Clint Eastwood Channels James Stockdale
After three days of buildup to a "mystery speaker," the closing night of the Republican convention featured a rambling performance by Clint Eastwood and an empty chair.
After three days of buildup to a “mystery speaker,” the closing night of the Republican convention featured a rambling performance by Clint Eastwood and an empty chair.
James Rainey describes it for LAT Politics Now (“Eastwood’s ‘Invisible Obama’ skit amuses some, confuses others“):
The Republicans launched their prime-time introduction to their presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, with a surprise guest. But actor and director Clint Eastwood’s more than 10 minutes on the national stage turned into an odd set-piece that featured the 82-year-old talking to an empty chair on the stage, meant to represent President Obama.
He rambled a bit about how there actually were some conservatives in Hollywood before mocking the election night celebration that greeted Obama four years ago. He described tearful celebrants, including Oprah Winfrey, and said, “I haven’t cried that hard since I found out there is 23 million unemployed people in this country.”
“Now that is something to cry about because that is a disgrace, a national disgrace, and we have not done enough. This administration has not done enough to cure that,” Eastwood said. “Whatever interest they have is not strong enough and I think, possibly now, it might be time for someone else to come along and solve the problem.
“I think it’s time, maybe, for a businessman, a stellar businessman,” Eastwood said. He added, addressing the phantom Obama on the stage: “And I think it’s that time. And and I think if you just step aside, Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan can take over.”
Toward the end of his performance, which cut deeply into the hour of prime time promised by the television networks to the Republicans, Eastwood repeated his displeasure with Obama. “When somebody doesn’t do the job,” Eastwood said, “you got to let them go.” That brought a huge round of applause, and Eastwood responded by pointing the invisible Obama off the stage.
Another awkward moment came when Eastwood hit the president for maintaining the war in Afghanistan and not noticing how the Russians “did there for 10 years.” The war has generally been supported by Republicans after being started in 2001 by President George W. Bush.
The performance came to an end when Eastwood complied with an audience shout-out for him to say his signature line, “Make my day!” The crowd joined in in booming voices and, with a slight bow, Eastwood left the stage.
Obama advisors seemed befuddled. “Wow,” top Obama aide Stephanie Cutter tweeted. “What the heck IS this?” Obama strategist David Axelrod added via the micro-blogging site.
That was almost precisely my reaction.
I’m not sure what in the hell Clint Eastwood is talking about or who he’s talking to or who the hell booked him.
— James Joyner (@drjjoyner) August 31, 2012
Hell of a thing, going senile. Take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.
— James Joyner (@drjjoyner) August 31, 2012
I will say this: Mitt Romney should look virile and coherent in comparison to this. Make my day.
— James Joyner (@drjjoyner) August 31, 2012
I still love Clint. But Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over? RT @johnamato: I still love Clint’s movies
— James Joyner (@drjjoyner) August 31, 2012
Eastwood is 82 years old and an American icon, so I feel a little bad for piling on. But I’m truly baffled by the decision to allow him to open the night with a bizarre, unscripted skit. I can’t help but be reminded of another American icon, Admiral James Stockdale, and his bizarre turn in the 1992 vice presidential debate, which included the memorable opening statement, ”Who am I? Why am I here?”
For most Americans, that rambling performance in a debate he didn’t know he was participating in until the last minute is the only thing they know about Stockdale, a genuine American hero awarded the Medal of Honor for courage under horrible torture as a Vietnam POW that still inspires awe in the likes of John McCain. Eastwood, of course, has decades of his best work preserved on film, so his legacy won’t suffer the same blow as Stockdale’s.
Still: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?
UPDATE: Here’s a transcription of the remarks, courtesy NPR:
Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Save a little for Mitt.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, what’s a movie tradesman doing out here? You know they are all left-wingers out there, left of Lenin. At least that’s what people think. But that’s not really the case. There’s a lot of conservative people, a lot of moderate people, Republicans, Democrats, in Hollywood. It’s just that the conservative people by the nature of the word itself play it a little more close to the vest. They don’t go around hot-dogging it. So, uh … But they’re there, believe me, they’re there. I just think, in fact, some of them around town, I saw Jon Voigt, a lot of people around here in town.
John’s here, an Academy Award winner. A terrific guy. These people are all like-minded, like all of us.
So I — so I’ve got Mr. Obama sitting here. And he’s — I just was going to ask him a couple of questions. But, you know, about, I remember three-and-a-half years ago, when Mr. Obama won the election. And though I wasn’t a big supporter, I was watching that night when he was having that thing and they were talking about hope and change and they were talking about, yes we can, and it was dark outdoors, and it was nice, and people were lighting candles. And they were saying, you know, I just thought, this is great. Everybody’s crying. Oprah was crying.
I was even crying. And then finally — I haven’t cried that hard since I found out that there’s 23 million unemployed people in this country.
Now that is something to cry for because that is a disgrace, a national disgrace, and we haven’t done enough, obviously — this administration hasn’t done enough to cure that. Whatever interest they have is not strong enough, and I think possibly now it may be time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem.
So, so, Mr. President, how do you, how do you handle, how do you handle promises that you’ve made when you were running for election and how do you handle, how do you handle it?
I mean, what do you say to people? Do you just — you know — I know — people were wondering. You don’t? You don’t handle it.
Well, I know even some of the people in your own party were very disappointed when you didn’t close Gitmo. And I thought, well, closing Gitmo — why close that? We spent so much money on it. But, I thought maybe as an excuse.
Oh, What do you mean shut up?
Video: Clint Eastwood’s speech, from PBS NewsHour
OK, I thought it was just because somebody had the stupid idea of trying terrorists in downtown New York City. Maybe that was it.
I’ve got to, I’ve got to hand it to you. I’ve got to give credit where credit is due. You did finally overrule that finally. And that’s so, now we’re moving onward. I know, in the, you were against the war in Iraq and that’s OK. But you thought the war in Afghanistan was OK.
You know, I mean — you thought that was something worth doing. We
didn’t check with the Russians to see how they did there for 10 years.
But we did it, and it was, it’s something to be thought about and I think that when we get to maybe — I think you’ve mentioned something about having a target date for bringing everybody home and you give that target date, and I think Mr. Romney asked the only sensible question. He says, “Why are you giving the date out now? Why don’t you just bring them home tomorrow morning?”
And I thought — I thought, yeah — there’s, I’m not going to shut up. It’s my turn.
So anyway, we’re going to have, we’re going to have to have a little chat about that. And then, I just wondered, all these promises and then I wondered about, you know, when the, What? What do you want me to tell Romney? I can’t tell him to do that. That. He can’t do that to himself.
You’re crazy. You’re absolutely crazy. You’re getting as bad as Biden.
Of course we all know Biden is the intellect of the Democratic party.
Just kind of a grin with a body behind it.
But I just think that there’s much to be done and I think that Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are two guys that can come along. See, I never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to be president anyway, because … Yeah.
I think attorneys are so busy. You know, they’re always taught to argue everything, and always weigh everything and weigh both sides and they’re always, you know, they’re always devil’s advocating this and bifurcating this and bifurcating that. You know all that stuff. But, I think it is maybe time. What do you think for maybe a businessman? How about that?
A stellar businessman. Quote, unquote, a stellar businessman. And I think it’s that time. And I think if you just kind of stepped aside and Mr. Romney can kind of take over.
You could still use the plane. Though maybe a smaller one. Not that big gas guzzler when you’re going around to colleges and talking about student loans and stuff like that.
You’re an ecological man. Why would you want to drive that truck around?
OK, well, anyway. All right, I’m sorry. I can’t do that to myself either.
But I’d just like to say something, ladies and gentlemen. Something that I think is very important. It is that, you, we, we own this country.
Thank you. Thank you.
Yes, we own it. And it’s not you owning it and not politicians owning it. Politicians are employees of ours.
And, so, they’re just going to come around and beg for votes every few years. It’s the same old deal. But I just think that it’s important that you realize and that you’re the best in the world.
And whether you’re Democrat or whether you’re a Republican or whether you’re Libertarian or whatever, you’re the best. And we should not ever forget that. And when somebody does not do the job, we got to let ’em go.
Let ’em go.
OK, just remember that. And I’m speaking out for everybody out there. It doesn’t hurt, we don’t have to be …
I do not say that word anymore.
Well, maybe one last time.
We don’t have to be — what I’m saying, we don’t have to be metal masochists and vote for somebody that we don’t really even want in office just because they seem to be nice guys or maybe not so nice guys if you look at some of the recent ads going out there. I don’t know.
You want to make my day, huh?
(AUDIENCE: Make my day!)
Thank you. Thank you very much.
It reads nuttier than it looked live. As to why Eastwood was allowed to go on an unscripted rant, TIME’s Mark Halperin reports that it was a bait-and-switch.
Convention planners had assumed the Hollywood legend would reprise the powerful and typically gruff/charming performance he delivered at the beginning of August when he showed up out of the blue at a Romney fundraiser in Idaho and said he was backing the Republican.
Romney aides played down the impact Eastwood’s odd turn might have on Tampa’s positive impact, but they acknowledge that the empty-chair monologue came as a complete surprise to them. They simply turned the podium over to an iconic superstar and expected him to stand and deliver.
Imagine if the 10 pm ET hour had included the moving live testimonials from some of the people Romney has touched, leading into the extraordinarily well-produced campaign video intended to further humanize the candidate, leading into Romney’s speech. It is true that in recent years, the broadcast networks have balked at airing “propaganda” videos, but in this case, my educated guess is that this video would have made it onto most channels.
You know what happens when you assume, right?
I’ve been a big Eastwood fan for a long time and suspect that ten years ago we might have had a lot of agreement if having a discussion over a beer. Whoever orchestrated this fiasco should be ashamed of themselves. At some point, out of respect for our elders, we have to recognize they are slipping and help keep them from making fools of themselves. This reminds me of Frank Sinatra’s handlers putting him up on stage when he could no longer remember what decade he was in. It doesn’t disgrace Eastwood, only the people who let it happen.
@MarkedMan: Agree completely.
Quoting ACORN defending Shill James Rainey?
L.A. Times Columnist [James Rainey] Uncritically Quoted Star of Latest ACORN Video
If Republicans are still trying to lock up the “get off my lawn” voting block, then it’s over.
That’s not correct. He actually responded by miming a throat-slicing by drawing his finger across his neck. ABC has pulled out that particular clip here:
Clint Eastwood crystallized the Republicans for me this election season: An old, rich white guy arguing with an imaginary black man.
His next film should be titled “Every Which Way But Lucid.”
I almost feel sorry for him.
The only thing anyone will remember about this convention after noon today…is Eastwood.
Worst. Campaign. Ever.
And oh yeah…Jan typing:
That will go down In history too.
It was just sad. I felt genuinely sorry for Clint.
Great surprise buildup but man, what a tremendous letdown when we got a look at the lump of coal. This is like promising your kids a 2 week vacation at Disney but not telling them its the boarded up clone Disney in China. And the 2 weeks of vacation from school in the states is actually immersion studies with non English speakers.
The rudderpedals family is trained to explain that november tango bravo is always a correct response to whiskey tango foxtrot
Well, this is just Republicans being inept about politics, which is par for the course. Shit, this is a party that only in the past couple of years has managed to reelect Harry Reid into being the Senate Majority Leader and to turn a primary cycle during a period of massive unemployment and a disastrous fiscal scenario largely into a referendum on vaccines, deportations, abortion and religion. Staggeringly inept. Unbelievably clueless.
The saving graces for Team Romney are that Zombieland already has tuned out this election and very few people who’ll be voting in November have not already made up their minds. So we’ll see what happens. Should be quite interesting.
I’m not a hundred percent how trending topics on twitter works, but I know topics related to Clint keep showing up and there’s nothing about Romney. Probably not what his campaign wanted to wake up to.
I didn’t watch his speech, but as I was reading reactions this morning and watching TV, I noticed an ad for a new Eastwood movie. Wonder if he took an opportunity for some free advertising last night.
Today, Prompter People has signed Eastwood up for twelve ads marketing their line of teleprompters. The ads will feature Eastwood speaking incoherently in different settings until another person sets up one of Prompter People’s teleprompters for him.
According to reports, it’s a six-figure contract.
Not me. I feel genuinely sorry for all you people who watched it.
Are you kidding…it was BRILLIANT!!!!
Clint is the picture of the Republican party…an old rich white senile guy…talking to the furniture.
Funny for all people are saying about the routine, Clint hit all the marks and picked up all the laughs. It was entertainment with an edge.
I’ll admit, I to sometimes thought he was getting lost but just when you drawn in to watch, he’d throw a punch. He brought a lot of topics into the conversation that wouldn’t really work in a direct speech. In the end, his them was “A man’s gotta know his limitations”, Obama is a nice guy who’s done well for himself but the Presidency was a job to far.
The twenty-three million unemployed line was actually pretty good. Up until that point it may have been an effective and honest speech.
But poor Clint basically had no idea what to say next. It’s just rambling idiocy, red meat for the people who always win conversation in their head, but pointless for the rest of us.
Listening to Clint on the radio was a strange experience… the entire time I assumed it played better in TV. Guess that wasn’t the case.
1. Beyond whether it was good or bad, it seems to me that it represented another planning mistep by the organizers — Clint ended up capturing much of the attention/coverage that should have gone to Romney or the other speakers. They clearly wanted him to be a focal point, but not in this way.
2. Is it me or was the entire Republican crowd cheering the notion that Afghanistan was a bad idea from the beginning? And cheering “bring the troops home now!”? Are we living in a parallel world where GW’s administration and the “War on Terror” never happened?
Talk about alternative realities. You watched a different performance than I did. Clint delivered a cringe inducing performance. Clint played the role of the loopy uncle at the holiday dinner who doesn’t know when to shut up and when to go home.
If we take Eastwood’s speech seriously, he had two points:
1. We should take immediate, drastic action to alleviate unemployment.
2. We should bring the troops home from Afghanistan immediately.
These seem like liberal Democratic points, not conservative Republican points.
Disclosure : I didn’t see it, I am responding to reports. From the response, it seems the speech was a cockup.
This has been the most enjoyable part of the RNC.
we get this: https://twitter.com/InvisibleObama
And this: https://twitter.com/WillMcAvoyACN/status/241388975305138176
And this: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/08/go-ahead-make-a-chairs-day-eastwooding-is-now-a-thing/261824
This is just delicious. Such fun.
Empty chair precedes empty suit, dominates coverage the following day.
Well, I guess they’re just following in the tracks of the Birthers, who have now twice to managed to lose cases to an empty chair.
Eastwood as Harry Callahan:
“This is a Barcalounger Sergio ll Top Grain Leather Recliner, this most powerful empty chair in the world, and you’ve to ask yourself, can you afford it? Well, can ya, punk?”
@al-Ameda: Yup…the gif in Mashable’s slides on the meme:
I really don’t think this is what the convention planners had hoped would be the dominant coverage.
@black onion: Love those images. Empty head addressing empty chair, preceding the empty suit. “Got nuthin” would be an accurate campaign slogan.
This may be a stretch, but the Eastwood thing is just the latest example that Mitt Romney may have one of George W. Bush’s biggest weaknesses in spades. Why did they put Eastwood on the stage? Why weren’t they better prepared for the tax return issue? Why weren’t they better prepared for the Bain attacks? It appears to me that Romney likes to surround himself with, if not quite sycophants, people who don’ t tell him things he doesn’t want to hear. And when that’s the mindset at the top, it filters down to the whole operation. That’s how you end up with somebody suggesting “Hey! Let’s get Clint Eastwood for the convention!” and the idea doesn’t get tossed around and chewed over enough to wind up tossed into the circular file.
I mean, Eastwood is 82 years old and his physical decline has been pretty obvious for the last few years. He’s also not exactly a fire-breathing right winger. Try and imagine the best possible speech Eastwood could have given. Would it have been anywhere near good enough to justify his status as mystery guess in the final prime time hour of the convention?
If the idea was to do some outreach to moderate indies, the “best speech he could’ve give” might have been pretty good, precisely because he’s not a fire-breather as far as we know.
Put a famous, generally liked, moderate face on an immoderate party. Standard operating proceedure, really.
If it didn’t work, so much the better from my PoV. If this is the thing that everybody thinks about, excellent. I mean, in my heart of hearts I’d much rather people were talking about policy substance. But since there wasn’t much policy substance in the GOP speeches to discuss, no biggie (ideally, people would be talking about the MOAR WAR stuff, though).
Considering all people are talking about today is crazy Clint Eastwood and not Romney’s speech, that can’t be good for the campaign.
I’ve been a fan of Eastwood’s since the spaghetti western days, but that was just brutal. What were they thinking?
black onion, those links are awesome. roflmao, and I never, ever say that.
Anybody seen this? http://twitter.com/BarackObama/status/241392153148915712/photo/1
I notice no one is trying to say that the supposed responses from the invisible Obama in the chair weren’t characteristics.
Obama getting angry in the hot seat and telling Clint to “Shut up” is an easy visualization.
Obama telling Clint and Romney to perform physically impossible acts, is something also, very Obama.
Even as it was, Obama’s real response was not that of a confident man
@JKB: One has to be a true partisan’s partisan to endeavor so mightily to spin that appearance in a positive light.
Dude that **** was hilarious…”you want me to tell him to do what to himself” Hahahahahahahahahaha………….
@JKB: “Obama getting angry in the hot seat and telling Clint to “Shut up” is an easy visualization. Obama telling Clint and Romney to perform physically impossible acts, is something also, very Obama.”
That’s getting close to legally-defined insanity. It’s impossible for any non-racist to imagine Obama doing any of those things.
He didn’t look senile to me, he looked like a slightly doddering old man trying a skit that just flat out didn’t work. When the chair told him to go f.ck himself, that was unfortunate. He’s an entertainer, he took a chance, and he failed. I’m glad my failures haven’t been on national tv.
His main points were we needed to immediately reduce unemployment, and end the war in Afghanistan — odd at a Republican convention, but these have been two of the biggest sticking points for the Obama administration.
He, for whatever reason, reminded everyone that Mitt Romney likes firing people. And he got a big cheer when he mentioned Oprah crying. The Republican base wants Oprah to cry, noted.
He’s a little out of touch. His main points could have been made in support of the President (stimulus, beginning to wind down the wars). And the skit made it look like he was responding to the voices in his head.
When I heard that Clint Eastwood was going to be the surprise guest, I was a little scared. I love his work, but if he turned out some fiery cultural warfare speech, it would have changed how I viewed him, and it would have affected how I saw him in his earlier movies. Instead, he just flopped.
Also, I don’t know what Mr. Joyner is talking about with Stockdale — Stockdale was great in that debate. When asked if they supported a woman’s right to choose abortion, Gore and Quayle gave long, winding answers desperately trying not to offend, and Stockdale just gave a one word answer (yes, i believe) and stood there, silently until the moderator realized he was done. Then he turned off his hearing aide.
Wow, I’m just rambling, like a crazy old man.
Also! Eastwood used a Teleprompter.
I came by to see the commentary dealing with the Clint Eastwood convention ‘performance.’ And, you did not disappoint. The dems are now being described as in ‘tribal mode,’ and looking at the cacophony of mendacities, on this one event alone, indicates such a mode is in high gear.
Far from feeling sorry for Eastwood, it was seen by many others as a clever role allowing him to deliver a raw truth that too many people shy away from. After all, young children and old, craggy men can get away with telling the truth, no matter how offensive it is.
Michael Walsh’s NY Post opinion piece, battle for America heartland, sees Eastwood’s appeal as being in those mid-west heartland areas whose values and lifestyle differ from their fellow citizens on the left/right coastlines.
You see, you guys only look at this from a one-dimensional social progressive view. So, everything about Eastwood’s staged event is seen as rude, crude and hapless, in lieu of all his great theatrical credits. But, he has frequently taken on quirky, common roles, subtly enlarging them to create some kind of moral lesson to his screen roles and to the stories he directs.
Last night’s was no different. He was speaking another language, one that was unsophisticated, a portrait of a gaunt man faded by age, but more unrestrained in his words to say it like he saw it. Whether you agree with him or not, there are many who feel the same way he does about how this country is going under the current leadership. So, the MSM and people like you will play it one way, while Eastwood’s reminders, that government is nothing more than employees of the people, has an excellent chance of enjoining more people to the idea that the empty chair has seated an empty suit who has managed to usurp the hope out of the changes he made during his time as POTUS.
Jan, you seriously need to get your medications checked. Or give up the keys to your car. You really can’t be this delusional.
“When somebody doesn’t do the job,” Eastwood said, “you got to let them go.”
As Jan wrote yesterday:
It’s pretty clear she has mental health issues. I hope she seeks professional help.
OBL is dead and GM isn’t. That’s gettin’ the job done.
He’s not a complete failure, just weak in the areas that add value to the nation’s electorate. And rally, you have to evaluate their chances of being able to do the job in the future when it comes review time like we have now.
Jan, the thing about your Word-A-Day calendar is you need to read the definitions of the words too. You shouldn’t just plug them in wherever and hope for the best.
@jan the condescending coastal elitist: Well, Jan, I live in the heart of Texas, and I thought the speech was a complete and total embarassment. But I sure do appreciate you – a California Coastal Elite – quoting from Coastal Elite newspaper the New York Post in an attempt to explain to me what I think about the speech. That’s definitely in no way condescending.
The base probably liked it okay, judging by feedback I’ve heard from people who were already voting for Romney as a matter of course.
Can’t think it had much appeal to swing voters. Whoever they are.
You mean like the Dow…which has gone from 7000 something to around 13,000?
‘Cause judging by my 401K he’s gettin’ the job done.
Jan, it was in English, and it was a skit that flopped. Even Ann Romney could see that, and she’s not a liberal.
The private insurance companies will have 30 million more customers.
People with pre-existing conditions can get insurance now.
Kids up to 26 can stay on their parents insurance.
That’s gettin’ the job done.
@jan: You remind me of a proud mother showing off to her friends her little toddler’s smearing of his feces on the living room wall as “oh, he’s got such artistic talent!”
Obviously you are confused (yes, I know, hardly surprising)…actually what Eastwood mentioned was very Cheney…
You will forgive all of us for not taking you seriously, especially after you were so foolish to suggest that the President had an easier early life than Mitt Romney…
In the end, Eastwood is a great filmmaker and actor, but it’s never a good thing for Republicans when someone speaking at a GOP convention makes Joe Biden look somber and full of gravitas by comparison…
@JKB: @Steven L. Taylor: @MBunge: Yeah, it was just a train wreck. And, no, it’s impossible to envision either Obama or Romney giving that answer. Rahm Immanuel? Sure? Me? You betcha. But not Mr. Cool as a Cucumber or Mr. Roboto.
@JKB, @jan, @Mutt Williams #13:
If Eastwood was great, then why isn’t anyone in the Romney campaign willing to take credit for it?
Don’t blame poor old Clint.
I think he lost his concentration when he got all the applause after his 23 million unemployed Americans comment. I learned more about the Republican party after that applause – than all the rest of the convention.