So just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last week or so, Clint Eastwood was the surprise guest speaker last Thursday night in the final hour of the Republican National Convention. In fact, he was the last speaker before Marco Rubio came up to introduce the nominee himself, Mitt Romney (this is an important tidbit to remember for later). In case you haven’t seen the video yet, here it is:
-Right around the five minute mark Mr. Eastwood mentions Obama’s opposition to the war in Iraq and something about how Obama thought the war in Afghanistan was “worth doing” followed by a crack about how we didn’t ask the Russians (I think he meant the Soviets but whatever) how they did there for ten years--and for some reason this gets a great big cheer as if Republicans are now somehow against the war in Afghanistan. Then he takes it even further, mentioning Obama’s target date for bringing home the troops in Afghanistan and saying that “Romney asked the only sensible question. He says: Why are you giving the date out now? Why don’t you just bring them home tomorrow morning?” Uh. What? I hope I don’t actually have to analyze how nonsensical this claim is. The only part that’s true is that Romney doesn’t agree with having a target date at all. The weirdest part of all is that this too elicited a great cheer from the convention crowd. Which makes me wonder if any of them even knew where the hell they were. Maybe that’s why they loved Eastwood’s “speech” so much--because clearly he didn’t either.
-I think my favorite parts of the Eastwood “speech” (I dunno what else to call it...skit? presentation?) were the times when he pretended Invisible Obama was telling him to shut up in order to distract from his incoherent, directionless rambling in the moments when it started running out of steam. As if Obama would EVER do that to ANYONE.
-THEN when he couldn’t make the “Obama is telling me to shut up cuz he don’t like what I gots to say” joke anymore, he attempted to again salvage his fragmented ranting, this time by pretending Invisible Obama was telling him to tell Romney to “go fuck himself” in a most cheeky fashion, proclaiming “I can’t tell him to do that. He can’t do that to himself. You’re crazy. You’re absolutely crazy.” It’s almost like he’s talking to himself at this point.
-His tirade against attorneys is also pretty classic. He says attorneys shouldn’t be president ostensibly because “they’re always taught to argue everything, always weigh everything, weigh both sides. They are always devil’s advocating this and bifurcating this and bifurcating that.” (Bifurcating, by the way, means to divide into two branches) So apparently Mr. Eastwood thinks attorneys make lousy presidents because they’re constantly listening to and considering all sides of an issue or decision rather than just thinking they’re always right and self-righteously digging in their heels. I wonder how the other 24 past presidents who were attorneys prior to becoming president would feel about this argument. Here’s a list of all of them, perhaps Eastwood can pretend they’re all sitting in his living room and have a group discussion:
#2 — John Adams (Harvard, then apprenticed as a lawyer)
#3 — Thomas Jefferson (College of William & Mary, then apprenticed as a lawyer)
#4 — James Madison (College of New Jersey — now Princeton — then read law)
#6 — John Quincy Adams (Harvard, then apprenticed as a lawyer)
#7 — Andrew Jackson (self-taught lawyer)
#8 — Martin Van Buren (Kinderhook Academy, then apprenticed as a lawyer)
#10 — John Tyler (College of William & Mary, then apprenticed as a lawyer)
#11 — James Polk (University of North Carolina, then apprenticed as a lawyer)
#13 — Millard Fillmore (clerked for and studied under New York Judge Walter Wood)
#14 — Franklin Pierce (Bowdoin College, then studied law)
#15 — James Buchanan (Dickinson College, then studied law)
#16 — Abraham Lincoln (No formal education, a self-taught lawyer)
#19 — Rutherford Hayes (Kenyon College, Harvard law)
#21 — Chester Arthur (Union College, then studied law)
#22 — Grover Cleveland (apprenticed as a lawyer)
#23 — Benjamin Harrison (Miami University in Ohio, then studied law)
#25 — William McKinley (Allegheny College, Albany law)
#27 — William Howard Taft (Yale, Cincinnati law)
#28 — Woodrow Wilson (College of New Jersey — now Princeton — then UVA law)
#30 — Calvin Coolidge (Amherst, then apprenticed as a lawyer)
#32 — Franklin Roosevelt (Harvard, Columbia law)
#37 — Richard Nixon (Whittier College, Duke law)
#38 — Gerald Ford (University of Michigan, Yale law)
#42 — Bill Clinton (Georgetown University, Yale law)
#44 — Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard law)
-Mr. Eastwood also brings up the “gas guzzler” Obama rides around in (you know, Air Force One) when he’s “going around to colleges to talk about student loans and stuff like that.” You know, all that benign minutiae involved with being president.
-At this point, Mr. Eastwood reminds the crowd that “[w]e own this country.” This elicits a THUNDEROUS standing ovation for some reason.
-He also throws his name into the hat for “most unintentionally ironic statement of the RNC” when he talks about how we don’t have to be “middle masochists and vote for somebody we don’t even really want in office.” You can just feel Mitt squirming in his chair.
-As he’s doing his line about “middle masochists” some obnoxious woman interrupts him to scream out “SAY ‘MAKE MY DAY’!!!” He brushes it off at first but then seizes the opportunity to put himself and everyone watching out of our collective misery. “OK. You want a ‘make my day,’ huh?” he asks and the crowd erupts. “I’ll start it, you finish it. ‘Go ahead...’” and the crowd chimes in right on cue: “‘MAKE MY DAY.’” And as he thanks the crowd and exits the stage, one can’t help but be confused as to whether they’re watching the Republican National Convention or WrestleMania. I literally started expecting people to start yelling "WHAT?" every time he paused.
My first reaction to the "performance piece" was that I was struck by what a perfect microcosm of the RNC and of the current Republican party itself this was. No substance whatsoever. Overwhelmingly angry and bitter and petty. Blindly nationalistic. The parts that were actually coherent were mostly inexplicable. And the crowd...ATE. IT. UP.
That's probably the part that disturbed me the most. These aren't just a bunch of conservative rabble-rousers. I mean, they are--but many of these people are also DELEGATES to the convention and they were LOVING this. They laughed at his dumb, mean jokes. They cheered in the WEIRDEST of places (see the Afghanistan section of the "speech") and moreover they cheered in some very scary places. If this crowd is a representation of your party, you should be afraid to be a Republican right now. Very, very afraid. I'm afraid for you because I know how bad this country needs REAL Republicans with REAL Republican values that don't include hatemongering, warmongering, or fearmongering.
And of course the Republican National Convention wasted no time distancing themselves from Eastwood's antics. Their defense essentially was that he was "ad-libbing" and that he wasn't going to win or lose them a single vote but the crowd absolutely loved it. OK. Well. Here's the thing: you put the guy on in the FINAL HOUR of the convention. He was the "SURPRISE GUEST." He spoke immediately before the guy who was introducing the nominee (by the way, Marco Rubio was scheduled to speak for five minutes to introduce Romney--he ended up speaking for 20 minutes; can't wait to see him and Paul Ryan rip each other to shreds over the 2016 nomination). This wasn't intended as some silly sideshow. This was supposed to be a big moment in the convention. They thought they were getting a thoughtful, eloquent, stoic political speech from a revered moderate. They got the political equivalent of Ashlee Simpson doing an Irish jig on Saturday Night Live.
I think Jon Stewart summed it up far better than I ever could...