Eastwood’s speech wandered badly off the policy reservation, when Eastwood seemed to suggest that it would be better to bring American troops home from Afghanistan now than wait for a draw-down, as Obama has proposed. Romney has opposed any timeline for bringing troops home.
Eastwood also said that he “never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to be president, anyway,” and that, “it is maybe time — what do you think — for maybe a businessman. How about that?”
Romney has a degree from Harvard Law School, and Eastwood probably didn’t mean to reference our last businessman-president, George W. Bush.
Eastwood wasn’t just rambling. He was also threatening. At one point, he said, “When somebody doesn’t do the job, you gotta let ‘em go,” and then made a throat-slashing gesture. He also said angrily, “I would just like to say something, ladies and gentlemen. Something that I think is very important. It is that, you, we – we own this country.”
Delivered to the invisible, inaudible Obama, the line had more than a hint of racism, an insistence that somehow, Obama had taken the country from its rightful owners.
Eastwood finished with a call-and-response, “Go ahead, make my day!”
Mockery, Condemnation, Befuddlement
Reaction to the speech was swift and overwhelming. On MSNBC, a nonplussed Rachel Maddow called the address “the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen at a political convention in my entire life, and it will be the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen if I live to be 100.”
Film critic Roger Ebert called the speech “sad,” tweeting that Eastwood “didn’t need to do this to himself. It’s unworthy of him.”
The American Prospect’s Jamelle Bouie tweeted, “This is a perfect representation of the campaign: an old white man arguing with an imaginary Barack Obama.”
The criticism was not limited to the political left. CNN commentator Erick Erickson said Eastwood was “very entertaining, but holy hell it is weird.”
Steve Schmidt, who managed the presidential campaign of John McCain, said that coverage of Romney’s speech would “be cut into tomorrow in the coverage because of the sloppy Clint Eastwood decision.”
The Romney campaign tried to put the best face on the speech, saying it “can’t be measured through a typical political lens.” The Obama campaign declined comment, though they did get in a dig. Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said by email that they were “referring all questions on this to Salvador Dalí,” the late surrealist painter.
Perhaps the most amusing reaction came from the newly-minted Twitter feed of InvisibleObama, who wondered, “When Mitt Romney says ‘Mr. Chairman,’ do you think he’s referring to me?”
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