“Not me,” said an exasperated-looking senior adviser, when asked who was responsible for Mr. Eastwood’s speech. In late-night interviews, aides variously called the speech “strange” and “weird.” One described it as “theater of the absurd.”…
A senior Republican involved in convention planning said that Mr. Eastwood’s appearance was cleared by at least two of Mr. Romney’s top advisers, Russ Schriefer and Stuart Stevens. This person said that there had been no rehearsal, to the surprise of the rest of the campaign team.
But another adviser said that several top aides had reviewed talking points given to Mr. Eastwood, which the campaign had discussed with the actor as recently as a few hours before his appearance. Mr. Eastwood, however, delivered those points in a theatrical, and at times crass, way that caught Romney aides off guard, this person said.
“Listen, the guy went out and did what actors do something, he did a little improv,” Stuart Stevens told reporters Friday. “If someone wants to say this wasn’t Clint Eastwood’s greatest performance, have at it… Some people didn’t like Dirty Harry, some people didn’t like Gran Torino. That’s okay.”
Stevens said Eastwood never had prepared remarks for the speech, and only planned to hit on themes he’d successfully communicated at two Romney fundraisers earlier this summer in Sun Valley, Idaho. The idea to bring out an empty chair and talk to it as though it represented President Obama was one that came to Eastwood shortly before going on stage, and a prop aide fetched him the chair without asking questions. The aide assumed Eastwood was planning to sit down…
“I was backstage with [Mitt] and he was laughing, and he enjoyed it,” Stevens said, adding that the candidate thanked him for coming.
The reviews continue to pour in on Clint Eastwood’s appearance at the Republican National convention Thursday night, and “mixed” might be a charitable way to put it. One prominent Republican, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, said that he “cringed” at the performance…
In multiple television appearances Friday morning, Ann Romney was asked about Eastwood, largely demurring, calling him “a unique guy,” and noting the campaign was happy for his support. But when asked on CBS’ This Morning whether she thought the campaign should have aired a well-received video tribute in prime time in place of Eastwood, she responded: “Yes, I do wish more people had seen those touching moments.”
“Clint Eastwood was a disaster,” Lawrence O’Donnell said.
“I thought Clint Eastwood was bizarre,” Ed Schultz said. “It was demeaning to the presidency.”…
Fox News’s Chris Wallace, meanwhile, wouldn’t even opine on the speech.
“Let me say that I get paid to review politicians,” he said. “There’s no way I’m going to touch Clint Eastwood’s performance tonight.”
Speaking to Invisible Obama last night, in a performance that seemed to have been written by Timothy Leary and performed by Cheech & Chong, Clint Eastwood was able to drive home to tens of millions of viewers the central message of this year’s Republican National Convention: We Are Delusional and Detached from Reality. Vote for Us!
The footage of Eastwood rambling and mumbling to his “Harvey”—President Obama—will be played to audiences a hundred years from now as the Most Bizarre Convention Moment Ever. The people of the future will know nothing about Dirty Harry or Josey Wales or Million Dollar Baby. They will know about the night a crazy old man hijacked a national party’s most important gathering so he could literally tell the president to go do something to himself (i.e. fuck himself). In those few moments (and these days, it only takes a few moments—see Anthony Weiner), he completely upended and redefined how he’ll be remembered by younger and future generations.
Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic. He didn’t need to do this to himself. It’s unworthy of him.
— Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) August 31, 2012
As Mr. Hayward suggests, the hard lines packed more of a punch for being delivered in the midst of a Bob Newhart empty-chair shtick from the Dean Martin show circa 1968. Indeed, they were some of the hardest lines of the convention and may well prove the take-home (“We own this country . . . Politicians are employees of ours . . . And when somebody does not do the job, we’ve got to let them go”), but they seemed more effective for appearing to emerge extemporaneously from the general shambles.
The curse of political operatives is that they make everything the same. A guy smoothly reading platitudinous codswallop while rotating his head from the left-hand teleprompter to the right-hand teleprompter like clockwork as if he’s at Centre Court watching the world’s slowest Wimbledon rally is a very reductive idea of “professionalism.” Even politicians you’re well disposed to come across as slick bores in that format. Which is by way of saying Clint is too sharp and too crafty not to have known what he was doing.
Eastwood’s criticisms of Barack Obama were the average American’s criticisms of Barack Obama. If you want to hammer the president in a way that appeals to undecideds, you couldn’t do much better than to complain about high unemployment and an endless war. That won’t sound authentic coming from Romney, who has been tagged, fairly or not, as the guy who likes to fire people, and whose position on Afghanistan is 180 degrees away from Eastwood’s. But coming from Clint Eastwood, that isn’t a big problem…
In short: A widely beloved figure came onstage, offered a politically popular critique of the other party’s candidate, put it in transpartisan terms that are more likely to appeal to undecided voters, and did it in a way that guaranteed we will remember it. He was human, eccentric, funny, weird, relatable. Maybe I would have preferred a performance of Eastwood’s anti-government monologue from The Outlaw Josey Wales, but I’m not the target audience. I say the speech helps Romney.
The further I get from it, the more I like it. His timing wasn’t perfect, but it was perfect in all the critical spots. And the parts where he missed his timing actually built a sense of mild danger about the performance. I don’t know how it played on TV, but in the arena I kept thinking, Dear God, this thing could go completely off the rails any second. That frisson of disaster narrowly avoided lent the thing a kind of extra spontaneity and power…
I think there’s the potential of real political danger in it for the Obama campaign. You could easily–really easily–imagine a world in which the Dems try to rebut it or mock it in Charlotte and instead they actually make the bite deeper. You could also imagine a world in which the empty chair becomes a pop symbol of Obama’s failed presidency. Romney and Ryan could leave an empty chair on every stage they mount. It could be a kind of iconic short-hand for popular disillusionment with Obama’s job performance.
The weirdness seemed to discomfit the audience, but also charged them with adrenaline. Weirdness, maybe, was just what this convention needed — a reminder that, however closely choreographed, the conventions are still live events…
Commenters initially called it a catastrophe for Romney. But for decades voters have complained that there’s no spontaneity at the conventions. Eastwood brought the spontaneity, with the crazy. Who vetted his speech — or failed to? Who cares? He woke up a flagging crowd just in time for Romney’s acceptance speech.
This morning on the local radio, the journalists kept talking about how awful the Clint Eastwood thing was, but what was hilarious was when they talked to normal people — the folks who called in or whom they were otherwise interviewing — the people all responded that they thought Eastwood was awesome. One even said he thought Eastwood had made a convincing argument (imagine the pain speechwriters experience when hearing a man on the street say stuff like that). Some were actually confused by the media question built on the premise that Eastwood had done something wrong.
My theory on this is that we have a bunch of Tracy Flick wannabes in our media and political elite. They sit there fantasizing about delivering a stemwinder that transforms the nation. They practice it over and over in their minds and think of themselves as rhetorical geniuses. They watch whatever that Eastwood performance was and they can not compute it. It’s racist. It’s awful. It’s a debacle. It can’t be allowed to exist!
Via the Daily Rushbo.
Via Misfit Politics.