Sunday, September 02, 2012

In this world there's two kinds of people: Those with loaded guns and those who dig.

Eastwood’s speech has gotten wildly mixed reviews. Predictably, liberals hated it. They dismissed it as a senile rant. Of course, if it really was a senile rant, why do they feel so threatened by it?

And it’s possible that Eastwood is in his dotage. However, I don’t think that’s the best interpretation of his performance.

For one thing, the punchlines were too good. In addition, there seemed to be a pattern to the timing. He’d appear to lose his train of thought, which made the sympathetic audience nervous, fearing that he was going to embarrass himself on live, national TV. Then, a moment later, he’d land a zinger–which was all the more effective given the nail-biting lead-up. This happened with enough frequency that I think it was intentional.

Moreover, some of the awkward pauses were due to “Obama” in the empty chair interrupting Clint. So that wasn’t Clint forgetting his lines. That was part of the imaginary dialogue.

Hence, I think Eastwood was milking the old geezer shtick for comic effect. Using “Obama” in the empty chair as his straight man.

Ann Romney didn’t care for it either, which is not surprising. She’s rather hoity-toity, so I wouldn’t expect her to get Clint Eastwood.

Then you have Republican professionals who faulted the speech because it upstaged the candidate. It deflected attention away from Romney. After the convention, everyone is talking about Clint’s speech rather than Romney’s speech. To that criticism I’d say several things:

i) Does anyone seriously imagine that if Eastwood hadn’t done his thing at the convention, millions of Americans would instead replaying YouTube clips Romney’s acceptance speech? When was the last time anyone ever said anything memorable at a presidential convention? Within my own lifetime, I can only think of three examples off-the-cuff. There was Bush 41’s “Read my lips–no new taxes!” And, of course, he’d have been better off if people forgot that promise–which came back to bite him.

There was Goldwater’s “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.” And there was Pat Buchanan’s famous (or infamous, depending on your political persuasion) “culture war” speech at the 1992 convention.  Likewise, the only convention anyone remembers is the 1968 Democrat convention in Chicago. And even then, only political junkies refer that.

ii) Of course Eastwood was going to upstage Romney. I mean, the whole point of having Eastwood speak at your convention is because he has more starpower than the candidate. If Romney had Eastwood’s starpower, he wouldn’t need Eastwood to be there in the first place.

So that’s a calculated risk. A question of tradeoffs. Is that offset by something else? Does some of that transfer to Mitt?

iii) It’s not so much that Eastwood directly helps Romney. Rather, he helps the message. He helps get the message across, more memorably and convincingly than the Romney ever could.

Yes, folks are talking about his speech rather than Romney’s, but they’re also having those devastating punchlines drilled into their minds in the process. 

He also did Romney a favor by deflecting attention away from Democrat talking points about Mediscare, Swiss bank accounts, and Todd Akin. He drew their fire. 

iv) And let’s face it–where conservative voters are concerned, this is less about wanting Romney to win than wanting Obama to lose. Romney is just a means to an end. We will never be excited about Mitt's candidacy.

1 comment:

  1. So that’s a calculated risk. A question of tradeoffs. Is that offset by something else? Does some of that transfer to Mitt?

    I think it reinforces Romney's "President-as-CEO" image; the "can-do" kind of business leader who's not afraid to hire people who will out-shine him.

    Romney is just a means to an end. We will never be excited about Mitt's candidacy.

    Maybe not, but I think we can genuinely look forward to a Romney presidency -- one where the President will seek to make himself invisible, in a way that enables the "stars around him" to shine more brightly. I think that's the model he's hoping to build, and it's a good one (probably the best that he could hope for).