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Last night at the Republican National Convention, movie star, director and cultural icon Clint Eastwood gave an address that might politely be called awkward. Eastwood started out fine, attempting to debunk the notion that all of Hollywood is liberal. “There’s a lot of conservative people, a lot of moderate people — Republicans, Democrats — in Hollywood. It’s just that conservative people, by the nature of the word itself, play it a little more close to the vest and they don’t go around hotdoggin’ it.”
It’s at that juncture that the 82-year-old Eastwood seemed to belie that very point by engaging in a flamboyant performance piece that might put some Democrats in mind of a first-year acting exercise, others of a breakthrough Gestalt therapy session, and to the truly uncharitable a temporary psychotic break. What Eastwood did was put an imaginary Barack Obama in a real chair he had toted on stage, then engage the president in a rather one-sided conversation.
Even — or especially — the Romney camp was not digging the act. From the New York Times today:
Clint Eastwood’s rambling and off-color endorsement of Mitt Romney on Thursday 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.
“Not me,” said an exasperated-looking senior adviser, when asked who was responsible for Mr. Eastwood’s speech. In late-night interviews, aides variously called the speech “strange” and “weird.” One described it as “theater of the absurd.”
Finger-pointing quickly ensued, suggesting real displeasure and even confusion over the handling of Mr. Eastwood’s performance, which was kept secret until the last minute. Full article
And Wisconsin governor and GOP star Scott Walker said he “cringed” at Eastwood’s performance.
To be fair, Eastwood made the day of most of the partisan crowd, who ate this schtick up. And Reason.com is giving Eastwood a big thumbs-up in an article called “Dotty Old Clint Eastwood Gave the Best Speech of the Week.”
But the off-color appearance will probably do nothing to mend fences between Eastwood and the GOP establishment/pundit class, some of whom last year went into high-dudgeon mode after the iconic tough guy cut a Super Bowl ad for Chrysler that was interpreted as a stealth Obama campaign commercial in praise of the auto industry bailout. To which Eastwood said on Bill O’Reilly’s show: “I just want to say that the spin stops with you guys, and there is no spin in that ad…I am certainly not politically affiliated with Mr. Obama. It was meant to be a message just about job growth and the spirit of America.”
Eastwood, by the way, was born in San Francisco, moved to Piedmont, and went to Oakland Technical High School. Proving that not everyone from the Bay Area winds up a Democrat, but not proving that everyone from the area doesn’t wind up a little strange.
Here’s the video of Clint’s speech…
“You’re absolutely crazy.” -Clint Eastwood to an empty chair #RNC
— Doug Benson (@DougBenson) August 31, 2012
I don’t care what critics say, I loved Clint Eastwood’s audition for the sequel to A Beautiful Mind.
— Eugene Mirman (@EugeneMirman) August 31, 2012
“If Clint Eastwood ever talks to a chair on national TV, people will need a way to reassure each other” — inventor of Twitter, March 2006
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) August 31, 2012
I love how Clint Eastwood basically admitted that the Obama the Republican Party is angry at is imaginary. on.cc.com/PFvdWs
— Indecision (@indecision) August 31, 2012
BREAKING Clint Eastwood spotted in heated argument with luggage cart at Tampa International Airport
— The Daily Edge (@TheDailyEdge) August 31, 2012
Update: The Clint meme is preoccupying the entire Internet today. Take a look at these photos…