TAMPA, Fla. — Clint Eastwood opened up the primetime portion of the Republican convention with a rambling, mumbling and often incoherent address next to an empty chair that was meant to represent President Obama.
A creaky Eastwood began by defending Hollywood’s notorious liberal reputation to the crowd, claiming that there were in fact many independents and Republicans in show business.
“Conservatives by their nature play it close to the vest, they don’t go around hot-dogging it,” he said.
He went on to act out an interview with the empty presidential chair that noted, among other topics, Obama’s inability to close Guantanamo Bay.
“I thought it was because somebody had a stupid idea of trying terrorists in downtown New York City,” Eastwood said.
Eastwood, who did not seem to use a prepared text of any kind, went on for about 12 minutes. A Romney campaign official told CBS that Eastwood was “ad libbing.”
The crowd seemed alternately confused and rapturously excited by the display, cheering whenever he poked fun at Joe Biden and Obama.
“When somebody doesn’t do the job you got to let them go,” he said, to thundering applause.
Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, who often brackets Republican speeches with fact checks and statements, offered a one word response to Eastwood’s performance on Twitter: “Wow.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.