POLITICS

Clint Eastwood's surreal speech at GOP convention didn't make Mitt Romney's day

08/31/2012 12:38 EDT | Updated 10/30/2012 05:12 EDT
TAMPA, Fla. - It was perhaps the weirdest moment of a convention with no shortage of them.

Grizzled Hollywood star Clint Eastwood took to the stage on the final night of Republican National Convention to throw his support behind Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, a celebrity endorsement considered a major coup by Team Romney.

Ten minutes later, and Romney campaign officials looked pained as the legendary "Dirty Harry" star became the subject of gleeful ridicule by comics, journalists and fellow stars, including one wag who dubbed his appearance a "Clintastrophe" on Twitter.

It started promisingly enough as the 82-year-old Eastwood assured Republicans that not all Hollywood stars were "lefter than Lenin."

But then it went startlingly off the rails as he proceeded to have a rambling, disjointed, surreal conversation with an empty chair meant to be U.S. President Barack Obama. Some organizers were alarmed as the ad-libbed speech stretched on for longer than scheduled.

So too was the Twitterverse.

"Am I high?" asked one Tweeter.

"Cringing," actress Mia Farrow tweeted.

"Would it be inappropriate to ask for a blood-alcohol test?" asked Michael Scherer, Time magazine's White House correspondent.

Joked Canadian comedian Daryn Jones: "Clint Eastwood is now backstage arguing with a vending machine."

Whenever Eastwood seemed to lose his train of thought, he'd turn back to the empty chair and pretend that Obama was interrupting him.

"What? What do you want me to tell Mr. Romney to do? I can't tell him to do that to himself. You're getting as bad as (Joe) Biden."

The Rev. Al Sharpton weighed in on MSNBC with this quip: "I suspect that Clint Eastwood has talked to an empty chair more than just tonight."

It took mere minutes before the hashtag #eastwooding appeared, with jokesters posting various photos of people and animals interacting with empty chairs. One photo even featured an actual news shot of Obama, sitting next to an empty chair and looking contemplative.

An @InvisibleObama account also popped up. The inaugural Tweet: "Someone should tell Marco Rubio he's standing on my foot right now." The Florida senator followed Eastwood at the podium.

The Obama campaign expressed both confusion and delight.

"Clint Eastwood is a legend. But in control rooms across Tampa, producers are debating killing this feed," tweeted Bill Burton, who leads the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action super PAC.

Added another Obama campaign official, Lis Smith: "Clint Eastwood, Ted Nugent, & Donald Trump...@MittRomney's team sure knows how to pick 'em."

Even some Republican strategists expressed embarrassment. Former Romney adviser Mike Murphy tweeted: "Note to file: Actors need a script."

Some suspected a diabolical Democratic plot.

"Clint Eastwood on the phone with Obama now: 'It all went according to plan, sir,'" comedian Chris Rock tweeted.