Clint Eastwood’s speech, reexamined

September 3, 2012

In the four days since actor Clint Eastwood delivered his speech -- more of a riff, really -- on the Republican National Convention's final night, a heated debate about whether it was historically bad or sneaky good has consumed the political world.


The Fix planted our flag firmly on the historically bad side when we named Eastwood as the winner of our "Worst Week in Washington" award on Sunday. That "honor" set off a slew of emails to the Fix inbox -- the vast majority of which insisted we had simply missed the point in one way, shape or form.

We've sorted through all of those e-mails -- and there were lots -- and went back through Eastwood's speech too. Below are the most common rebuttals to our panning of the Eastwood address and our responses.

* Eastwood is old: Lots and lots of people pointed out that Eastwood is in his early 80s and they'd like to see how we would do in a speech like that when were that old. There's no disputing that Eastwood at age 82 is in far better shape than the Fix is likely to be at 82. And yet, that criticism misses the point. The issue is not whether Eastwood is in damn good shape for an 82-year-old (he is) but whether he should have been trusted by the Romney campaign with such a high-profile speaking slot on the final night of the Republican National Convention. If Eastwood was 52 and had given the same speech he delivered last Thursday, we still would have panned it.

* Eastwood is a celebrity not a politician: Because Eastwood is a creature of Hollywood not Washington, judging him by inside-the-Beltway standards is a mistake. Okay. But, this was not a film. This was a speech at a national party convention. So, shouldn't the speakers at that convention -- no matter what line of work they do in their day jobs -- be judged by the standards of a major political event?

* We don't have a sense of humor: The most common refrain among those criticizing our read on the Eastwood speech was that we just didn't get it because we didn't know what funny is/was. While Fix Mom always told us that we were hilarious, we are willing to accept that we missed the evident hilarity in the Eastwood speech -- although we think it's unlikely. While the empty chair shtick had comedic potential, it fell flat due to Eastwood's seeming lack of ANY prepared script.  As evidence we give you this verbatim quote from Eastwood: "I mean, what do you say to people? Do you just -- you know -- I know -- people were wondering -- you don't -- handle that okay." (Yes, he said that.) While there were good (and funny) lines in the speech, funny wasn't the first thing that came to mind as we watched it. (Of course, if you believe we lack a sense of humor, then this makes perfect sense to you.)

* Independents loved it: Of all the e-mails we received over Eastwood, the argument that people in the political middle liked the speech made the most sense to us. After all, Eastwood IS a big celebrity, and most celebrities ARE Democrats. So, the very fact that Eastwood was on the stage hitting Obama and praising Romney was enough to show a different side of the GOP and maybe keep some people watching who might otherwise have changed the channel. Fair enough. Of course, there's little data -- polling or otherwise -- to suggest that Eastwood's speech was a winner among independents, but at least we can see that line of argument.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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