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Clint Eastwood speech with empty chair upstages Mitt Romney at GOP convention

Actor Clint Eastwood speaks during the 2012 Republican

Actor Clint Eastwood speaks during the 2012 Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. (Aug. 30, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Political conventions are TV shows, only TV shows, and the one from Tampa last night starred a silver-maned screen icon named Clint Eastwood who drifted wildly off-script, addressed an empty chair, put words in the mouth of an invisible “president” that were vaguely — no, very distinctly — scatological, rambled for 11 minutes, drove event organizers to drink and in the process totally, irrevocably heisted the entire week.

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.

There is but one thing anyone will remember from this week — one thing and one thing only: The sight of Dirty Harry addressing an empty chair.

Let the big minds address whether this remarkable TV moment was good or bad for the Republican ticket and they already have: Bob Schieffer last night said it was a political disaster, shifting attention from the candidate to a loopy actor addressing an empty chair. His colleague Norah O'Donnell said Friday morning that it was the “not good, the bad and the very ugly.""

But wait! What about us? The viewer — the ones sitting at home, drifting off to sleep, wondering when we'd hear yet another speaker talk about yet another mother who had to drive 130 miles to work, while the kids at home were burning the pancakes? The ones watching Taylor Hicks and saying “I voted for THAT guy!?" 

Instead, we got Clint and it was electrifying — a glorious, bizarre, fun, wild, weird, kooky, incendiary moment that threatened to throw the entire convention into a complete tailspin — and just before the nominee spoke.

Now THAT'S entertainment, friends.

The lasting effect of this? Well, you know the DNC at this very moment is cooking up a comeback and Twitter last night was alive with speculation — Oprah addressing an empty chair in Charlotte? And surely someone at the DNC had this idea — get an empty SUIT on a rack up onstage and have George Clooney address “Mitt Romney.“

Reporters love to criticize/whine about the convention — no news! All scripted! Why even cover this thing?

Last night Clint Eastwood gave them — us — reason to watch. You may never vote for Romney in a million years — or may never vote for Obama in a million. But you will remember Clint Eastwood, and the memory doubtless will be a pleasing one: “Something fun and crazy finally happened at a political convention. Maybe I'll stick around for the mystery guest next time.”

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