Theater review on Townhall Finance? Hey, it’s a holiday. Anyway, bizarre deviations from the script are cool! Just ask Clint Eastwood.
Old, new, and social media are abuzz deconstructing Eastwood’s performance at the Republican Convention.
Brilliant? Senile? Disastrous?
The right answer is it was a triumph, a gutsy one. In immediate impact, substance, lingering effect, and the personal risk of the messenger, it was a unique accomplishment that has already added a new meme to the campaign: The empty chair.
Let’s dispense with the spin that it was a painful moment where an aging icon lost his way and drooled on television. Yeah, no.
The president of the United States does not roust himself at 11:30 pm to tweet snappy rebuttals to pathetic, little embarrassments. Nor does the national media go bonkers, with thousands of articles and blog posts--dozens just between the Washington Post and the New York Times.
Eastwood’s skewering so vexed the president and his media guard that they couldn’t decide whether to squeal like pigs or pretend to mourn a fading star. In 11 captivating and unpredictable minutes, Eastwood’s skit injected these themes into popular consciousness:
• Obama’s presidency is like an empty chair.
• His ascension was a sort of celebrity-whipped party, presided over by a crying Oprah.
• Our tears really should instead be shed for 23 million unemployed Americans.
• Obama’s not helping. It’s time for someone with better solutions.
• He made so many promises. How does he answer people for them?
• Obama’s unseriousness on security is evident in things like proposing to try terrorists in civilian court in New York City; announcing in advance the withdraw safe date for the Afghan jihadis who are waiting us out; and pandering to Russia in charting our plans.
• Democrat “intellect” Joe Biden is a grinning buffoon.
• The contrast is stark between Obama’s lofty pronouncements, and his high-carbon, jet-setting, campus-pandering, campaigning style of “governing.”
• The empty chair’s protests telling Clint to shut up, and telling him and Romney respectively to do physically impossible things to themselves were funny rebukes to the “likeable” picture of Obama the media protects like the Mona Lisa. He’s not nice. He’s a Chicago pol with Nixon’s list and Madame DeFarge’s scarf.
Clint painted that humorously and with more candor than any reporter has in four years. With the reminder that Obama’s attack ads show he’s not such a nice guy, this was a naked-emperor moment that might break through.
Eastwood’s simple conclusion spoke plainly: This is a great country. The people are in charge. Politicians are our employees. He’s not doing the job. We gotta let him go, not hang onto him for sentimental reasons.
Ask any politico or speech writer to stuff that into 11 minutes and you’ll get a stiff political speech. Eastwood delivered it as if over the dinner table. Instant reaction suggested it must have been ad-libbed. No way. There were too many funny punch lines that drew political blood. They were carefully developed.
Pundits suggest Clint was halting and lost his way. Maybe. But every time it seemed like that, he’d sharpen up and put a knife in Obama’s soft spots. If he was doddering, he chose his lucid moments shrewdly.
It was a non-speech for an unpolitical audience. It was aimed past the delegates, into living rooms, and probably beyond, at social media and YouTube where it’s getting millions of views. For a generation that boasts of ignoring politics and getting news from the Daily Show, that’s a good thing.
Some say the skit distracted from Romney. But those tuned in still got Romney’s speech and message. It’s more likely that Eastwood brought many additional eyes to the campaign, that night, and still as the online hits tally up.
Besides, Romney was likely to get a modicum of coverage, and a planned counter punch, in the same vein as the media’s instant, dishonest Ryan-lied meme. If the attacks that would have rained down on Romney were diverted to an icon’s endorsement of Romney, that’s a plus.
About that stammering, strolling delivery. Was it an act to draw us in and provoke the buzz that resulted, or was it the unvarnished Eastwood at 82? If the former, Clint is laughing. If the latter, he’s probably still laughing. But others ought to slump in shame.
How dare someone like Roger Ebert, whose own struggles and appearance remind us life deals hard chapters to anyone, tell Clint Eastwood he should stay quiet? That’s not how he’d react to Kirk Douglas’s thick-tongued Academy valedictory.
I’m sure Eastwood doesn’t care. He either played exactly the role he wanted, or he just laid it out as he is. Either way, he was there to tell America we need more and better. Romney is the choice to change our direction.
He succeeded famously.
Judge for yourself.