This Week in the Mercury


Friday, August 31, 2012

An Old Man Arguing with His Imaginary Friend

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Fri, Aug 31, 2012 at 9:44 AM

CLINT EASTWOOD AND HIS IMAGINARY FRIEND Not pictured: Barack Obama.
  • AN OLD MAN AND HIS IMAGINARY FRIEND Not pictured: Barack Obama.

Yesterday afternoon, when Paul noted that Clint Eastwood was going to speak at the Republican National Convention, I figured we were in for the sort of stump speech that the generally liberal denizens of Hollywood usually give for democrats: something trading on that actor's inherent charm, something sticking to the candidate's talking points, something that wouldn't say anything new, really, but would bring some glamour and familiarity—however manufactured—to the otherwise soulless and wearying mechanics of a campaign. I did not expect Clint Eastwood to bring an empty chair onstage with him, pretend that Barack Obama was sitting in the empty chair, and then proceed to argue with the empty chair. Shows what I know.

"What do you mean, 'shut up'?" Eastwood bickered with the empty chair, after he pointed out that Obama had failed to close Guantanamo Bay. (To be fair: This is one of the major, and completely legitimate, complaints about the Obama Administration. Somewhat less legit is Eastwood suggesting we leave Guantanamo open because "we spent so much money on it." This seemed to confuse even the RNC attendees, who were otherwise rapt and adulatory.) "I'm not gonna shut up! It's my turn!" Eastwood testily told the empty chair a little while later, even though the empty chair had not, in fact, interrupted him, because it was an empty chair. Then Eastwood pretended that the empty chair had asked him to tell Mitt Romney to go fuck himself. (Eastwood said he was not going to pass on the empty chair's message to Romney. Eastwood is a classy guy.) Then Eastwood pretended that the empty chair had told him—Clint Eastwood! The Clint Eastwood!—to go fuck himself. So that was weird.

Then a loud lady in the crowd shouted at Eastwood to say his catchphrase from Sudden Impact, which at first pissed Eastwood off, because c'mon, what do you people think he is, some kind of performing monkey? But then she shouted at him again, so he grumbled, "Okay, you wanna make my day, huh?" And then everybody in the crowd went crazy, because they had heard him say this sentence before in a movie. So then Eastwood, who was pretty grumpy about it but had also realized that now he had no choice in the matter—and who also, it seemed, might've been looking for a way to bring his rambling performance to a close, and so maybe just figured this was as good of a way to do that as any—said, "Alright. I'll start it, you finish it. Go ahead...."

And then the crowd shouted "MAKE... MY... DAY!" and then I do not know what is happening and am I going insane

UPDATE: Possibly my favorite Times Story is now "Romney Aides Scratch Their Heads Over Eastwood's Speech," which notes that Eastwood's performance "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."

Mr. Eastwood was scheduled to speak for about five minutes but stayed onstage much longer, throwing off the schedule for Mr. Romney, a stickler against tardiness.

Aides said Mr. Eastwood does not like teleprompters and was trusted to deliver an on-message endorsement.

“He made a last-minute decision to ad-lib, and I don’t think people knew,” said Ari Fleischer, a former adviser to George W. Bush, who said he had spoken with people involved in planning the convention.

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