David Levi Strauss / Dispatch / The Race

Dispatch 21: Clint ‘n Trump, Talking to the Empty Chair

clint_talks_to_chair_4478_dispatch

IN an interview just published in Esquire that was supposed to be about Clint Eastwood (whose movie about Sully Sullenberger starring Tom Hanks opens in September) and his son Scott (who plays an NSA official in Oliver Stone’s new film about Edward Snowden, also out next month), writer Michael Hainey wisely steered the conversation toward the current Presidential campaign, resulting in the biggest celebrity endorsement for Donald Trump yet.

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for Trump, but this should pick him up. The one thing that hasn’t been said about him is that he’s boring, and for Clint, that is the gold standard. If Clint were to write a stump speech for the candidates today, what would he say?

“’Knock it off. Knock everything off.’ All these people out there rattling around the streets and stuff, shit. They’re boring everybody. Chesty Puller, a great Marine general, once said, ‘You can run me, and you can starve me, and you can beat me, and you can kill me, but don’t bore me.’”

About Trump, he said, “He’s onto something, because secretly everybody’s getting tired of political correctness, kissing up. That’s the kiss-ass generation we’re in right now. We’re really in a pussy generation [which is pretty much what Eastwood said about my generation 40 years ago]. Everybody’s walking on eggshells. We see people accusing people of being racist and all kinds of stuff. When I grew up, those things weren’t called racist. . . . What Trump is onto is he’s just saying what’s on his mind. And sometimes it’s not so good. And sometimes it’s . . . I mean, I can understand where he’s coming from, but I don’t always agree with it.”

And Hillary? “What about her? I mean, it’s a tough voice to listen to for four years. It could be a tough one. If she’s just gonna follow what we’ve been doing, then I wouldn’t be for her.” Another Empty Chair. “She’s made a lot of dough out of being a politician. I gave up dough to be a politician. I’m sure that Ronald Reagan gave up dough to be a politician.”

Hillary made it being a politician. Reagan made it being a bad actor and a worse president. Clint made it by feeding the American public’s desire for law & order vigilantism with big guns and then becoming a beloved icon of world cinema.

So if the choice is between Clinton and Trump? “I’d have to go for Trump.”

And with those six words, 86-year-old actor and director Clint Eastwood solidified the angry old white guy vote for Donald Trump. Maybe it’s the angry-old-white-guy-without-a-degree vote (Clint dropped out of L.A. City College to pursue his acting career). Call it the Gran Torino Vote. Talk to the chair, man, talk to the chair.

The reason that Trump is still in this thing, after running his general election campaign like a drunken teenager, is that enough people out there still see him as their protest candidate: a representative of the Old America, where, as Clint says here, you “get in there and get it done. Kick ass and take names. And this may be my dad talking, but don’t spend what you don’t have. That’s why we’re in the position we are in right now. That’s why people are saying, ‘Why should I work? I’ll get something for nothing, maybe.’” “That’s the pussy generation—nobody wants to work.”

If you squint your eyes real hard, and look at Trump, you can glimpse your hero. Set aside for now the facts that Trump inherited his money and hasn’t really made much of anything. He’s made an image. And if that image resonates for enough people, like Dirty Harry, or the Outlaw Josey Wales, or William Munny in Unforgiven—the put-upon male just trying to muscle through and hold it all together while being attacked by stuffed shirts and “progress” and the Liberal Media and freeloaders and women with irritating voices—we could all still be in a lot of trouble.

David Levi Strauss
Saturday, August 6, 2016, 2 pm

[Photography: Jon Winet. August 30, 2012.   Republican Party National Political Convention, Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida. Click on image to see an enlargement.]

LINK to all David Levi Strauss Power 2016 Dispatches

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