By: David Harsanyi
8/31/2012 12:59 PM
Honestly, I wasn’t sure how Clint Eastwood’s rambling appearance would play with voters, though I knew immediately how it would play with most Beltway types. For me, it was, without doubt, the most entertaining convention speech in memory — hell, the most of any political event period. But let’s concede for the sake of argument that Eastwood’s performance (with an empty chair as a prop) at the Republican National Convention is all the terrible things that Democrats and many in the media have been saying it is. So what?
1. It was fun. How many potential voters actually changed their minds — or made up their minds – on the basis of an ad-libbed comedy routine by a celebrity? If anything, chances are probably higher that that some mildly curious voters found the idea of an iconic actor giving a speech — one, incidentally, that didn’t adhere to Republican orthodoxy — at the RNC as evidence that the GOP wasn’t as rigid and unapproachable as everyone’s been telling them.
2. And speaking of mildly curious voters … Though many of them may enjoy and admire someone like George Clooney, they probably don’t relate to him. Clint, on the other hand, cuts through generations and fan bases. He’s about as close to universally liked as a celebrity can get. This is why Chrysler used his voice to celebrate bailouts. Eastwood’s appearance will do nothing to amuse those who take their politics too seriously, but he certainly lightened up what is by nature an artificial and highly-scripted event. No, Eastwood didn’t lay out an eloquent, bullet-point argument against Barack Obama’s economic policies; what he did was convey a prevalent sentiment in nonpartisan language that a lot of people who don’t care much about politics understand.
Take this segment, which was probably the most effective:
You, we — we own this country. We — we own it. It is not you owning it, and not politicians owning it. Politicians are employees of ours. And — so — they are just going to come around and beg for votes every few years. It is the same old deal. But I just think it is important that you realize , that you’re the best in the world. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican or whether you’re libertarian or whatever, you are the best. And we should not ever forget that. And when somebody does not do the job, we got to let them go.
3. Ed Morrissey lays this argument out well, but whatever potential damage Eastwood can do, and I doubt he did much, he can make it up with eyeballs. How many people tuned in to see Eastwood? Was his shtick worth the cost if those viewers stuck around to see strong speeches by Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney?
I’m sure Republicans had hoped for something more traditional from Clint, but really, what was the downside? I don’t see one.