Did a rambling Clint Eastwood ruin Mitt Romney's big night?

The GOP learns the hard way that an empty chair, an imaginary President Obama, and an octogenarian Hollywood star may be a recipe for disaster

Clint Eastwood
(Image credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The final night of the Republican National Convention was meant to be a coronation of Mitt Romney, who fulfilled a years-long ambition by accepting his party's nomination for president. But the talk Friday morning isn't all about Romney or his speech, which for the most part was considered a safe and solid effort. Instead, the dominant story is about Clint Eastwood, the much-vaunted "mystery speaker" that Team Romney teased the press with for days. Before Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) delivered a widely admired address introducing Romney on Thursday night, Eastwood offered a rambling, incoherent speech in which he spoke to an empty chair that was meant to represent an imaginary President Obama. (Watch a video of the speech below.) The 82-year-old actor lurched from one topic to the next — the economy, the war in Afghanistan, and the military prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. At one point he apparently imagined Obama telling Romney to go [expletive] himself. ("What do you want me to tell Mr. Romney?" Eastwood asked. "I can't tell him that," he responded to his own question. "He can't do that to himself.") The speech was almost universally panned. Did it ruin Romney's convention?

Yes. Romney was totally upstaged: "There's an old adage in Hollywood: Never share the screen with dogs or children — you'll get upstaged," says John Cassidy at The New Yorker. "After last night's bizarro performance by Clint Eastwood…doddering old men should be added to the list." Romney gave a "pretty good speech," but "Twitter and the rest of the web was still abuzz with Clint" when Romney was speaking. Unfortunately for Mitt, "the only thing that most people will remember about [the convention] is the jarring picture of a frail-looking American screen legend, his hair askew, standing and talking in a halting voice to an empty chair."

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