Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Bruce Willis Republicanism

This is making the rounds. It's an interview Bruce Willis did, and the most detailed one is there at CHUD. First, Andrew Sullivan celebrated it. Then Matt Yglesias (and some of his commenters) tried to portray Willis as dumb, that he somehow "doesn't get it." I have to say Yglesias and his commenters are the ones who don't get it, and while Willis' comments are problematic, they're not all that out of line. Especially with a more moderate Republican from the Northeast like Willis. I think it again shows how profoundly much liberals often don't get why people are Republican, and why a vast number of people who are Republican don't necessarily follow all of the talking points.

Q: You are one of the few major Hollywood stars who are proud to be Republican...

Willis: Let me stop you right there. I'm a Republican — and everybody write this down because I'm sick of answering this fucking question.

Q: Can I continue –

Willis: You can continue, but let me answer that part of it. I'm a Republican only as far as I want a smaller government, I want less government intrusion, I want them to stop pissing on my money and your money, the tax dollars that we give 50 per cent of or 40 per cent of every year, and I want them to be fiscally responsible, and I want these goddamn lobbyists out of Washington. Do that and I'll say I'm a Republican. But other than that, I want the government to take care of people who need help, like the kids in foster care, the half a million kids who are in orphanages right now, they call them foster homes but they're orphanages. I want them to take care of the elderly and give them free medicine, give them whatever they need. There's tons, billions and billions of dollars that are just being wasted. Okay? I hate government. I'm apolitical. Write that down. I'm not a Republican.

Q: I thank you for this

Willis: There you go. Now you can finish your question.

Q: Can I change my question?

Willis: Go ahead. I just need to get that Republican shit out of the way.

This sort of rant implies that he would like to see government dramatically cut. But then, when you read it, there's so much he wants to increase and fund. What is to drop and what is to grow? Of course Yglesias and co. from the left want to hold this as some sort of example of how Republicans want to have their cake and eat it too. The fabled "mystery waste" Yglesias invokes in trying to portray Willis as uninformed. Yglesias (somewhat rightly) points out tha so many Republicans pay lip service to small government, but they really want to fully fund everything. That they're against big government but for big programs. BUT that doesn't represent all of what Willis had to say. Then there is one other point of interest:

Schoolteachers too, while we're talking about being political. 100 grand, let's throw money at them. In ten years we'd have a much smarter group of kids coming out of the schools because you'd get great teachers. Great teachers can't work as teachers now because they can't afford to raise kids on 35grand a year. So let's throw some money at the problem. Let's not build one more rocket, let’s take one rocket less, one bomb less, and you can solve a lot of problems.

He makes the same point about th epolice. First of all, if you read Yglesias' idiotic statements, you can tell he completely missed this part of the interview. Willis obviously has liberal tendencies when it comes to education, which is nothing odd when comparing him to moderate Republicans from the Northeast. Such Republicans tend to be greatly skeptical of government, but at the same time that doesn't make them strangle-government-in-the-bathtub Grover Norquists. Clearly Willis here is advocating where a big chunk of the waste and tradeoffs are: DOD weapons-systems. Now it's probably making sense why I'm leaping to Willis' defense, but he clearly does indicate where he would like to see some things cut and others added to.Clearly Willis indicates several times that he doesn't trust politicians and government doesn't operate efficiently. These are basically objective facts, as much as liberals want to try to explain them away. Willis is clearly indicating that he would like to accomplish the goals liberals hold in mind, but 1) government has shown itself incapable of doing it and 2) he's not getting best-value for his tax dollars. Again, I think these are pretty much objective facts.

Yglesias is insane if he thinks that "waste isn't the problem" as one of his commenters states. Dropping any liberal into the federal bureaucracy for a few months is likely to change their perspective on waste. Granted, cutting waste isn't going to balance the budget. But people like Willis have every right to lose faith in government and to be angry about the use of their tax dollars when it exists. And, as much as one tries to label Willis "conservative", does he ever say that in the interview? Nope. He calls himself Republican, but his viewpoints are clearly more to the moderate part of that continuum. Sure he "hates government", but that doesn't mean he doesn't wish it could accomplish plenty.

Maybe I'm overreading Willis here, but I think right trying to find everything about big-government conservatism you despise in Willis' words is the same overread. I'm not saying Bruce Willis is a genius, but I'm also saying he's not an idiot by a long shot. And let's see Yglesias make a movie pitch and generate a complete political theory at the same time too.