There was a lot wrong about Clint Eastwood’s speech at the Republican National Convention last night. Eastwood was joined on stage by an empty chair where President Barack Obama was “seated” and “conversing” with the 82 year-old actor and Oscar-winning director.
Obama as invisible, the prime example of Other, not there, unlike you and I (the true Americans)—these are the tired assumptions of the whole pathetic bit. When Eastwood used a slicing motion toward his throat as a visual for “letting Obama go,” I wonder how many Republican delegates in the hall sensed that the actor had crossed a line in essentially calling for the president’s head.
There may be one thing in America worse than being Other: being a lawyer. Eastwood—who did little to defy the notion that many Republicans are old, rich white guys—gave his thoughts about who should be in the White House running the country.
Surprise! It’s not a lawyer.
“See, I never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to be president, anyway. I think attorneys are so busy. You know, they’re always taught to argue everything, always weigh everything, weigh both sides. They are always devil’s advocating this and bifurcating this and bifurcating that. You know all that stuff. But I think it is maybe time—what do you think?—for maybe a businessman. How about that?”
Setting aside the fact that Mitt Romney has both a business and a law degree from Harvard, I take issue with Eastwood’s argument that America needs to be run by a corporatist. Let’s examine some basic assumptions here.
Why is weighing both sides, especially by the president of the United States, such a bad thing? Does “Dirty Harry” really believe that business people don’t weigh options? Are they better thinkers, better decision-makers, when compared to attorneys? Since all businessmen view themselves as “job creators” and not just self-interested money hounds, does this mean that Romney would reduce American unemployment more effectively than President Obama simply because Romney made millions at Bain Capital?
These questions could go on, but I’d like to highlight something more complex at play here. Many people on the Right who dislike him have labeled President Obama “professorial.” He was, after all, a senior lecturer on constitutional law at the University of Chicago. Hidden behind this resentment of Obama’s ties to academia is an attitude that has dominated American culture for over two centuries: anti-intellectualism.
That darn Obama, he just talks at us. He thinks he’s so smart. All he does is lecture. Pontificate. Over-analyze.
Most Americans don’t fare too well during actual lectures, so I understand their distaste for and distrust of critical thinking. (And, yes, I doubt the average American, when considering President Obama—or any other speaker—would ever use the word “pontificate.”)
Many Republicans embrace rigid thinking rooted in superstition and fear-mongering. They have little use for the other side of an argument. They want a decider, not a debater, regardless of the consequences our country could face, such as when the last great “decider president” took us to two wars without consulting Congress and then lowered taxes on the wealthiest Americans without considering how those wars would be funded.
Shallow thinkers that they are, those revved up Republican delegates loved the utter stupidity of Eastwood’s performance, a one-man show that left the anti-Obama crowd wanting more nonsense and less intelligent discussion.