Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Why did GOP invite Clint Eastwood?

By Carrie Rickey, Special to CNN
updated 10:31 AM EDT, Fri August 31, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Carrie Rickey: Clint Eastwood lines have long been used by politicians, mainly from right
  • She says last night at GOP convention, he made rambling, performance-art-type speech
  • She says left-leaners groused, but Eastwood going his own way politically is not new
  • Rickey: He's small "l" libertarian, with films showing ambivalence about America. And that's OK

Editor's note: Carrie Rickey was the film critic at The Philadelphia Inquirer for 25 years. She writes for many publications, including the Inquirer and The New York Times. Follow her at carriedrickey.com.

(CNN) -- For years, Republican presidents and presidential candidates have strip-mined Clint Eastwood movies for rhetorical nuggets. Ronald Reagan warned Congress in 1985 that he had his veto pen at the ready if it voted a tax increase. "Go ahead, make my day," he baited, quoting Eastwood's Dirty Harry character in "Sudden Impact." "Read my lips," promised candidate George H.W. Bush in 1988, echoing Eastwood in the original "Dirty Harry," adding, "No new taxes."

Thursday night, Mitt Romney's campaign recruited Eastwood himself. The beloved actor/director, 82, was the "mystery guest" at the Republican Convention, a warm-up act for Sen. Mario Rubio of Florida, who introduced candidate Romney. He strode out on the stage, hair uncombed and a little wild, with his familiar, stiff-legged authority, and proceeded to deliver an improvised piece of performance art that triggered unintentional amusement and confusion within the Tampa Bay Times Forum and throughout the viewing audience.

But to many, the political nuggets Eastwood delivered this time were more like fool's gold. "I never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to be president anyhow," Eastwood rambled, perhaps unaware that Romney has a law degree, "because they're arguing both sides of the issue."

Carrie Rickey
Carrie Rickey

News: Eastwood, the empty chair, and the speech everyone's talking about

"Clint Eastwood became huge star as a man of few words. As a surprise guest on the Tampa stage he had too many words (I say as a friend)," tweeted newsman Tom Brokaw of the actor's apparently improvised act, where he addressed an empty chair meant to represent President Barack Obama.

Afterward, the Chicago Sun-Times critic and Obama supporter Roger Ebert tweeted, "Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic. He didn't need to do this to himself. It's unworthy of him."

Eastwood tells RNC to 'make his day'
Clint Eastwood throat-slice move at RNC
Eastwood uses empty chair as prop

For this film critic and longtime admirer of Eastwood (and a registered Democrat), it was not the best hour for the former mayor of Carmel, California.

But was I surprised that Eastwood, a man who describes himself as an "Eisenhower Republican" and who publicly endorsed John McCain in 2008, would appear at the Republican convention? Not at all. Eastwood is nothing if not a straight shooter.

What did surprise me, a little, is that the GOP would invite Eastwood after prominent Republicans such as Karl Rove criticized the actor as an Obama tool for narrating Chrysler's "Halftime in America" ad aired at the Super Bowl this year. What also surprised me is that the GOP would invite the guy who told GQ magazine in October, "These people who are making a big deal about gay marriage? I don't give a --- about who wants to get married to anybody else. Why not?"

And it was surprising that, when the identity of the "mystery guest" was revealed Thursday evening, many non-Republicans took to Twitter and Facebook to pillory Eastwood, huffing that his appearance at the GOP convention "tainted" his movies for them. Huh? First of all, Eastwood publicly endorsed Romney this month. Second of all, the actor who is a lower-case-L libertarian on social issues (pro-gay marriage, pro choice, pro-ecology) and a fiscal conservative is hardly one to toe a party line.

Have they watched Eastwood's movies? You can't pin this guy down ideologically. Many have tried. All have failed. As critic Dave Kehr has noted, "Ambivalence runs deep in his movies, just as it runs through American culture." Eastwood specializes in playing men in the moral shadowlands. During the Nixon years liberals branded Eastwood movies like "Dirty Harry" as "fascist." During the Clinton years, conservatives tagged "Unforgiven" as squishy "political correctness." Heaven knows what they made of -- SPOILER ALERT! -- the assisted suicide in his other Oscar-winning movie, "Million Dollar Baby."

Entertainment: Stars react to Clint Eastwood

The first half of Eastwood's career he played men who shot first and thought about it later. The second half of his career, he's largely devoted himself to exploring the consequences of that gunplay. Is that Republican? Is that Democrat?

I think it's American.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Carrie Rickey.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:01 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
updated 6:35 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
updated 9:48 PM EDT, Sat October 25, 2014
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
updated 5:54 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
updated 12:21 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT