With the passage of half a day, initially negative conventional wisdom on Clint Eastwood's appearance at the Republican National Convention is shifting toward agreement with the crowd that saw the address live in Tampa: The Academy Award-winning actor and director killed in Tampa.
Eastwood's empty-chair routine continues a recent trend in sedevacantist comedy. Elizabeth Emken, the Republican Party's challenger to long-sitting Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), is one of many prominent figures in and out of politics who have been using bottomless seats to mock uncooperative interlocutors.
Eastwood's performance, unlike most of those (and all of the Eastwooders who are uploading their own furniture pictures and videos), was a clear crowd pleaser. As can be seen in the video below, Eastwood's off-hand delivery and plentiful grace notes (it's about time somebody reminds America that Jon Voight won an Oscar) went down so well with the crowd that Mitt Romney was left in the Mitzi McCall/Charlie Brill spot during his own convention.
From the president himself to angry Republicans to a hilariously literal-minded response from Andrew Sullivan, here is a very small selection of the bazillion or so responses Eastwood is getting:
Barack Obama, President
of the United States
This seat's taken. http://OFA.BO/c2gbfi , pic.twitter.com/jgGZTb02
Mitt Romney For President
Judging an American icon like Clint Eastwood through a typical political lens doesn’t work. His ad-libbing was a break from all the political speeches, and the crowd enjoyed it. He rightly pointed out that 23 million Americans out of work or underemployed is a national disgrace and it’s time for a change.
Clint Eastwood can do comedy. One of his most profitable movies was Every Which Way But Loose (1978), in which his best bud is Clyde, an orangutan he won in a bet. He confides his deepest thoughts about life and women to Clyde, and Clyde is just the wise monkey — silent. Talking to an orangutan was the one way that Clint could show audiences his adorably goofy side and the box-office was great. Maybe Clint thought that talking to Imaginary Obama would be the same kind of comedy monkey magic. Or maybe he thought that this speech was a non-professional event; he could just dream up some stunt and everyone would love him. Well it was true: they did love him in the room — sort of — but out there on television and on the endless, pitiless YouTube repeats, things were different. However he might have felt, Clint did not look lucky.
[H]onestly, all I can think about is Dirty Harry scolding an invisible president in a chair for making an anatomically impossible suggestion. We had heard there would be a surprise guest tonight, but apparently, the surprise was a surprise to the surprise guest. You know how reporters always complain that conventions are too scripted? Eastwood was the first thing on network TV tonight, and oh, it wasn’t scripted. It wasn’t rehearsed. It wasn’t sane.
Bob Newhart, @bobnewhart
I heard that Clint Eastwood was channeling me at the RNC. My lawyers and I are drafting our lawsuit... #RNC #ClintEastwood #rnc2012 #GOP2012
Gov. Scott Walker,
I'm a big fan of Clint Eastwood in terms of movies. I was expecting: remember the Super Bowl when he did that voice-over in the ad? I would have loved to hear that: "It's time to bring America back. We're tough. We can come back." I didn't get that. But overall, that one moment, which I cringed at; I would have rather seen [the two families who received personal assistance from Mitt Romney], I think in the big picture, though, the rest of it was amazing.
Too Many People
[Variations of both "Clint Eastwood loses debate with empty chair" and "Empty chair has more substance than Obama"]
It doesn't matter what stripe your politics are, or whether you thought last night was a victory or disaster, Eastwood stole the night. He stole it with the expertise and facility of a veteran actor who knew exactly what he was doing — stealing a scene, and stealing it with utter conviction.
'You Did Great!' Terrified Personal Assistant Tells Clint Eastwood
But as I said, the best outcome from the incident last night was that it showed just how out of touch Republicans are these days. It's as if they want a divorce from us, the American mainstream, so they can go live in the land of legitimate rapes and ice caps that don't melt. Most Americans don't live there on Planet Koo-Koo, and I don't suspect many will be visiting there any time soon.
Eastwood's criticisms of Barack Obama were the average American's criticisms of Barack Obama. If you want to hammer the president in a way that appeals to undecideds, you couldn't do much better than to complain about high unemployment and an endless war. That won't sound authentic coming from Romney, who has been tagged, fairly or not, as the guy who likes to fire people, and whose position on Afghanistan is 180 degrees away from Eastwood's. But coming from Clint Eastwood, that isn't a big problem...
Janine Turner, @JanineTurner
I thought Clint Eastwood's presence was electrifying and I praise him for being a Hollywood actor & taking a stand! Thanks Clint Eastwood!
The Daily Beast
Eastwood now says Obama failed to close Gitmo - when he was stopped by the GOP! But he does mention the war in Iraq. And now he's arguing that we should have withdrawn from Afghanistan sooner. Does he not realize that Mitt wants us to stay there indefinitely? This is highly incoherent. And increasingly embarrassing. He's talking to an empty chair. Apparently, telling someone to go fuck themselves is a Biden move. But it was Cheney who became famous for saying that.
Roy Rogers, @Roy__Rogers
Hey Barack! It's not "your" chair you egocentric narcissistic communist son of a bitch. It's America's chair and YOU are FIRED! #p21 #LNYHBT
A quick search on Twitter for #Eastwooding reveals dozens of photos of empty chairs, people sitting next to empty chairs, dogs beside empty chairs, and more. Likewise, Pinterest and Instagram users took the opportunity to upload images of their furniture, with people or hands lecturing or pointing at their empty kitchen chairs.
Funny or Die
[List of memes]
Fabian Innocenti, @fabian_in
Les vieux qui parlent à des chaises vides et qui finissent par tirer des coups de fusil partout #ClintEastwood
Opie from Opie & Anthony, @OpieRadio
Somewhere in a mountain lair Clint Eastwood is tied up while @BarackObama takes off his #ClintEastwood mask. #DiabolicalLaugh
Kelly Wright, @kwright321
If George Clooney had given the same speech as #ClintEastwood, he would have been called #brilliant.
Roger Ebert, @ebertchicago
Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic. He didn't need to do this to himself. It's unworthy of him.'
And it was surprising that, when the identity of the "mystery guest" was revealed Thursday evening, many non-Republicans took to Twitter and Facebook to pillory Eastwood, huffing that his appearance at the GOP convention "tainted" his movies for them. Huh? First of all, Eastwood publicly endorsed Romney this month. Second of all, the actor who is a lower-case-L libertarian on social issues (pro-gay marriage, pro choice, pro-ecology) and a fiscal conservative is hardly one to toe a party line.
Dottie Bowling, @DottieBowling
If #ClintEastwood were Liberal, Hollyweird would be foaming at the mouth with rabid praise of his appearance.
Daniele Daccò, @ilRinoceronte
E' la prima volta che #ClintEastwood spara su qualcuno e io non mi diverto
Matthew Filipowicz, YouTube
[Interview with invisible Mitt Romney. 2 views]
A Brief History of Talking to Empty Chairs
Piers Morgan talking to Todd Akin's empty chair.
Lawrence O`Donnell talks to George Zimmerman's lawyers empty chair.
Clint Eastwood at the RNC
The grandpa from The Simpsons.
The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laid on empty chair.