Time Finds Robert Redford in Denial: 'I'm Not a Left-Wing Person'

Time's Ten Questions to Robert Redford drew some silly answers -- like Redford denying he's a lefty.

How helpful or harmful to your career has it been to be known as someone who is passionate about politics?

I am passionate. I am political about my country, about what it is, how strong it is, how strong it remains. [My last film,] Lions for Lambs, got rough treatment, and I think it was because — and I don't want to sound defensive — but I think it was misperceived. I'm not a left-wing person. I'm just a person interested in the sustainability of my country.

So the major political conflicts of our time are between the conservatives and the sustainers? Someone needs to tell Redford that when you favor massive government intervention to "save the planet" and back liberal Democrats for president, that makes you a "left-wing person." Or perhaps he can see that making films seen as left-wing propaganda efforts are box-office bombs, so he's trying to .

Redford's leftism is on display later in the same interview:  

You're well known for being an environmentalist. How do you think the Obama Administration is doing on that front?

I've been doing this for almost 40 years, and it's always been tough because of the power of the energy companies. I think the Administration would like to do the right thing, but they're hampered by the extremism of certain elements within Congress.

You can see the fear at being "pigeonholed" in Redford's interview with Jamie Malanowski for Parade magazine, the Sunday newspaper supplement. They talked about his film about the people on trial for Lincoln's assassination:


Mary [Surratt] was tried before a military court. With Guantánamo and other tribunals in the news, the contemporary relevance of the story must have appealed to you.

Obviously, I could see the parallels to the present, and I knew that this could be dangerous for me, because people see me as a liberal and might pigeonhole me and the film as having some partisan point of view. But I don’t feel that the political films I’ve made have been partisan criticisms of the left or right, but criticisms of the political process itself. 

I’m not inventing anything [about Mary Surratt’s trial]—I’m just putting a spotlight on it. The other factor for me, having experienced what I’ve experienced in my lifetime, is how could I not see patterns in our history? And one of the biggest patterns I’ve noticed is that whenever there’s chaos, there’s ambiguity, and where there’s ambiguity, there’s fear. And fear gets manipulated.

Robert "Don't Pigeonhole Me" Redford tilts to the left again in the Parade interview extras. How'd Bush do on the environment?

The attempts of the previous administration to do away with all the laws and regulations that were put into place over the last 30 years to protect the people of this country had a devastating effect. They attempted to cynically take out the EPA, to do away with the Bureau of Land Management, to open up everything to gas and oil exploration, which are non-renewable resources. I've been involved with the environment for years, and I always will be. People need to wake up. The climate's changing. Water doesn't reach its destination anymore. We need to realize that this planet is home to all of us. There's not a lot one person can do alone, but I will sleep better at night knowing that I did whatever I could.

Right  after this tirade about Bush banning environmental agencies, Redford said there's not enough "moderation" in politics when asked about how Obama is doing:

I think he could do better if some of his advisers weren't from some of the Old School places. So I'm disappointed, but I think he's doing okay, better than anybody else would have. What worries me is that our political system is so degenerated that there's nothing but a war zone. There's no cooperation, there's no moderation, there's no compromise. There is no middle, there's just a demarcation line. Somebody just doesn't see the bigger picture, and we're going to pay.

 Another leading indicator of being a left-wing person is being depressed at the Tea Party Republican influx into Washington. See Redford on the depressing current status of the political debate (as opposed to the Hope and Change Inaugural euphoria). On ABC's This Week, Christiane Amanpour asked if he had a dim view of politics:

"It's so dim it's almost black," he said with a laugh. "It's pretty grim right now. I mean I'm so depressed to think that this country, with all of its potential, could reduce itself to games being played with what feels like the dialogue is being done with Stone Age tools. I mean it's really depressing to think that instead of an exchange of ideas between two different ways of thinking, you've just got a war zone."  


 

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis