UPDATE: Mitt Romney was directly responsible for the screen legend’s presence at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. And his aides worked hard to make Clint Eastwood’s appearance a surprise. But when it became clear Friday that Eastwood’s bizarre, head-scratching, 12-minute ramble had stolen much of the spotlight from the candidate, Romney’s top aides began pointing fingers.
“Not me,” a senior adviser tells the New York Times when asked who was responsible.
Right before Eastwood went on stage, he asked a stagehand for a chair. “Everyone just assumed he was going to sit in it,” writes the Washington Post. Some tried to defend Eastwood, but for now it seems he won’t be making any more high-profile appearances for Romney before November. His manager said Eastwood won’t be speaking to the press until he starts promoting his next movie, and even then he just plans to talk about the film, and not politics.
Romney’s advisers say they didn’t include Eastwood in any rehearsals or demand speech approval because he had done such a good job of advocating for Romney at an August fundraiser in Idaho. He was just given a few talking points and told to speak for five minutes. He ended up staying on stage for more than twice as long.
In the National Review, Jonah Goldberg says Eastwood’s critics are failing to see the big picture. In the end, the actor’s speech is positive for Romney because it helped get “sharp criticism” of President Obama in front of people who normally aren’t very political and hadn’t been paying attention to the campaign.
“If people don’t like what he said, they won’t hold Eastwood’s comments against Mitt Romney,” writes Goldberg. “If they like what he said, that’s bad for Obama. And lots of people who haven’t focused on the election will now hear about how Clinton Eastwood—a compelling American badass—thinks it’s time for Obama to go.”
For his part, Jon Stewart said the speech brought him “the most joy I’ve gotten from an old man since Dick Cheney non-fatally shot one in the face.”
Friday, Aug. 31 at 12:31 p.m.: Ann Romney made the rounds on this morning’s talk shows, where she was asked to offer her thoughts on Clint Eastwood’s somewhat unusual speech last night. The best she could muster: “He’s a unique guy and he did a unique thing last night.”
That was her response on CBS’s This Morning, where she was careful to express her support for everyone who took the stage to support her husband. “I didn’t know it was coming,” she said of Eastwood’s unscripted speech, which was something of an eleventh-hour surprise, before pivoting. “Again, I can tell you we’re grateful for everyone’s support and especially grateful for what a great night it was last night.”
The White House, meanwhile, offered this quip when asked for reaction to the speech that certainly stole some of the spotlight from Mitt Romney (at least online, if not in print): “Referring all questions on this to Salvador Dali,” an Obama spokesman said in an email to Politico.