Clint Eastwood is a long time Republican. He ran for, and won, office as a Republican, serving as the Mayor of Carmel, California, for a couple of years. The election was non-partisan, not showing party affiliation, but he made clear during and after the election just where he stood.
The old saying is that, when it comes to nominating candidates, Democrats fall in love, while Republicans fall in line. And, until tea party activism produced a new frontier in challenges, the rule held. It still holds in a sense. The new Masters of the Republican Universe, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and Rupert Murdoch are pretty much used to having Republicans follow their lead. Credible challenges come from the right, and that is the only direction. If Mitt Romney wins at the GOP convention, it will be because he supplicated the right wing convincingly enough for the party base.
If there is a gag order from the right, you would pretty much expect every loyal Republican to follow it, just as the candidates do. In the professional world, politics factors in to whether people like you. And some lines of business thrive on friendly relationships. Folks can lose jobs over apostasy. Just ask David Frum.
It isn't all on the right, to be sure. And it isn't all about political ideology. Cliff Robertson pretty much ended his status as a leading star decades ago when he blew the whistle on financial corruption in the Hollywood establishment. But, of late, politics has been a strong presence in places you wouldn't expect. And conservatives seem to have become especially rigid.
Most conservatives need no financial incentive, no push from colleagues, to tow the line. Ideological loyalty is enough. On fiscal issues, Clint Eastwood has been a reliable voice. Just a few months ago, he spoke out specifically against the help the US gave to Detroit. Here's what he said.
We shouldn't be bailing out the banks and car companies. If a CEO can't figure out how to make his company profitable, then he shouldn't be the CEO.
But the Super Bowl ad did strike a lot of folks as inclined toward the entire recovery effort in Detroit. And President Obama did have a lot to do with that. Karl Rove took an early position after the Sunday ad. “I was, frankly, offended by it,” he said on Fox News. Michelle Malkin and others followed close behind.
The entire code of silence about economic progress is not a new thing. You can go back almost as far as the beginning of the Republic for examples of gag rules on a variety of issues.
In the late 1830s Congressional Representatives from slaveholding regions began to get fed up with petitions favoring abolition. A lot of those came from an anti-slavery group in New York. The Constitution guaranteed the right of petition, but the irritation got to be too much. Congress passed a rule forbidding consideration of petitions about slavery.
Then they banned any discussion about the petitions. Then they banned any debate about slavery at all.
Former President John Quincy Adams was, by then, a member of the House. He began finding ways to force the issue. He presented a petition to allow petitions about slavery. During a debate about whether this would violate the gag rule, he went on at length about slavery.
Then he presented a petition from a group saying the spirit of the Declaration of Independence was against slavery. He was ruled out of order. When he presented another petition that simply asked Congress to respect the Declaration of Independence, that was ruled out of order.
Uh huh, uh huh. He had gotten the conservative Congress to come out against the Declaration of Independence.
He asked for a ruling on whether a petition could be heard on whether to extend slavery, thus allowing for discussion against the petition. During the debate about the right to petition in favor of slavery, he spoke extensively about the topic.
Slaveholders were outraged. A motion was introduced to formally censure the former President. He had broken the rules of the House of Representatives by violating the gag order. Adams insisted that he had the right to defend himself against the charges. He used a lot of his time ... you guessed it .. to discuss his feelings about slavery. After all, it pertained to the charges against him.
This sort of thing went on and on, year after year. Adams never seemed to wear down. Since the gag order said he could not present petitions from his constituents about slavery, he presented petitions from other Congressional Districts. Then petitions about the petitions. Each provoked protests from slaveholders, which produced debate, which allowed Adams to introduce more discussion about slavery. If he was not allowed to discuss slavery, he would discuss a discussion about slavery. Could more resolutions against the founding documents be far behind?
Eventually the House of Representatives got sick of being forced to come out against everything held sacred by Americans, just to enforce a gag rule that was being violated anyway. The rule was abolished six years after it was established.
Clint Eastwood is not a reincarnation of John Quincy Adams. At least I doubt that he is. And Detroit's effect on the economy, while a serious issue, does not approach slavery. There is no gag order enforced by law. Nobody is coming out against the Declaration of Independence.
But, in the haste to condemn the Eastwood commercial favoring the economic recovery and urging Americans to pull together, one thing does at least remind me of what I have read about the President who became an anti-slavery Congressman. Opponents are adopting strange positions in their eagerness to oppose all things Obama.
Clint Eastwood helped write the ad and did not accept his fee, turning all of it over to charity. "It was meant to be a message about just about job growth and the spirit of America. I think all politicians will agree with it. I thought the spirit was OK."
Coming together, job growth, telling America we can unify, pull together, and make things happen. Great days are ahead of us. The world will hear us roar once more.
This is the message that Republicans, in front of God and everybody, are proclaiming to be offensive. That and Clint Eastwood.
As with most issues, I could be wrong, of course.
Clint Eastwood could be John Quincy Adams.
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