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Bill Santiago

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Eastwood's WTF Moment Galvanizes Empty-Chair-Hater Base

Posted: 09/02/2012 4:36 pm

Look, I love Clint Eastwood's movies. But when he makes a movie, there is a script. His keynote embarrassment at the Republican National Convention was live improv by an 82-year-old guy who has clearly not been taking his ginkgo biloba. Off the cuff and off his meds. It was the longest most painfully awkward senior moment in convention history. Reminded me of Reagan, after the "onset."

This was supposed to be Romney's crowning night. And all anyone can talk about is the damned empty chair. I guarantee you that the now infamous piece of furniture is going to end up in the Smithsonian, right next to the Admiral Stockdale exhibit.

Eastwood stole the show as the convention's mystery guest. Organizers had been leaning toward a speech by a Ronald Reagan hologram. But they feared that the hologram might get the nomination instead of Mitt. Although, a Reagan-Ryan ticket must have piqued some interest. I might have voted for them myself. The posthumous Gipper and the P90X fibber. Pretty irresistible.

Anyway, they decided to stick to their game plan, first priority being to humanize Mitt Romney. That's a pretty challenging prospect. And all previous efforts having failed, they felt their best bet was to dehumanize Obama, by turning him into a chair. Or rather the invisible man supposedly sitting on it. This immediately called to my mind the classic 1952 Ralph Ellison novel, Invisible Man not coincidentally about an African-American man who feels perceived by society as invisible, because of the prevailing racism at the time. Moreover, the book depicted how society could project whatever it wanted to, all of its assumptions and prejudices, onto this unseen ectoplasmic straw man.

Enter Eastwood, with his lame pantomime (a little rehearsal and it might be ready for an assisted-living talent show), sending the updated "Invisible Man" message: Even if you are the president, if you're black, you're still invisible to us. And we'll see what we want to see.

I guess we should be thankful Dirty Harry didn't throw any peanuts at the chair. Reports are that Eastwood went over his time. Otherwise they would have trotted out Jan Brewer to come over and wag her finger at the invisible Obama, for another memorable photo.

By the way, spare me the age-bashing accusations. Eastwood's rambling prime-time invective, meant to influence voters, doesn't merit the avuncular cuteness pass. This was all in the service of endorsing the party that created most of the stuff that Eastwood was up there railing about, to an adoring crowd of cheering knee-jerk chair haters.

Meanwhile Eastwood is the most moderate Republican ever, second only to Romney's recently former self. He's pro-gay marriage, pro-choice, pro-getting out of Afghanistan, pro-auto bailout, and apparently pro-not combing your hair after a nap. I have no idea why he's so anti-chair. Or for that matter why he felt it was necessary to berate the invisible Obama for being a lawyer, and lawyers as generally unfit for becoming president, while his own guy Mitt Romney possesses a law degree from Harvard.

Neither content, nor context mattered. Even though Eastwood's display set a new WTF benchmark for political theater, how could the audience help but go bonkers for the creaky star of vigilante, gun-toting, white-male-privilege porn? Who could be more emblematic of their crumbling, soon-to-be-phased-out base?

So the crowd gathered in the Tampa echo chamber whooped it up as Eastwood made believe what many people there would obviously like to believe. Sorry, but Obama is not the kind of guy who would go around telling people to shut up and go fuck themselves, despite what Eastwood's skit shamelessly implied. He might call you a jackass.

The foul-mouthed upstart candidate that the conventioneers and Eastwood enjoyed belittling in absentia, as if he were sitting on a dunce chair for a scolding, is not reality-based. They are running against an imaginary Obama, an invisible man onto which they have projected some pretty nasty stuff. And while the fun ended with a chorus of "Make my day," the actual subtext running throughout Eastwood's foray into performance art was clearly: "Do you feel lucky, punk?"

It's the democrats turn this week. We'll see whether they get lured into the same muck. Maybe they'll present their own Hollywood mystery guest talking to an inanimate object. Will we see Tom Hanks chatting mockingly to a volleyball named Mitt? Maybe he'll start off by asking the volleyball whether the reason he doesn't care about saving the oceans of this planet is because he gets his own planet in the Mormon afterlife.

Such ridiculousness might even the score. In the meantime, Eastwood's RNC stunt remains unforgiven.

 

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