It seems doubtful that Clint Eastwood made Mitt Romney's day with his speech during the Republican National Convention on Thursday.
The acclaimed actor and director, who is 82, turned out to be the much-touted "mystery guest" the Romney campaign teased this week. But rather than delivering a clear endorsement of Romney, the actor used an empty chair to stand in for President Barack Obama onstage at the RNC, and then questioned the invisible POTUS about his policies and positions. At one point Eastwood asked: "Mr. President, how do you handle the promises that you made when running for president?"
That was the coherent part.
During most of the speech, for which Eastwood did not use a Tele-Promp-Ter, Eastwood riffed and improvised both for himself and for the president, talking about Guantanamo Bay and unemployment, among other topics. At one point, he pretended the president asked him to stop talking. "I'm not going to shut up," said Eastwood to the chair. "It's my turn."
One clearer moment came when Eastwood went after Obama directly, but it, too, missed. "I never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to be president anyway." (Romney went to Harvard Law School about 20 years before Obama.)
Eastwood tried to make the Romney campaign's case when he said: "When somebody does not do the job, we've got to let them go." The applause hadn't stopped when Eastwood made a throat-slitting gesture and added: "I'm speaking out for everybody out there. We don't have to be mental masochists and vote for somebody we don't really want in office."
The AP reported that "backstage, stern-faced Romney aides winced at times as Eastwood's remarks stretched on."
Reporters took to Twitter to fact-check the more substantial of Eastwood's remarks, including his statistics about unemployment. "Clint Eastwood was inaccurate.There are 12.8 million unemployed, not 23 million. BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] says there are 23 mllion UNDERremployed [sic]," New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse tweeted.
Many in the blogosphere suggested it was the most unscripted and bizarre convention appearance in history. Erick Erickson, editor of RedState.com, tried to change the subject with references to Vice President Joe Biden. But Twitter accounts @InvisibleObama and @ClintsChair were buzzing around the Internet as soon as the speech was over.
Eastwood closed his ramble with an audience call and response: "Go ahead," he said. "Make my day," the crowd roared back. (Had Eastwood seen the National Journal list of movie quotes he could use in his speech?)