More thoughts on Eastwood’s speech

On a second viewing, Clint Eastwood’s presentation at the GOP convention is even better than when I saw it live last week. The idea of addressing President Obama in an empty chair is brilliantly conceived and works very well. Eastwood’s quavering voice (which at first seemed an embarrassing weakness) and hesitant, folksy manner help advance his theme, and the chosen theme of the Romney campaign, that Obama is to be seen, not as a leftist out to weaken and destroy America, not as an enemy, but simply as someone who has not done the job, and therefore, regretfully, “we’ve got to let him go.” The best lines in the presentation all reflect that regretful yet firm, rather than hostile, attitude: “It may be time for someone else to come along and solve the problem…. We don’t have to be mental masochists and vote for somebody just because he’s a nice guy.” Translation: We don’t have to vote for someone just because he’s black. Eastwood thus artfully addresses the underlying racial issue of the campaign, namely Americans’ hesitancy to eject from office a nonwhite President, without stating it explicitly. I had no idea that Eastwood had such cleverness and such talent.And he evidently did the whole thing without a script, an extraordinarily gutsy thing to do before a live national audience.

In Eastwood’s presentation, form (i.e. his manner) and content work perfectly together. It is a unique work of political performance art.

- end of initial entry -

Daniel F. writes:

You quoted Eastwood as referring to Obama as a “nice guy.” I agree with you that “nice guy” is here used as a euphemism for Obama’s being black (really, half-black), but it also bears mentioning that, to any one observing the man as he actually is, he is not in any way a “nice guy,” and only comes across as “nice” to those who already agree with him or those whose perception is affected by the desire to think of well of a black politician and/or who have been conditioned by the mass media. In fact, Obama comes across to me as less of a “nice guy” even than the average politician. He does not manifest the slightest bit of humility (except, maybe, towards his wife), his nastiness and condescension toward people he disagrees with is unexceeded, and his contempt for nearly all of the country’s accomplishments and history is glaringly obvious. He’s no more of a nice guy than Charles Schumer or Harry Reid or (to give a GOP example) Tom DeLay (although Obama is smoother, and more attractive to women, than they). That Obama is generally perceived as a “nice guy” says a lot about how suggestible and easily led the American public is.

LA replies:

I have been in a state of amazement since shortly after Obama assumed office that people have persisted in liking him and regarding him as “nice.” Before the election, I had thought he was nice, or at least had niceness as one side of him. Immediately after he became President, he underwent a change that no one could have predicted: he became noticeably nasty and unpleasant. Yet the American people kept saying that they thought he was nice and kept giving him higher personal approval ratings than the ratings they gave for his performance in office. Hmm, maybe by saying that he was “nice” and that they “personally liked” him, they really meant the same thing Eastwood meant: that he is black, and therefore, even though he’s he’s a disaster as president, we like him.

Peter F writes:

I am as pleased as anyone that the GOP asked The Man With No Name (the character he played in his Spaghetti-Western days) to speak and that he performed well. However, what does it say about the state of the Republican Party leadership that the toughest guy in town and at the convention is an eighty-two year old in the twilight of his life? Essentially, the party had to recruit an actor to say what it lacked the moral courage and intellectual fortitude to say itself. Politically, this may work to their advantage, but it does not speak well at all of the current leaders of the party.

Thucydides writes:

Excellent evaluation of Eastwood’s “we don’t have to vote for somebody just because he’s a nice guy” as coded language. It occurs to me that the tendency to insist on Obama’s being a “nice guy,” when there are many indications that he isn’t all that nice, derives from wishful thinking. It was hopes of a “post racial” politics developing that boosted Obama in 2008, hopes that have run aground on the Democrats’ permanent need to fire up their black base by stirring racial fears and paranoia among them.

Nevertheless, hopes remain among many whites, and especially white liberals, that black leaders will absolve them from demeaning claims of racism, however false. “Nice guy” encapsulates their hopes for a black leader who will acknowledge the good faith and decency of most whites, instead of constantly belaboring them with purported grievances, which they do as means of supporting various preferences and entitlements. These hopes are of course in vain. Why would black leaders ever give up what works so well?

LA replies:

I return the compliment: excellent analysis.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 05, 2012 04:49 PM | Send

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