Mitt Romney probably hoped that surprise guest Clint Eastwood would make his day at the convention. Instead, the 82-year-old actor gave a rambling speech that was as disastrous as the botched bank robbery that he stopped in "Dirty Harry" while playing a jaded San Francisco cop.
Eastwood talked to an empty chair representing President Barack Obama.
"So Mr. President, how do you handle promises you've made?" he said to the chair. He then proceeded to rankle Obama for his administration's proposal to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed in New York, a plan from which he later backed down, and plan to end the war in Afghanistan, for which Romney has endorsed the same withdrawal timeline.
"I think Mr. Romney asked the only sensible question, you know, he says, "Why are you giving the date out now? Why don't you just bring them home tomorrow morning?" Eastwood said.
The crowd cheered hard, creating the awkward spectacle of a Republican convention roaring for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from the battlefield.
Eastwood also jabbed Vice President Joe Biden, calling him the "intellect of the Democratic party." "He's just a grin with a body behind it," Eastwood said.
He attacked Obama for, of all things, riding in Air Force One. "You could still use a plane," he said, "Not that big gas guzzler you are going around to colleges and talking about student loans and stuff like that."
"I can't do that to myself," Eastwood said several times to the empty chair next to him, pretending, apparently, that the president was telling Eastwood to go f*** himself.
Eastwood, who praised Romney as a "stellar businessman," later said that he thought it was never a good idea for attorneys to be president, despite the fact that Romney, like Obama, has a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
"When somebody doesn't do the job, you gotta let them go," he said, gesturing to draw a finger across his throat.
Someone in the crowd shouted out "make my day!" to which he responded, "I don't say that word anymore."
He shortly obliged.
"Go ahead," he said, and the crowd boomed "MAKE MY DAY!"
The prolific actor and director clearly appeared to be showing his age in what was meant to be a big coup for Republicans, who landed him as their "mystery speaker."
But it was anything but a mystery that The Man With No Name would appear at the convention by afternoon, as the convention band rehearsed the impossible-to-forget theme to "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly." Multiple news organizations reported that Eastwood would be the one.
It was an especially big get, since Eastwood had appeared to be endorsing the Obama administration's turnaround of the auto industry when he starred in a slickly-produced but ostensibly nonpolitical Chrysler ad that aired during the Super Bowl. No surprise that the president's campaign aides loved having the appearance that Eastwood was in their court. Karl Rove trashed it as an example of "Chicago-style politics" that used corporations to buy political advertising. Eastwood, who opposed the Bush/Obama auto bailout and the stimulus, didn't care, and said, if "Obama or any other politician wants to run with the spirit of that ad, go for it."
Eastwood's personal politics veer towards libertarian, or less charitably, are all over the map. He reportedly once said that his views were a mix between Milton Friedman and Noam Chomsky. He's pro-gay marriage ("I don't give a fuck," he said in a 2011 interview), pro-choice and pro-environment, but consistently a Republican. His views are almost identical to those formerly held by the man he endorsed, Mitt Romney, who was once pro-choice, pro-environment and pro-gay rights.
UPDATE: 11:20 p.m. -- The Romney campaign seemed to grasp how Eastwood's bizarre, rambling, unscripted speech fell flat. "Judging an American icon like Clint Eastwood through a typical political lens doesn't work," was the campaign's response. Aides winced backstage, according to the Associated Press.
Eastwood's attacks on Obama didn't faze the campaign. "Referring all questions on this to Salvador Dali," Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in an email to The Huffington Post.
UPDATE: 12:44 a.m. -- "I think he pointed out in a very Eastwood kind of way -- very direct -- that the Obama administration has failed. He spoke the way he wanted to speak," New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said of Eastwood's speech. "I think he got his message across."
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