No one who watched Clint Eastwood’s short appearance at last night’s Republican National Convention, where he talked to an empty chair supposedly occupied by President Obama, will ever forget it.
It was a high-wire act, an incredibly bizarre performance that obviously was a radical departure in tone and style from every other speech at the convention, an apparently improvised stunt by a haggard looking Eastwood in a kind of Christopher Walken hairdo — but it was memorable, and I would bet that today more people have talked about Eastwood’s appearance than anything else. Was it carefully scripted and intentional, or just ad libbing gone awry by an aging, forgetful American icon? Was it an unforgivably vulgar effort that crudely diminished the office of the Presidency, or just an edgy lampooning of a very-full-of-himself President? Is Eastwood losing it and on the edge of senility, or was he in character and portraying an average American reacting to what he considers to be a record of arrogance and failure?
Who knows? I watched it again today — it’s only about 11 minutes long, although watching it last night it seemed longer — and I’m convinced that it was a highly intentional, controlled performance by Eastwood. But, whatever its intent, the presentation was, as Kish observed, incredibly creative . . . and it got people talking about some of Eastwood’s plain-spoken criticisms and judgments. The internet today was full of discussion of it, and of the points Eastwood was trying to make. Don’t you think that was exactly what Eastwood was hoping for? What are people going to remember from the 2012 Republican convention: John Thune’s address, Rick Santorum’s remarks, or Clint Eastwood’s pungent, rambling star turn with an empty bar stool?