Our old friend Karl still blogs at the Green Room at Hot Air, and his latest is a strong defense of the Eastwood bit (can’t call it a speech) at the GOP convention. I hope Karl won’t mind if I quote him at length:
If you doubt that Eastwood was not simply winging it, don’t watch his performance — read the transcript. There may be no better indicator of just how intentional Eastwood’s performance is than to compare the visual impression he gave with the text delivered.
Eastwood begins with a touch of Admiral James Stockdale, but Clint answers the question of why he is there. The fact is that everyone really knows why Clint is there — to make a political statement. But Eastwood, in mentioning that Hollywood is perhaps not as monolithic as the stereotype suggests, is making a subtle suggestion to the audience he wants to reach: you may be part of some left-identifying group, but it’s okay to disagree and there may be other quiet dissenters in your group.
Eastwood then introduces the dramatic device of the empty chair, which in this context also echoes the political metaphor of the empty suit. This has been remarked upon, particularly as an echo of comedic dialogs from people like Bob Newhart, so I won’t dwell on it here, although it reappears below.
Eastwood then proceeds to use this comedic device to deliver — as Mark Steyn noted in passing — some of the toughest political attacks on President Obama heard during the entire RNC. A number of the traditional speakers strove to play on swing voters’ disenchantment with the failed promises of Hope and Change. But notice how tired and traditional that just sounded in your head. Mitt Romney (likely with help from a professional political speechwriter) did it pretty well: “You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.” But did anyone do it as powerfully and emotionally as Eastwood’s segue from everyone — himself included — crying with joy at Obama’s historic victory to the tears we now shed over 23 million still unemployed, which Clint bluntly called a national disgrace?
This was the first part of Eastwood’s simple and effective argument. Eastwood points out — in a prodding, joking manner — that Obama was elected to bring peace and prosperity, but failed to bring either. That Eastwood may disagree with the GOP on some war issues is perfectly alright in this context, because, as suggested earlier and explored further below, Eastwood is not really targeting Republicans.
Eastwood then arrives at his Joe Biden joke: “Of course we all know Biden is the intellect of the Democratic party. Just kind of a grin with a body behind it.” That last part is not accidental in a performance featuring an empty chair. But the first part is even more dangerous. For the last 3+ years, we have been accustomed to having Biden as safe material for humor, while Obama has been kept off-limits. Eastwood leverages the latter into the former, suggesting that Sheriff Joe is the real brains of the operation. Ouch! No wonder Team Obama got annoyed enough to respond.
Having delivered these punches regarding our dire situation with velvet gloves, Eastwood then does the softest of sells for the Romney/Ryan ticket. As Jesse Walker noted, it was almost more of a pitch for Not Obama. Again, there was nothing accidental about the nature or placement of this speech withing Clint’s imagined dialogue.
Eastwood concludes by summing up the GOP case to undecideds and rebutting the main point Dems seem to advance for Obama. First, “[p]oliticians are employees of ours… And when somebody does not do the job, we got to let ‘em go.” Second, “we don’t have to be metal [sic] masochists and vote for somebody that we don’t really even want in office just because they seem to be nice guys or maybe not so nice guys if you look at some of the recent ads going out there.”
Eastwood was not “rambling.” He improvised within a structure, making a clear and concise case for dumping Obama.
The only part of Eastwood’s bit that I found uncomfortable was the bit about Afghanistan and the Russians. That part left me going whaaa? But in general I thought that it was about time somebody made fun of Obama in front of a national audience.
A perspicacious reader who does not wish to be named made an excellent observation. You had Ann Romney talking about love, and Chris Christie talking about how respect is more important than love. Then you had Clint Eastwood the next night. Does this make sense? Yes, it does:
Ann and Christie were the set up and Eastwood closed the deal. In other words, you can love Obama but respect is what matters, and Eastwood was there to make sure that no one respected Obama as much after he spoke as they did before.
I still think they should have done more humanizing Mitt on national TV, and maybe less of something else. But the idea that they began the important part of the campaign by making mockery of Obama fair game? Not bad, really. Not bad at all.