Some loved it. Others loathed it. But nearly everyone agreed that a routine from Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention lived up to its surprise billing and offered something unexpected.
The Academy Award-winning director delivered a rambling speech Thursday night in which he talked to an empty chair meant to represent President Barack Obama. Eastwood, whose appearance had been shrouded in mystery, took the stage around 10 p.m. in advance of Romney, but at times he seemed to contradict the Republican nominee on key points including the war in Afghanistan.
“Eastwood criticized the war in Afghanistan, which was started by Republican George W. Bush; criticized ‘gas-guzzlers,’ which oil-friendly Republicans usually don’t do; and argued that lawyers should not be president, though Romney has a law degree,” reports the Associated Press.
He also talked to the chair. The conversation suggested that President Obama uses profanity to describe his Republican opponent.
“What do you want me to tell Romney? I can’t tell him to do that. Can’t do that to himself. You’re absolutely crazy,” said Eastwood to the chair.
The vice-president, known for verbal gaffes, did not escape criticism.
“You’re getting as bad as Biden,” continued Eastwood. “Biden is the intellect in the Democratic Party. It’s just kind of a grin with a body behind it.”
Eastwood endorsed Romney earlier this year, although the two diverge on some issues, including marriage equality. Last year the Unforgiven director announced his support in signature cowboy fashion, saying, “These people who are making a big deal out of gay marriage? I don’t give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else!”
The actor also appeared this year in Chrysler’s “It’s Halftime in America” Super Bowl ad, which angered conservatives opposed to the auto bailouts. His convention appearance seemed destined to make some Republicans unhappy again, where the AP reported that “backstage, stern-faced Romney aides winced at times as Eastwood's remarks stretched on.” His prime-time speech cut into the time for U.S. senator Marco Rubio, a rising star who introduced Romney.
The Romney campaign issued a statement after the speech saying that Eastwood, who did not use a teleprompter, was “ad-libbing.” According to the campaign, the people inside the convention center in Tampa, Fla., enjoyed the speech, which included thousands shouting the Dirty Harry star’s catchphrase, “Go ahead, make my day.”
A guest of the Kansas delegation appreciated the speech from the floor, according to the Los Angeles Times. Charlie Tetrick called the performance “funny and charming. The best thing about him is you never know what to expect. It changed the pace of things a little bit.”
Top Obama advisers expressed confusion. Stephanie Cutter tweeted, “Wow,” while David Axelrod tweeted, “What the heck IS this?” Meanwhile, a parody Twitter account, @invisibleObama, had generated nearly 40,000 followers within 12 hours of being created.
MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow seemed perplexed by the situation. “I don’t -- I don't -- I don’t know what was going on there,” she said immediately afterward. “Clint Eastwood is 82 years old and I think that -- I don’t know if that's what was going on there.”
“That was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen at a political convention in my entire life, and it will be the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen if I live to be 100,” she said.
Anderson Cooper of CNN said, “Was that the most surreal moment certainly of this convention if not any convention in a long time?”