Well who says the Republican National Convention was lacking in entertainment value? The convention organisers, who had been touting their “mystery guest” for a week, placed Clint Eastwood in their precious few hours of prime-time just one slot away from Mitt’s big speech. Little did they know.
In what has now become a piece of American political legend Clint used more than double his allotted time of five minutes to have a marginally coherent dialogue with an empty chair, clearly meant to represent the incumbent President. That this was great television had more to do, as usual, with the jaw-dropping bizarreness of the stunt rather than the actual content; though it played well enough to the live audience, as you might imagine; not to mention the reckless optics of showcasing a cranky, old, white guy having an incoherent argument with an imaginary Obama. By all accounts the campaign never saw any sign of the train wreck headed their way.
Within minutes after this amazing presentation, even before the apparatchiks of Romney’s campaign could be reached for comment and vainly attempt to spin the whole thing away, an Internet meme #eastwooding was born and a Twitter account appeared for @invisibleobama. “Eastwooding” involves having a conversation with an empty chair, of course, or at least a photograph of one and @invisibleobama has a satisfyingly dry wit:
I’m behind Mitt! No seriously. I’m right behind him. @invisibleobama
Needless to say the @invisibleobama account acquired twenty thousand or so followers and #eastwooding was trending exponentially within hours. Sometimes the effort and diligence of following the daily frustrations and vicissitudes of day-to-day political baseball is amply rewarded.
Social media notwithstanding the punditry was clearly flabbergasted, with some columnists, like Howard Kurtz, dropping late Friday “second take” pieces when the magnitude of the folly had set in:
Eastwood’s cringe-inducing performance was more than a boneheaded move. The actor’s deeply weird interlude came close to negating a solid if unspectacular performance by the Republican nominee for president.
Howard Kurtz – Romney Camp Defends Eastwood Daily Beast 31 Aug 12
The vital post-convention discussion of Romney’s acceptance speech and the nuance beloved to Beltway insiders was completely “bigfooted” by an embarrassing and excruciatingly public performance:
But political campaigns operate in a beastly environment, which is one way to describe the insatiable appetite of a political and media world that consumes information and events at a breathtaking pace and stops to focus when something bizarre, unexpected, spectacular or foolish occurs. Cable and talk radio seized on. Twitter blew up over it. News Web sites saw a spike in traffic on anything Eastwood related.
And so, in the aftermath of an evening that overall accomplished much of what everyone said Romney needed to do with his convention, the beast was focused on Eastwood as much or more than on Romney’s speech or anything else from the show.
Dan Balz – Clint Eastwood riff distracts from successful GOP convention Washington Post 1 Sep 12
Even the Oval Office got in on the act with a quick response.
On-line interview with @invisibleobama here, “Who said it Clint Eastwood or Grandpa Simpson?” quiz here (harder than you might think) and a tiny sampling of what is out there, ya’ gotta’ love the Internet: