Clint Eastwood Takes Victory Lap in Chair Debate Triumph

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If it doesn't come out right, we can try a second take, right? Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

This morning, I was scanning the Carmel Pine Cone, and preparing to maybe do an item quibbling with their excessively simplistic editorial line on the causes of rising water bills, when I came across a big interview with former mayor Clint Eastwood. Eastwood tells his hometown paper that his Republican National Convention debate victory over invisible Barack Obama was a smashing political success. What he actually seems to reveal is that the whole thing was even more seat-of-the-pants than we may have thought.

Eastwood says he did not tell Mitt Romney’s campaign anything about what he planned to say:

Romney’s campaign aides asked for details about what Eastwood would say to the convention. 

“They vett most of the people, but I told them, ‘You can’t do that with me, because I don’t know what I’m going to say,’” Eastwood recalled.

Eastwood came up with the material for his nationally televised address basically on his way to the speech:

Early Thursday morning, when Eastwood left San Jose Airport on a private jet headed for Florida, he was still making up his mind …

It was only after a quick nap in his hotel room a few blocks from the convention site, Eastwood said, that he mapped out his remarks …

But even then, with just an hour before he appeared on stage, it still hadn’t occurred to Eastwood to use an empty chair as a stand-in for the president.

Eastwood notes that he actually arrived at the convention “15 or 20 minutes” before he went on, which gives a sense of how seriously he took the whole thing. His inspiration for the chair bit apparently struck moments before he went on:

Then he was taken backstage to wait for his cue. And that was when inspiration struck.

“There was a stool there, and some fella kept asking me if I wanted to sit down,” Eastwood said. “When I saw the stool sitting there, it gave me the idea. I’ll just put the stool out there and I’ll talk to Mr. Obama and ask him why he didn’t keep all of the promises he made to everybody.”

He asked a stagehand to take it out to the lectern while he was being announced.

And Eastwood  kind of lost track of time:

Originally, he was told he could speak for six or seven minutes, and right before he went on, he was asked to keep it to five, but he said, “When people are applauding so much, it takes you 10 minutes to say five minutes’ worth.”

Also, there were no signals or cues of any kind, so “when you’re out there, it’s kind of hard to tell how much time is going by.” 

You know how every news story about conventions includes the phrase tightly scripted? It doesn’t seem to apply here.