Chris Cillizza
Reporter August 31, 2012

Awkward, thy name is Clint Eastwood.

The previous sentence is stunning, given that Eastwood has made a career on his cool stoicism and tough-guy patois. I mean, this is the man who played “Dirty Harry.”

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

And yet, after Eastwood’s speech on the final night of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, “awkward” may be the kindest term we can think of.

The Hollywood star’s appearance wasn’t announced until mid-week, and when he stepped on stage Thursday night — after a stirring documentary film about Mitt Romney’s life — the audience was clearly expecting a bravura performance.

The first sign that something was amiss was an empty chair placed next to the lectern at which Eastwood spoke. It slowly but surely became clear that he was using the chair as a prop in a two-way conversation he was conducting with an invisible President Obama.

The convention crowd seemed willing to play along — the conceit of making fun of an absent Obama is appealing for most Republican activists — if only they could follow along. But Eastwood didn’t make it easy.

He hemmed. He hawed. He mumbled. He rambled. “I mean, what do you say to people?” Eastwood said, asking the absent president about his campaign promises. “Do you just — you know — I know — people were wondering — you don’t — handle that okay.” He also implied that the invisible Obama was insulting Romney. “What do you want me to tell Romney? I can’t tell him to do that. I can’t tell him to do that to himself.”

In short, Eastwood did everything but stick to any sort of script that would have given the audience a shot at understanding whatever point he was trying to make.

The Romney team later tried to put the best face possible on the address, insisting that Eastwood, a non-politician, gave a non-political speech. Regardless, Eastwood clearly slowed the momentum the Romney campaign was building in advance of the nominee’s acceptance speech later that evening.

Clint Eastwood, for not making anyone’s day, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at chris.cillizza@wpost.com

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