Clint Eastwood, 89, has been busy promoting the new movie he produced and directed. The story he wanted to tell is a lot bigger than the eponymous Richard Jewell, faithfully played by Paul Walter Hauser as a character hard to like.
As a white, southern male, Jewell is a member of the group most vilified in American popular and political culture. On top of race and gender, which he can’t control, Jewell is a rather dim overweight gun nut and a police wannabe. When the Olympics comes to Atlanta in 1996, Jewell gets a job as a security guard.
He spots a suspicious backpack, which turns out to be a bomb. Jewell helps evacuate the area, sparing many from the blast, and is hailed as a hero. For the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jewell is a prime suspect based on their “profile” of white males, law-enforcement wannabes who plant a bomb then detect it to gain hero status. Jewell fits the profile, but the facts of the case leave no doubt he is innocent. For the FBI, that doesn’t matter.
In exchange for sex with a reporter, an FBI agent leaks the story. Jewell is soon vilified as a terrorist, in a campaign that was worse than the movie portrays. Jewell was the prime target of late-night comedy, and Jay Leno called him the “Unadufus.” For the suspect, these were only the beginnings of sorrows.
The FBI attempts to trick him into a confession, and when certain that the facts of the case rule him out, they claim he had an accomplice. The FBI makes his life a living hell, and that reality had been set up well in the early going, when Jewell was bringing office supplies to lawyer Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell). When he gets authority as cop or security guard, the attorney says, don’t become “an asshole.” That is an accurate but incomplete profile of the FBI agents.
Jewell tries to cooperate with them because they represent the United States government. Bryant explains that they are only “three pricks who work for the United States government.” As the film makes clear, these are bureaucrats with guns, intoxicated with their power. As Bryant explains, it’s a felony to tell them a lie, and they clearly rank power and status above the pursuit of truth and justice.
Bobi Jewell, wonderfully played by Kathy Bates, knows her son is innocent, but the film’s key line comes from Watson Bryant’s assistant Nadya (Nina Arianda). In her country, Nadya explains, when the government says someone is guilty, everybody knows they are innocent. That speaks to the deep state drama now playing out in Washington.
According to the authorized script, the recent report by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the upper reaches of the FBI and Department of Justice mounted an intelligence operation against candidate Donald Trump and President Donald Trump. For that they needed permission from the FISA court so they had an FBI lawyer falsify a Carter Page email.
They also had a discredited British spy compose a tale of urinating Russian whores, and used that “dossier,” funded by Democrats, to secure FISA warrants. They conducted illegal surveillance and as texts from FBI counterintelligence boss Peter Strzok makes clear, political bias was the motivation from the start. As Nadya noted, the critters in Animal Farm could look from the FBI to the KGB and barely tell the difference.
This illegal spy campaign failed to prevent Trump’s 2016 election victory and to date has failed to remove him from office. The FBI and DOJ players did get some innocent people tossed in jail. To date, none has done jail time their own self, and that includes Peter Strzok, James Comey, Andrew McCabe and Bruce Ohr, among others.
The FBI did drop the case against Richard Jewell, but safe to say the Georgia man’s life was never the same. It took more than six years before the authorities bagged Eric Rudolph, the real bomber of the Atlanta Olympics. That was not a shining moment for the FBI, which gets a lot of free publicity.
In films such as the 1991 Silence of the Lambs, FBI agents come off as selfless public servants and masterful high-tech sleuths capable of tracking down the worst criminals. Clint Eastwood unmasks the FBI as Deep State sturmtruppen more than willing to ignore evidence and target the innocent. As it happens, shattering stereotypes is not new duty for Clint Eastwood.
2021 will mark 50 years since Dirty Harry, as the late Richard Grenier (Capturing the Culture) noted, the first film to talk back to liberalism, then busy talking up the rights of criminals. As one bank robber wonders, did inspector Callahan fire six shots or only five?
Nearly 50 years later, Clint Eastwood still has plenty of bullets in his .44 Magnum. And as Richard Jewell confirms, he can still hit the target.