Clint Eastwood is 82 and an American icon. It’s that simple. He’s sort of the John Wayne of this era. And he’s always been more “Republicanish” than the usual Hollywood crowd.
Last night he gave a speech, or a talk, or, well, whatever you’d like to characterize it as. It was both interesting and at time hilarious. That is, if you “got” what he was trying to do.
He said two things that to me are not said enough. If for no other reason, I liked his speech (which, by the way, is the only speech I’ve watched) because he said them. They are reminders that should be repeated over and over and over again.
The first is in the title. “We own this country”. Frankly, it’s time we started acting like it. Because there are those who would weaken that ownership to the point of non-existence. In fact, for the most part, that intrinsically American principle gets mostly lip service from our employees.
And yes, that’s the second line. Government and politicians are our employees. They work for us. Not the other way around, although you wouldn’t really know that the way things are going. When they’re not up to the job, we should fire them.
Anyway, Eastwood’s speech is getting the expected shredding in the press. Breitbart points out that there are already 25 plus stories (5 in Politico alone) on Eastwood’s speech. I don’t think anyone with any experience around politics and how it is covered today is the least bit surprised. They don’t like seeing “the one” they helped elect mocked.
But despite the negative claims of the media, was the speech effective? Well, I like Richard Fernandez’s take. He does a nice job of laying out why, at least to the “common folk” it was likely a hit.
It was an old man’s delivery, but overstatedly so for effect. It was a cutting delivery and for that reason delivered in low key. But for all of Clint Eastwood’s rhetorical cleverness at the Republican convention it derived its effectiveness precisely because it wasn’t one of those “I take this platform tonight with pen in hand, bearing in mind the immortal words of Clancy M. Duckworth” type orations. It wasn’t the speech of someone who was running for office.
Rather it might have come from Mr. Weller down at the corner office musing on simple things to not very important people. How it wasn’t good form to mess things up continuously. How one might lose faith in a man who made one broken promise too many. How at the end of the day everyone either did the job or quit out of decency. Even Presidents.
There was no malice in it. Just a tone of regret. But it was redolent of memory too. Of simple things a world away from the Mountaintop; of sentiments a light-year from dramatic arcs, and of ordinary happiness in a universe apart from grand bargains and high-flown rhetorical visions. They were truths that everyone who has ever worked knows but has somehow forgotten because it was so ordinary.
But they were never known to those who had never worked a real job in their lives. And that is the wonder. That they never knew them. Thus the speech was at once us versus them; it was the check in the mail against the certainties of the heart. Every true challenge is built on the bricks of memory. And there were as many challenges in the Eastwood speech as the stones we stand on.
So will it resonate? I think so. For the very reasons I outline above. Simple truths given by a man without a script, reminding us of the reality of the day. Straight talk, no apologies, no waffling, even using a symbolic device (empty chair) to make his point without having to say it.
Political professionals on the left, liberal bloggers and the press will savage it for days. But for those who saw it or will see it, my guess is they’ll pay little attention to those attacking him and more likely identify with the authenticity of the man they’ve “known” for decades. He’s one of us, they’ll think. He’s up there saying what we’d like to say if we had the podium and the ability to do it. It wasn’t polished, but it was real.
That’s what folks are looking for these days.
Frankly, it was refreshing.