I am I Said, to No One There

When I heard that Clint Eastwood was going to be the “Mystery Speaker” at the RNC tonight (and not Hologram Reagan!) I was prepared to be disappointed. After all, Eastwood is a Republican, but he never struck me as being that guy.  You know, the kind of guy who would fit in with all the lying and dog-whistling nonsense we’ve been getting from this convention, let alone this campaign. But from the moment he gave a shout-out to Jon Voight, one couldn’t help but suspect it was going to go downhill—and it sure did.

If the Romney folks weren’t just the least bit nervous when an empty chair was put on the stage, it looks like they became that way after about a minute:

On a night where virtually every moment was scripted, Eastwood was among the only speakers not reading from a teleprompter as he spoke.

Maybe they should have been just a little concerned a little bit sooner, hm?

It’s not that the RNC audience seemed particularly put off—he got some good applause lines at President Obama and Vice-President Biden’s expense, however unseemly they were—but as a home viewer, he seemed to be stuttering and awkward, mean-spirited and not especially winning. As he talked….to an empty chair.  A Fauxbama, if you will. Arguably, despite being bizarre as all hell, this was where Eastwood really uncorked the id of the entire convention and really let a make-believe president have a stern, fatherly, old man to younger man talking to—you know, the kind he wouldn’t give to his face. 

It’s tempting to blame this on age—but chalking this up to senility actually just makes everything sadder and ageist and I think is just really wrong. It seems this shambles has more to do with needing a bigfoot celebrity to range across the stage and shout out a nice catch phrase (did anyone else wince their dimples off when he got the crowd to say “Make my day”? Feh.) Because otherwise, they really just had some really boring speakers, Marco Rubio (who wasn’t horrible, in comparison, I guess) and then Mitt Romney himself—who I do believe did break Paul Ryan’s land-speed lying record.  With any luck, many great run-downs of the many,many Romney lies will take their place alongside the staggering Ryan ones on the morrow.—If!

Only if anyone can talk about anything but Eastwood and the chair. Because I know my fellow citizens. Gaspers like accusing Obama of sending jobs to China and the gobsmacking Reagan-echoing of “Are you better off?” (four years ago, the stock market fucking took sick and nearly died, Mitt, taking gas prices down with it—WTF?) and of course, the ever-present “apologizing” fib, will probably not get properly challenged except in the blogosphere if there is some celebrity drama to be discussed.

(Yes, I know I led off with Eastwood. But you know what I mean.)

Posted by Vixen Strangely on 08/30/12 at 10:28 PM • Permalink

word cloud of Eastwood’s performance art:

Comment by Nellcote on 08/30/12 at 11:15 PM

The empty chair seemed to be a hangover from the cancelled Trump skit of firing a fake PBO and they just couldn’t let go of that flourish.

I think Clint’s skit was one of those things that sounded like it might be a good idea on paper (the Romney camp say he was ad libbing, to which the only answer is, “You don’t say!”), but didn’t work for a TV audience when performed less than competently in a large auditorium in front of a restless and relatively rowdy crowd waiting for the acceptance speech after endless peans to Mitt’s saintly Mittenhood.

If he’d come out and played on the Blondie or Dirty Harry schticks, he could have made more of his legend. As it is, the performance has not only nearly totally upstaged Mittens in his proudest hour, but because Clint overran, both Rubio and Mittens had to rush their speeches!

I wouldn’t trust this shower to organize a piss-up in a brewery, let alone run a country.

Yep, Eastwood’s “Make my Day” fit The Donald’s “You’re fired!” bigfoot/catch phrase need. So gimmicky.

I’m not 100% on this, but I think in some markets, Mitt’s speech might have got clipped.  My local network ran the whole thing (but I muted it towards the end because, honestly, I’ve been lied to before. He wasn’t going to impress me.

I think I heard earlier that Mitt’s speech was supposed to run 40 minutes or so (at which my heart sank). I had it on in the background as I watched Twitter feeds and a few liveblogs, but it seemed shorter than I’d feared. Rubio definitely sounded rushed.

Those Teleprompters have gas pedals!

Vixen, Dennis G at BJ seems to bear you out:

I listened to it on NPR and when the clock struck 11 pm our local station just ran the 11 o’clock news update concurrently with Mitt’s word salad.

The BBC TV stream here doesn’t have ads and can deal with moderate overruns. You didn’t miss anything.

I suspect there may be an asskicking competition under way at Mitt HQ at the moment.

It’s got to be said that Clint wasn’t the biggest clown onstage tonight, though.

Only Palin’s ex-speechwriter would think it a good idea to snark on Obama’s (self-parodic, BTW) line about “slowing the rise of the oceans” during a devastating tropical storm.

My President

Comment by Nellcote on 08/31/12 at 12:03 AM

Gosh he is old.

My President

That Obama campaign. A bunch of bastards. Wonderful bastards.

pseudonymous in nc at BJ confirms what we were saying about trampling all over their own scheduling:

As the GOS noted, the RNC schedulers also missed the network hour with the touchy-feeling bio video (which apparently was quite affecting) and launched it with Clint talking to the chair, then apparently fucked up the timing sufficiently that Rubio was having pages tossed from his speech even as he was giving it, and Mittens had to deliver at a clip.

These are the people who are supposedly better at running the United States. Oh, and the balloons stayed lodged in the ceiling.


Eastwood screwed the schedule. Rubio was supposed to go on at 10.04 and had to rush his speech then Mitt got a late start…

I’m really starting to wonder if it was performance art by Eastwood.  I imagine he didn’t appreciate all the gooper shit thown at him over the superbowl ad.

So ... now the Mittens campaign not only can’t use Teleprompters, except all week this week (and we’ve all seen how well that works out when somebody doesn’t), but any empty chairs with a half-mile perimeter will have to be impounded out of sight.

From Twitter:

Chuck ToddVerified ‏@chucktodd

How concerned is Romney camp about how Eastwood played? They released a statement during nominee’s speech, saying it was break from speeches

Burke Miller ‏@jburkemiller

@chucktodd Would it be uncouth of the Dems to mock that during the DNC? I saw a suggestion of having Betty White interview an Etch-a-Sketch.

YAFB, I know you’re just quoting Miller, not necessarily endorsing his argument, but I think mocking Clint would be a horrible choice. I think I’m not the only person out there who is falling out of my (non-sweary) chair over this while still feeling some pity for Eastwood.

I think the “This chair is taken” tweet was brilliant: it responded to Eastwood without demeaning him. The meme is hitting all the right points without involving Obama, and whatever tiny gains he’d make by mocking Eastwood—not the much more deserving Romney and Ryan—would be swamped by the mixture of horror, pity and embarrassment a lot of people would feel for the old guy.

Mary, I found it a funny idea, and I don’t see it as mocking Clint as much as mocking the routine he performed, and especially the way it cramped the climax of the week’s events, the pivotal point of the Romney campaign, which is thoroughly mockworthy.

I also think any pity for millionaire Clint Eastwood, who went on stage and did his own thing of his own free will, may be tempered by a number of his thoroughly mean-spirited remarks and the gleeful throat-cutting gesture.

Anyway, I suspect the Obama campaign’s way classier than I am and will do its own thing. What the comedy shows etc. will do is another matter.

Yeah, I think Obama will find himself with 10,000 surrogates to do his mocking for him before the holiday weekend is over.

It will be old hat by the time the D convention rolls around.

I think the “This chair is taken” tweet was brilliant: it responded to Eastwood without demeaning him. The meme is hitting all the right points without involving Obama, and whatever tiny gains he’d make by mocking Eastwood—not the much more deserving Romney and Ryan—would be swamped by the mixture of horror, pity and embarrassment a lot of people would feel for the old guy.

Agreed, but even better and more hilarious are the #InvisibleObama and #Eastwooding, which are trending on twitter. 

#InvisibleObama was at it best when it started, pretty much in real time…with the empty chair offering some great “on the scene commentary” while Rubio & Romney were speaking.  Truly up there with the adventures of that talking snake that got loose awhile back.

#Eastwooding is hilarious and might have some long legs, as people submit their own pix of fingers pointing at empty chairs.  Much cooler than the crazy planking fad…

Sorry it’s long, but the proverbial back-of-neck hairs rose when I read this, from thread ‘Your Modern GOP in Three Clips’, a commenter at BJ, calm68 writes:

Like most viewers I thought Clint’s presentation was odd, sad, laughable, incongruous. Somehow this was a moment that just didn’t work out. But it was President Obama’s response tweet that got me thinking at a much deeper level. Obama responds with a picture of himself sitting in his chair in the Oval Office, back turned to the viewer, saying, “This chair is taken.” Directly to Romney, terse and defiant. Why did Obama respond to that moment, Clint’s strange rambling off-topic schtick? Isn’t Obama too smart to respond? But Obama’s response was so pointed, so potent. Clearly something needed to be addressed.

So I went back to the whole Clint Eastwood stunt and re-watched it a few times with a critical eye. Here’s what I come up with: that was an intentional act of imagined violence against President Obama at a deep semiotic level of American mythos. Take the optics, Clint comes out under a huge backdrop of the Western gunslinger. He starts a monologue vs. ‘the punk.’ (Do you feel lucky, punk? Well do you?) The punk, the empty chair, the empty suit, responds by telling Romney, ‘Go fuck yourself.’ Clint scolds Obama and leads the crowd in a chant, “Go ahead. Make my day.” At which point, as we all know, offstage, Clint would then shoot the punk and kill him.

This was a very public, very deeply mythical/semiotic imaginative enactment of violence against the sitting President of the US. It was a post-modern lynching, black-faced dehumanization. I think Obama got exactly what was going on and that’s why he responded with such force.

Personally, I am disgusted by it. There is an evil afoot in America today. It is essential that we stand firm against it.

ms yafb, that’s a brilliant, astounding, analysis. The President is obviously supposed to be cowering at Clintmitt’s feet, and I think of that POV shot of the unfortunate “punk” looking up the barrel of Clintmitt’s gun and just shudder.

And the excuse that “we didn’t know what he was going to say” doesn’t really fly. To quote a GOP favorite, Pat Sajak,

M_ke my d_y

Want to buy a vowel?

And the excuse that “we didn’t know what he was going to say” doesn’t really fly.

Word is that Clint did originally have a script, but opted to wing it, and that his was just about the only utterance from the stage—including the calls of the voice votes!—over the whole three days that wasn’t Telepromptered.

It’s almost poignant watching old memes die.

Until “Unforgiven”, I’d never had any love or respect for Eastwood.  I found all the Dirty Harry movies to be totally reactionary, pounding home the idea that the rule of law (like courts, innocent until proven guilty, etc) had been permanently ruined by the goddamn liberals, and gunning down the bad guys is God’s work.  I found it to be a really dangerous meme then, and I still do.  Dirty Harry was all about push-back against the liberal/enlightenment idea that we all stand before society and the courts as equals; not exactly a ringing endorsement of democracy. 

That Eastwood has given such a performance now isn’t a real surprise to me I guess.  Whatever respect I had for him for his past critique of the Bush era is pretty much gone at this point, though I guess I should cut him some slack for heading into the yelling at clouds portion of his life in a very public way.  Maybe.

I don’t have a television, so I missed the visuals which are key to Ms YAFB’s thesis, which I heartily agree with.  To me, the whole night reeked of Reagan Nostalgia- Clint’s catchphrase “Make my day” was a favorite of Reagan’s, and Mitt’s speech referenced those two great eighties evils- Iran and Russia (Russia, for fuck’s sake!).  If you just squint your eyes, Mittens looks kinda like St Ronbo.

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