Political life of Clint Eastwood
|This article is part of a series on Clint Eastwood|
American actor and director Clint Eastwood has long shown an interest in politics. He won election as the nonpartisan mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California in April 1986 and in 2001, Governor Gray Davis appointed the Oscar-winner to the California State Park and Recreation Commission. Eastwood endorsed Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election and delivered a controversial prime time address at the 2012 Republican National Convention, where he spoke to an empty chair that he pretended was occupied by Barack Obama.
Eastwood registered as a Republican in order to vote for Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and he passively supported Richard Nixon's 1968 and 1972 presidential campaigns. He later criticized Nixon's handling of the Vietnam War and his morality during Watergate. He usually describes himself as a libertarian in interviews and in the spring of 1999, he told Premiere magazine that "I guess I was a social liberal and a fiscal conservative before it became fashionable." He told USA Weekend in 2004, "I don't see myself as conservative, but I'm not ultra-leftist. ... I like the libertarian view, which is to leave everyone alone. Even as a kid, I was annoyed by people who wanted to tell everyone how to live." In 2009, Eastwood said that he was now a registered Libertarian.
At times, he has supported Democrats in California, such as the liberal and environmentally concerned Representative Sam Farr in 2002. Eastwood contributed $1,000 to Farr's successful re-election campaign that year and on May 23, 2003, he hosted a $5,000-per-ticket fundraiser for California's Democratic governor, Gray Davis. Later that year, Eastwood offered to film a commercial in support of the embattled governor, and in 2001, the star visited Davis' office to support an alternative energy bill written by another Democrat, California State assemblyman Fred Keeley.
In general, Eastwood has favored less governmental interference in both the private economy and the private lives of individuals. He has disapproved of a reliance on welfare, feeling that the government should help citizens make something of themselves via education and incentives. He has, however, approved of unemployment insurance, bail-outs for homeowners saddled with unaffordable mortgages, environmental conservation, land preservation, alternative energy incentives, and gun control measures such as California's Brady Bill. A longtime liberal on civil rights, Eastwood has stated that he has always been pro-choice on abortion. He has endorsed the notion of allowing gays to marry,("From a libertarian point of view, you would say, 'Yeah? So what?' You have to believe in total equality. People should be able to be what they want to be and do what they want – as long as they're not harming people.") and he contributed to groups supporting the Equal Rights Amendment for women. In an interview with GQ magazine, Eastwood criticized the Republican Party for its stance on gay marriage, saying "These people who are making a big deal out of gay marriage? I don’t give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a deal out of. They go on and on with all this bullshit about ‘sanctity’ — don’t give me that sanctity crap! Just give everybody the chance to have the life they want."
Eastwood disapproved of America's wars in Korea (1950–1953), Vietnam (1964–1975), Afghanistan (2001-2014), and Iraq (2003–2011), believing that the United States should not be overly militaristic or play the role of global policeman. He considers himself too individualistic to be either right-wing or left-wing, and has described himself as a "political nothing" and a "moderate".
Eastwood has long been an avowed supporter of gun control, stating, "I've always supported a certain amount of gun control. I think it's very important that guns don't get in the wrong hands; It's very important to keep them out of the hands of felons or anyone who might be crazy with it." In 1995, Eastwood questioned the purpose of assault weapons. Larry King, the famous television host and newspaper columnist, wrote in the May 22, 1995, edition of USA Today that "My interview with Eastwood will air on 'Larry King Weekend' ... I asked him his thoughts on the NRA and gun control and he said that while people think of him as pro-gun, he has always been in favor of controls. 'Why would anyone need or want an assault weapon?' he said."
During the 2008 United States Presidential Election, Eastwood stated that he would be voting for John McCain for President; he has known McCain since 1973. Upon the election of Barack Obama, Eastwood stated "Obama is my president now and I am going to be wishing him the very best because it is what is best for all of us."
In August 2010, Eastwood wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, George Osborne, to protest the decision to close the UK Film Council. Eastwood warned that the closure could result in fewer foreign production companies choosing to work in the UK.
In 1973, Eastwood told the late film critic Gene Siskel, "No, I don't believe in God." Nearly four decades later while promoting his film, Hereafter (2010), Eastwood stated that "I was always respectful of people who were deeply religious because I always felt that if they gave themselves to it, then it had to be important to them. But if you can go through life without it, that’s OK, too. It’s whatever suits you. I do believe in self-help. I’m not a New Age person but I do believe in meditation, and for that reason I’ve always liked the Buddhist religion. When I’ve been to Japan I’ve been to Buddhist temples and meditated and I found that rewarding." As much as anything, Eastwood has found spirituality in nature (as suggested by his 1985 Western, Pale Rider), stating that "I was born during the Depression and I was brought up with no specific church. We moved every four or five months during the first 14 years of my life, so I was sent to a different church depending on wherever we lived. Most of them were Protestant, but I went to other churches because my parents wanted me to try to figure out things for myself. They always said, ‘I just want to expose you to some religious order and see if that’s something you like’. So although my religious training was not really specific, I do feel spiritual things. If I stand on the side of the Grand Canyon and look down, it moves me in some way."
"Of course, it would be wonderful to talk with my parents again, who are, of course, deceased. It makes the idea of death much less scary. But then again, if you think that nothing happens after you die, maybe it makes you live life better. Maybe you’re supposed to do the best you can by the gift you’re given of life and that alone"
Mayor of Carmel
Eastwood made a successful foray into elected politics. He won election as mayor in April 1986 of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California (population 4,000), a wealthy small town and artists' community on the Monterey Peninsula. He served one term. A focal point of Eastwood's campaign was to overturn the "ice cream cone law," an ordinance that restricted the sale of fast-food, including ice cream cones. When Eastwood won election, President Ronald Reagan telephoned and joked, "What's an actor who once appeared with a monkey in a movie doing in politics?", referring to Eastwood's role in Every Which Way But Loose and Reagan's Bedtime for Bonzo. During Eastwood's two-year tenure, he still managed to direct and produce Heartbreak Ridge (in which he also starred) and Bird, for which he received one of his first major awards for filmmaking, a Golden Globe for Best Director.
California State Park and Recreation Commission
In 2001, he was appointed to the California State Park and Recreation Commission by Governor Gray Davis. He was reappointed in 2004 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom he supported in the elections of 2003 and 2006 (although Eastwood disapproved of the recall of Davis in 2003).
Eastwood, the vice chairman of the commission, and commission chairman, Bobby Shriver, Schwarzenegger's brother-in-law, led a California State Park and Recreation Commission panel in its unanimous opposition in 2005 to a six-lane 16-mile (26 km) extension of California State Route 241, a toll road that would cut through San Onofre State Beach, one of Southern California's most cherished surfing beaches. Eastwood and Shriver supported a 2006 lawsuit to block the toll road and urged the California Coastal Commission to reject the project, which it did, in February 2008.
When Eastwood and Shriver were not reappointed to the commission in March 2008 when their terms expired, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) asked for a legislative investigation into the decision. According to the NRDC and The New Republic, Eastwood and Shriver were not reappointed because they had opposed the extension of California State Route 241 that would cut through the San Onofre State Beach. The extension was supported by Governor Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger appointed Alice Huffman and Lindy DeKoven to replace Eastwood and Shriver. A press release gave no reason for the change.
Governor Schwarzenegger appointed Eastwood (along with actor and director Danny DeVito, actor and director Bill Duke, producer Tom Werner, and producer and director Lili Zanuck) to the California Film Commission in April 2004.
U.S. presidential election, 2012
|Clint Eastwood speaking at the 2012 Republican National Convention. Retrieved August 31, 2012.|
When asked his opinion of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates in February 2012, Eastwood replied that Texas Representative Ron Paul was "as good as anybody else" in the running, but would wait for some time to decide on a candidate after "listening to all that crap on television." On August 4, 2012, Eastwood endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
At the 2012 Republican National Convention, the Romney campaign presented Eastwood as the highly anticipated "mystery speaker". In the final hour of the convention, he addressed an empty chair representing President Barack Obama. Eastwood's speech lasted about 12 minutes, and was characterized by multiple news sources as "rambling". At one point, Eastwood said: "What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. He can't do that to himself." Although Eastwood's remarks seemed to be well-received within the convention hall, they received wide criticism outside of it. Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker described the speech as "that one moment, which I cringed about". Eastwood's speech gave rise to an Internet meme called "Eastwooding", with pictures of people pointing at empty chairs.
Several months later, following the election, Eastwood revealed to CNBC anchor Becky Quick that his infamous "empty chair" skit had been inspired by a Neil Diamond song ("I Am... I Said") that had come over the radio in his Tampa hotel room and that included a lyric about an empty chair not hearing the singer's laments.
- "Governor Schwarzenegger Appointments to the State Park and Recreation Commission" – California State Park and Recreation Commission. Retrieved: 2008-05-28.
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- Press Release: "Governor Schwarzenegger Announces Appointments to the State Park and Recreation Commission" – Office of the Governor – State of California, March 4, 2004. Retrieved: 2008-05-28.
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- Patashnik, Josh. – "It's Not a Tumor". – The New Republic. April 23, 2008. Retrieved: 2008-05-28.
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- "Schwarzenegger names replacements for parks panel". – Associated Press. (c/o Yahoo! News). May 23, 2008. Retrieved: 2008-05-28.
- Press Release: "Governor Schwarzenegger Appoints DeVito, Duke, Eastwood, Werner and Zanuck to Film Commission". Office of the Governor, State of California, April 15, 2004. Retrieved: 2008-05-28.
- Ballasy, Nicholas (February 2, 2012). "Clint Eastwood: Ron Paul is ‘as good as anybody else’". The Daily Caller. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
- Peoples, Steve. "Presidential election: Clint Eastwood endorses Mitt Romney's bid". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
- Argetsinger, Amy; Rucker, Philip (August 31, 2012). "Clint Eastwood shoots from the hip at GOP convention — and gets some blowback". Washington Post. Retrieved August 31, 2012. "His rambling style triggered snark about his health and his age."
- Barbaro, Michael; Shear, Michael D. (August 31, 2012). "Before Talk With a Chair, Clearance From the Top". The New York Times. Retrieved August 31, 2012. "For all the finger-pointing about Clint Eastwood’s rambling conversation with an empty chair on Thursday night, the most bizarre, head-scratching 12 minutes in recent political convention history were set in motion by Mitt Romney himself and made possible by his aides, who had shrouded the actor’s appearance in secrecy."
- Cassata, Donna (August 31, 2012). "Clint Eastwood brings awkward unscripted RNC performance (+video)". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved August 31, 2012. "Standing on the convention stage with an empty chair, Eastwood carried on a sometimes rambling conversation with an imaginary President Barack Obama."
- Rainey, James (August 31, 2012). "Ann Romney, others distancing campaign from Clint Eastwood's ramble". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 31, 2012. "Asked on ABC’s “Good Morning America” about Eastwood’s rambling, unscripted speech, the wife of the Republican presidential nominee allowed that she was “grateful for his support,” but quickly heaped much more effusive praise on Olympic athletes and fellow Mormons "that knew Mitt so well" who also spoke on behalf of her husband Thursday night."
- Murray, Sara (August 31, 2012). "Could Be Contenders; The Good, the Bad and the Chair". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 31, 2012. "Thursday night, the 82-year-old Mr. Eastwood treated convention delegates, and millions watching at home, to a rambling discussion with an empty chair meant to signify President Barack Obama."
- McNamara, Mary (August 31, 2012). "Clint Eastwood and his imaginary non-friend at the convention". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 31, 2012. "What? What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that," he said at one point. "He can't do that to himself."
- Zakarin, Jordan (August 31, 2012). "Clint Eastwood's RNC Speech: 5 New Developments". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
- Rainey, James (August 31, 2012). "Clint Eastwood didn't exactly make Team Romney's day". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
- Sands, Geneva (August 31, 2012). "Gov. Walker: 'I cringed' at Clint Eastwood's speech". The Hill. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
- Ortiz, Erik (August 31, 2012). "Clint Eastwood inspires 'Eastwooding': Social media users upload empty chair pics online". New York Daily News. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
- Tsukayama, Hayley (August 31, 2012). "#Eastwooding is the Twitter meme of the day". Washington Post. Retrieved August 31, 2012.