Clint Eastwood Explains His Bizarre RNC Appearance

Clint Eastwood apparently considers his stunt at the Republican National Convention to be a success: 

Clint Eastwood revealed that what he termed a “very unorthodox” speech involving an empty chair at the Republican National Convention was a last-minute, impromptu decision.

Eastwood told his hometown newspaper, The Carmel Pine Cone, on Tuesday in an interview that was published Friday that he arrived at the convention site “just 15 or 20 minutes” before he was scheduled to go on stage.

“There was a stool there, and some fella kept asking me if I wanted to sit down,” Eastwood explained to the newspaper that covers the town he once served as mayor. “When I saw the stool sitting there, it gave me the idea. I’ll just put the stool out there, and I’ll talk to Mr. Obama and ask him why he didn’t keep all of the promises he made to everybody.”

When it was his turn to go give his remarks, Eastwood asked a stagehand to put the chair right next to the lectern. The address, he says, was made without any notes — leading to some stumbles.

“That’s what happens when you don’t have a written-out speech,” Eastwood told the newspaper, but he added that the crowd “really seemed to be enjoying themselves.”

Eastwood was criticized afterward for taking too long and pushing Mitt Romney’s speech into the 11 p.m. hour, but the actor-director said the applause made his address longer.

“When people are applauding so much, it takes you 10 minutes to say five minutes’ worth,” he said.

Eastwood also said that he resisted any effort by Romney’s people to have a look at what he would be saying:

“They vet most of the people, but I told them, ‘You can’t do that with me, because I don’t know what I’m going to say,'” Eastwood recalled. “It was supposed to be a contrast with all the scripted speeches, because I’m Joe Citizen. … I’m a movie maker, but I have the same feelings as the average guy out there.”

Quite honestly, at that point the campaign should’ve pulled the plug on Eastwood’s appearance. You simply do not let someone walk out onto a convention stage without knowing what they are going to say, especially when they tell you that they don’t even know what they’re going to say. I don’t care if the person in question is a schoolteacher from Podunk, Iowa or Clint Eastwood. That convention was Mitt Romney’s campaign launching pad, not a venue for some actor from Hollywood to riff on the President.

As for what he was trying to accomplish with the skit, Eastwood says this:

“President Obama is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” Eastwood told The Pine Cone this week. “Romney and Ryan would do a much better job running the country, and that’s what everybody needs to know. I may have irritated a lot of the lefties, but I was aiming for people in the middle.”

Eastwood seems quite pleased with himself, and why shouldn’t he? None of this is going to harm him in any way, after all. Republicans, meanwhile, seem to have dug in even more on the idea that the Eastwood thing was a masterful performance that actually accomplished something. They, no doubt, are pleased to hear Eastwood say in the interview that the President is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” because it reinforces their own beliefs. Whether it actually impresses that “middle” that Eastwood says he was aiming for is another question entirely.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Entertainment, Popular Culture, Quick Takes, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed for too young in July 2021.

Comments

  1. grumpy realist says:

    Uhhh…..whut? Is this how Romney is going to run the US presidency as well–allow people to just “wing it” without checking with him?

    Great. Give the keys to Bolton, be at war with Iran by Thursday.

    Oh, and Doug, did you catch the needle that Putin jabbed into Romney?

    I don’t think that things will fall out the way Romney thinks they will if he gets elected….

  2. al-Ameda says:

    They, no doubt, are pleased to hear Eastwood say in the interview that the President is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” because it reinforces their own beliefs. Whether it actually impresses that “middle” that Eastwood says he was aiming for is another question entirely.

    Clint, like a lot of people, mistakenly believes that there is a significant “middle” to be reached.

    Even if there is a “middle” bigger than the one I imagine, it may well be the case that Obama is perceived to be much closer to the center of the political spectrum that Romney-Ryan are.

  3. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Arrogance is a bad trait. Megalomania even is worse. Senility is not a badge of honor. The combination of all three is a disaster.

    As for Team Romney, well, they’re so inept it’s scary. Literally.

  4. Michael says:

    It wasn’t bizarre at all….it was effective.

  5. Me Me Me says:

    First they choose to have their big event in hurricane country during hurricane season in a low-lying oceanside city that, on average, gets hit by a hurricane or tropical storm every other year.

    Then on the first night of live action they send out the candidate’s wife and then a morbidly obese failing governor to contradict each other.

    Then they top if off by letting a Hollywood type take a prop on stage and ad-lib for an eternity right before the candidate takes the stage.

    If any of these elements appeared in a script somewhere you’d whine and complain about liberal bias.

  6. Cheryl says:

    Pretty effective. Americans think or see an empty chair, they think of Obama.
    Empty chair = Obama If my speeches were that effective, I’d be happy.

  7. al-Ameda says:

    @Michael:

    t wasn’t bizarre at all….it was effective.

    Convention delegates liked it, but the Romney people were upset because it pushed Mitt’s appearance back. Ann Romney in particular was upset by this.

    Fun in person but really lame television.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Cheryl:

    Ah hah hah. That is an excellent – if pitifully transparent and absurd — effort at spinning this disaster. I assume you’re in politics? Or PR?

  9. @Cheryl:

    You really don’t know that to be the case. The most people will remember about Eastwood is that he was there, that’s all. The people who didn’t watch aren’t going to remember him at all. Anyone who thinks this was either a good idea or will have an impact on the election is clearly a Romney partisan who refuses to look at reality.

  10. JKB says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Anyone who thinks this was either a good idea or will have an impact on the election …

    I don’t know, it seems to me Clint was presentient of the DNC.

    We now have:

    2012- We own this country vs. We belong the the government

    Politicians are our employees vs. politicians preach salvation but only for the faithful.

    Perhaps not what the Romney campaign planned and certainly not what the DC elite desire but it does provide a choice.

  11. Stonetools says:

    I thought it was great. I encourage the Romney campaign to make it a regular part of their campaigning. After all, it’s a master stroke, according to both Eastwood and the Romney campaign. Who are we to question that?

    When Romney is elected, he ought to put the empty chair in the Oval Office.

  12. James H says:

    I think Eastwood’s schpiel with the empty chair would have worked better if:

    a) Eastwood were a more experienced improvisational actor a la Drew Carey, as Eastwood trailed off during the speech at least a couple times;
    b) Eastwood had arranged with the stage crew to cut to shots of the empty chair whenever “Obama” had something to say; and,
    c) Eastwood had delivered the performance as a monologue rather than as a speech at a political convention.

    Colbert’s parody the following night was an excellent example of how to do the “empty chair” schtick effectively.

  13. MM says:

    @Cheryl: Except people aren’t. The conversation that I had with anyone who didn’t watch wasn’t “I hear Obama is an empty chair”, it was “I heard Clint Eastwood was weird”.

    For people who did watch it, it was “Clint Eastwood shouldn’t try shtick”.

    Outside of people who refuse to read anything to the left of Pajamas Media, this was not successful.

  14. Me Me Me says:

    @James H: Or he could have trained with Bob Newhart for a day. Now there is a guy who absolutely would have killed with this routine. Because he would not have made the rookie mistakes of having the “chair” say things that are completely out of character (“shut up”, “go f yourself”); of staring at invisible Obama’s crotch instead of his eyes; of going on way too long; of not scripting it out beforehand; and most importantly, of not having any actually funny bits.

  15. pj says:

    Now that the dust has settled, the tents taken down, and the cages cleaned, it appears the ’empty chair’ is pretty much all of the RNC that anyone remembers, and then not even for the reason it was presented. Funny how an inanimate object was more interesting than the candidates themselves.

  16. Me Me Me says:

    @pj: To be fair, quite a few people I know have images of Governor Square Pants’ greasy quivering flesh etched permanently on their retinas.

  17. mantis says:

    “…I’m Joe Citizen. … I’m a movie maker, but I have the same feelings as the average guy out there.”

    As an actual “average guy out there” who has not been a famous movie star for 50 years, I disagree.

  18. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Quite honestly, at that point the campaign should’ve pulled the plug on Eastwood’s appearance. You simply do not let someone walk out onto a convention stage without knowing what they are going to say, especially when they tell you that they don’t even know what they’re going to say. I don’t care if the person in question is a schoolteacher from Podunk, Iowa or Clint Eastwood.

    Funny, Doug, how you didn’t apply the same principle to Bill Clinton’s speech…

  19. Me Me Me says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Funny how you don’t understand that the top brass at the DNC did know what Bill Clinton was going to say. Plus he didn’t ask anybody for an odd prop on his way to the mic.

  20. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Me Me Me: From Doug His Self:

    Clinton was never a man known for sticking to a script, after all, and there were questions about whether he’d use the opportunity to promote the President, or promote his (and Hillary’s) own vision of a Democratic Party run by them. Indeed, this week there were reports that Clinton was behind in getting a final draft of his speech to convention organizers and campaign officials, although that’s not all that surprising given that as President Clinton had a reputation for changing speeches virtually up until the time of delivery.

    ..

    Not for the first time at a Democratic Convention, Clinton’s speech went far longer than it was planned, and, at some point, he went so far off the prepared text that the “as delivered” version of his remarks ended up about 2,700 words longer than the prepared text released to the press.

  21. Me Me Me says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Doug not knowing what Clinton was going to say has nothing at all to do with top brass at the DNC knowing about it. And having a former president who is acknowledged as the most talented politician living in America today deviate from his prepared text simply cannot be compared to letting a Hollywood star amble up to the podium with no text all – just a funny prop.

  22. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Me Me Me: I’m going out for a bit. Take a few hours to keep rewriting what Doug actually said until it means what you want it to mean.

  23. mantis says:

    @Jay Tea’s Sock Puppet Jenos Idanian #13:

    Funny, Doug, how you didn’t apply the same principle to Bill Clinton’s speech…

    Doug said this:

    You simply do not let someone walk out onto a convention stage without knowing what they are going to say, especially when they tell you that they don’t even know what they’re going to say.

    Which you think should be applied to Clinton because of this:

    Indeed, this week there were reports that Clinton was behind in getting a final draft of his speech to convention organizers and campaign officials, although that’s not all that surprising given that as President Clinton had a reputation for changing speeches virtually up until the time of delivery.

    So Clinton was “reportedly” late in submitting his final draft, and that’s comparable to Eastwood admitting even he didn’t know what he was going to say just before going on stage?

    You’re an idiot.

  24. Me Me Me says:

    @mantis: Yes, but he is “out” for a bit and so will be pretending he didn’t read that.

  25. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I’m sorry you don’t know the difference between vetted and not vetted, nor between “improvisation” and “scripted”

  26. Neil Hudelson says:

    This election must be getting to Jenos. He’s gone from an willfully-ignorant schtick to downright stupid.

    You really don’t know the difference between:
    1. the leeway given to a former POTUS and a hollywood star
    2. Running behind on a draft and admitting you have no idea what you are going to say as you walk out onto stage
    3. Not stopping a POTUS mid speech because he’s off script, and failing to see a train wreck when the speaker admitted he has no prepared remarks?

    I used to think you were intelligent, just wrong most of the time. Now I think I was sadly mistaken on that first part.

  27. LC says:

    @Stonetools:

    When Romney is elected, he ought to put the empty chair in the Oval Office.

    If what I’ve heard about his time in Massachusetts is true – and this is purely anecdotal so take it with a huge gallon of salt – if Romney is elected, there will be an empty chair in the Oval Office quite a lot of the time.

    He doesn’t seem to have cared much about his job when he was Governor, so I suspect it would be Bush 43 in one more way: our CIC would spend much of his time at one of his many homes. He may even choose to visit some of his tax havens.

  28. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Oh, you missed me. I’m touched.

    I see in my absence, a couple of folks convoluted the hell out of things, but still didn’t change things: Doug is denouncing the GOP convention for letting Clint Eastwood do what Bill Clinton did this week.

    And I really, really think it’s time to put up the official Charles Johnson Memorial Plaque on OTB. In a week where the DNC’s official platform called for public funding of unrestricted abortions, where the DNC chair person was caught repeatedly lying her ass off about everything and anything, Obama gave a tremendously lackluster speech, and Joe Biden gave a big speech chock-full with typical Bidenisms, OTB is still obsessing over Clint Eastwood’s little bit of comedy improv at last week’s convention, Sarah Palin, and GOP-bashing.

    I might keep an eye out to see when James posts his inevitable “more in sorrow than in anger” un-endorsement of Romney and Doug pulls his “pox on both houses” endorsement of the libertarian, but the result will be the same: an effective endorsement of Obama.

    Which will still get the regular crowd of far-left nutjobs who’ve evolved into Occupy OTB to howl and fling their poo, because the hosts won’t be as openly left as they want.

    That’s the community you’ve helped to craft. Hope you’ve had your shots…

  29. mantis says:

    @Jay Tea’s Jenos Idanian #13:

    Doug is denouncing the GOP convention for letting Clint Eastwood do what Bill Clinton did this week.

    As has been demonstrated, this is not so.

    And I really, really think it’s time to put up the official Charles Johnson Memorial Plaque on OTB.

    Oh dear. Again with Johnson, Jay? I know, he broke up with you and your wingnut pals. Get over it.

    Obama gave a tremendously lackluster speech, and Joe Biden gave a big speech chock-full with typical Bidenisms, OTB is still obsessing over Clint Eastwood’s little bit of comedy improv at last week’s convention, Sarah Palin, and GOP-bashing.

    There’s a post on Obama’s speech on the front page, nobody is writing about Biden, and this post is based on an interview Eastwood just did. Palin…well she just begs to be made fun of.

    Anyway, why don’t you just go back to blogging at Wizbang? Are you seriously just going to concern troll this place from now on?

  30. An Interested Party says:

    I might keep an eye out to see when James posts his inevitable “more in sorrow than in anger” un-endorsement of Romney and Doug pulls his “pox on both houses” endorsement of the libertarian, but the result will be the same: an effective endorsement of Obama.

    I wonder how these sins measure up to concern trolling someone else’s blog using multiple aliases…

  31. Kylopod says:

    “I may have irritated a lot of the lefties, but I was aiming for people in the middle.”

    Clint needs to take a look at the exit polls in recent elections. Since 1992, self-described moderates have overwhelmingly voted Democrat:

    1992: 47-31%
    1996: 57-33%
    2000: 52-44%
    2004: 54-45%
    2008: 60-39%

    Somebody needs to tell Clint that capturing “the middle” is a lost cause for Republicans and has been for some time, and there’s no reason to believe it’s going to change in this cycle.

  32. jukeboxgrad says:

    neil:

    You [Jenos] really don’t know the difference …

    His specialty is making comparisons that are vividly, deeply, painfully stupid. I think the perfect, ultimate illustration is when he claimed that turning 15.99 into 16 is comparable to turning 4.1 into 6. Even though the former is called ’rounding’ and the latter is called ‘lying.’ Link.

    There are lots of examples of him making idiotic comparisons, but I like the mathematical clarity of this example.