And Now for Something Completely Different…

Well, that was different.

I’m not much of a Rachel Maddow sycophant, but I have to agree with her that Clint Eastwood’s 11-minute performance at last night’s RNC was the most bizarre thing I’ve seen in a major party convention.  Maddow was left speechless – for once – and so was I by the surreal sight of Mr. Eastwood rambling and ad-libbing to an empty chair.  Between the mumbling and the fly-away hairdo, Mr. Eastwood came off less like Dirty Harry and more like the old guy down the block who was pretty normal and neighborly in a curmudgeonly way until the day he started cutting the lawn in his underwear with a katana strapped to his back.

His performance makes two things abundantly clear:

1) Nobody – I mean NOBODY – vetted Eastwood’s remarks.  Not even so much as a “Mr. Eastwood, what do you need with the chair?”

2) Actors without good writers to give them good material are rarely worth listening to.

You are, of course, welcome to disagree with me on this point, but I am 100% sure that Team Romney counts this as a hot mess that is stepping all over the next-day coverage of what was supposed to be “All About Mitt.” Instead, The Big Speech (which in the words of Fox’s Chris Wallace was “workmanlike” at best) has to contend with headlines like:

  • “After a Gunslinger Cuts Loose, Romney Aides Take Cover” – New York Times
  • “Ann Romney: Eastwood Did “A Unique Thing” – CBS News
  • “Clint Eastwood Riff Distracts From Successful Romney Convention” – Washington Post
  • “Clint Eastwood Speech Backfires on Republicans” –
  • “Clint Eastwood at the GOP convention: effective, or strange?” – Christian Science Monitor
  • “Clint Eastwood’s empty chair at RNC sparks Internet buzz” – NBC News
  • “Clint Eastwood puts liberals in full panic mode” – New York Daily News
  • “Eastwood mocked for kooky speech at GOP convention” – San Jose Mercury News
  • “Clint Eastwood speech with empty chair upstages Mitt Romney at GOP convention” – Newsday
  • “Eastwood, the empty chair and the speech everyone is talking about” – CNN

And on and on and on.  As of now, Google News is serving up more than 1,500 stories related to the Eastwood speech.  Every one of them distracts, detracts from or otherwise obscures the message Romney and company were hoping we’d be talking about today but aren’t.

Check out the New York Times‘ story this morning on who was responsible for this clusterfuck:

Clint Eastwood’s rambling and off-color endorsement of Mitt Romney on Thursday seemed to startle and unsettle even the candidate’s own top aides, several of whom made a point of distancing themselves from the decision to put him onstage without a polished script.

“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.”

Finger-pointing quickly ensued, suggesting real displeasure and even confusion over the handling of Mr. Eastwood’s performance, which was kept secret until the last minute.

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.

Mr. Stevens, in an interview, said he would not discuss internal decision making but described Mr. Eastwood’s remarks as improvised.

There’s some profiles in courage there. I can hardly wait for a Romney presidency in which the aides race one another to their iPhones to rat out their colleagues – anonymously of course – when real decisions go wrong.

Couple last  night’s mess with everything else that went wrong or off-message in Tampa (cancellation of Day 1, the Christie keynote (aka “It’s All About Me”), the cult of Paul Ryan, the peanut tossers, being upstaged by his wife and Condeleeza Rice, the untruths of the Ryan speech, the Ron Paul distractions) and this was NOT a good convention for Romney. Anne Romney, maybe, but not Mitt.

Yes, the GOP talking points would have us believe otherwise, but the reality is that Mitt Romney got less out of this convention than almost anyone. Instead of a bounce, I’m expecting more of a post-convention “thud” in the next set of polls.

Oh well, there’s still the debates.  Governor Romney was pretty good in the Republican debates where he could play Snow White to the Seven Dwarfs but I’m not entirely sure he’ll come across so well in a one-on-one comparison with Obama.

– Austin


16 thoughts on “And Now for Something Completely Different…

  1. And the convention should put Tim Pawlenty’s national aspirations out of their misery. Pawlenty’s stand-up act last night was painful to watch. He’s a lightweight and always has been. His presidential delusions were as nutty as Rudy Perpich’s. And now, twice a bridesmaid, and as a speaker just an embarrassing brother-in-law at the groom’s dinner, he can put them to rest.

    1. Erik says:

      Pawlenty will be a Romney cabinet member of prominence. Between that and a cake think tank gig, he can occupy the rest of his working life. He’s going to be fine.

  2. Romney’s speech was appealing, and that could mean trouble for Obama. Romney looked and sounded human, which is rare for him. He can make an intellectually spurious case for how bad Obama has done sound reasonable, and he could fool people into thinking he has ideas that could work. He’s put none if those forward, but a lazy electorate and journalists obsessed with the horse race and being perceived as fair could let him skate on substance. He keeps invoking Eisebhower’s America and he could get away with it.
    I hope young voters are offended by his laughing at climate change. Younger voters, I hope, believe in science and knowledge. If they get the picture of what Romney would do to the middle class and the planet, and if they vote, they can make the difference.

  3. Newt says:

    Bruce is right – it looked like Pawlenty was being pushed to the guillotine, and his delivery was remarkably strange for someone with so much podium time.

    Eastwood was good in a refreshingly strange way. I needed to listen to the whole thing before I could pass judgment:

    “It is just that the conservative people by the nature of the word itself play closer to the vest. They don’t go around hot dogging it.”

    And my favorite …

    “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.
    They were saying, I just thought, this was great. Everybody is crying, Oprah was crying. I was even crying. And then finally — and I haven’t cried that hard since I found out that there is 23 million unemployed
    people in this country.”

    Read more:

    Read more:

  4. PM says:

    I thought Clint’s appearance was problematic at best. Someone else said it best–another angry old white guy lecturing an imaginary Obama caricature. Sort of encapsulates what the GOP has become–the party of angry old white guys.

    BTW, have you seen all of the Twitter commentary on #Eastwooding ? hilarious!

    1. Erik says:

      Yes, and it follows that there wasn’t much senile or incoherent about it. It was entirely forethought and rehearsed.

      If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t have been a chair there.

  5. Didn’t see the Clint speech, but virtually no one I know, except political junkies, saw it either. Not sure mainstream is watching either political orgy. I disagree with Sir Jon on the debate. Obama will be on the defensive. Blaming George Bush for everything ain’t going to cut it any more. He’s now got his own….um record….to run on…or defend.

    1. Mike, what do you think of this proposition:

      The Republicans have, mistakenly I think, given Obama a fresh way to deal with the stinking mess he inherited. By asking Are You Better Off Now Than Four Years Ago — they bring on the comparison themselves.

      Four years ago we were losing something like 60,000 jobs a month, the auto makers were on the brink of collapse, Wall Street was on the edge and the country faced a Depression, Bush himself said the credit markets were closed, the stock market was dropping, we were still fighting in Iraq.

      Now, the Iraq war is over, the auto makers are healthy, we’re adding jobs, the stock market is going up, the banks are coining money.

      Not good enough yet — but better than four years ago? You bet.

      Do you think the Republicans have made a mistake raising the question this way? I agree people are tired of Obama blaming Bush, but haven’t the Repubs handed Obama a rose by inviting such a stark comparison?

      1. Bruce: You are right, economy is getting better, albeit at the slowest pace of any post WWII recovery, but I digress. Perception is reality. People know this recovery is slow and they may be in the mood for different ideas. Think this is where the conservatives are hitting.

        Not sure I’d define the auto industry bailouts as a rousing success. GM owes tens of billions and Chrysler is foreign owned. And let’s face it, the auto industry isn’t as important in the grand economy as it used to be, either practically or as a measurement of economic health. Wall Street? Not much left of it, and that probably needed to happen.

        Despite a painfully slow economy, we have some structural problems. Government overreach has made it very difficult for small banks to loan money. In its zeal in banking reform, Big Brother punished small banks that had no part in the whole economic fiasco. I talk to community bankers weekly. It is extremely difficult to loan money even to good credit risks. In addition, we have a Federal Reserve that has expanded its power beyond anything we’ve seen in past history.

        The Fed is supposed to be independent and control monetary policy. It is now heavily involved in fiscal policy, as well. Talk about putting all our eggs in one basket in the hands of a few.

        Then there is unemployment, a huge problem for Mr. Obama. he needs business right now way more than it needs him. Corporate America is healthy as hell, but not supporting Mr. Obama, thus not spending and hiring.

        I happen to think we have the most flexible, dynamic and innovative economy in the world….still. And I am positive that the engine of economic growth is too powerful to care who sits in the White House. As a friend says, they are still going to sell Pampers, Cokes and Ipads and Iphones no matter who is president. Amen.

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