Clint Eastwood speech at the Republican National Convention is a fine barometer of adhesion to the groupthink of media. We thought that the speech was odd at the time. But one’s initial impression is not necessarily lasting, unless, of course, it is vital to stick with the media crowd and refuse to acknowledge how it played with voters and how, in sound bite and YouTube iterations, it is coming across. The left’s angry reaction to the right’s embrace of Eastwood suggests a discomfort not only with the routine but with the entire concept of mocking the president.
Consider some of the sharper lines in the routine (which it should be properly regarded, rather than a speech as people had expected). There was some sarcastic cultural criticism. “You are thinking, what’s a movie tradesman doing out here? You know they are all left-wingers out there, left of Lenin. At least that is what people think. That is not really the case. There are a lot of conservative people, a lot of moderate people, Republicans, Democrats, in Hollywood. It is just that the conservative people by the nature of the word itself play closer to the vest. They do not go around hot-dogging it.” He’s talking to you, George Clooney.
There was the iteration of Mitt Romney’s disappointment theme. “I remember 3½ y ears ago, when Mr. Obama won the election. And though I was not a big supporter, I was watching that night when he was having that thing and they were talking about hope and change and they were talking about, yes we can, and it was dark outdoors, and it was nice, and people were lighting candles. They were saying, I just thought, this was great. Everybody is crying, Oprah was crying. I was even crying. And then finally — and I haven’t cried that hard since I found out that there is 23 million unemployed people in this country.”
Eastwood taunted on the plan to close Guantanamo. (“Thought maybe it was just because somebody had the stupid idea of trying terrorists in downtown New York City.”) And he skewered Obama on use of the “gas guzzler” Air Force One despite the president’s purported environmentalism. He mocked the idea o f “likability” and that Obama after a summer of vicious ads should lay claim to the mantle as “most likable.” (“What I’m saying, we do not have to be . . . masochists and vote for somebody that we don’t really even 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.”)
But mostly what was striking was the nonchalant ease with which he dismissed the trappings of the office (“I would just like to say something, ladies and gentlemen. Something that I think is very important. It is that, you, we — we own this country and Obama’s plea for a second term. We — we own it. It is not you owning it, and not politicians owning it. Politicians are employees of ours.”) And the best line of the appearance: “And when somebody does not do the job, we got to let them go.”
Really, does anyone think that the empty chair isn’t going to be used as a metaphor for the failing president who wanted to “lead from behind”?
It’s only the out-to-lunch elites who refuse to see how effective those zingers are and who decline to realize how biting was the commentary. (It can hardly be that the media thinks Eastwood is disrespectful. The media didn’t bat an eye when much worse was said about George W. Bush.) At least some early polling suggests regular voters like the Eastwood routine.
Whether it is the media’s misguided insistence that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) lied or that Eastwood was a disaster, the velocity with which the press pack moves is inversely related to its accuracy. When the popular culture is turned against the “cool” president, the media turn humorless, it seems.
Maybe they should think about things and chat to someone other than their neighbor in the press section before pontificating in such emphatic terms. Sometimes first impressions can be wrong. Especially if it’s formed in a sea of liberal bias.