Some are still wondering if Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney even said anything Thursday evening, so much has been made of legendary actor/director Clint Eastwood's speech at the Republican National Convention (RNC). (Romnay actually gave an acceptance speech afterward, not that anyone noticed -- or cared after the "Unforgiven" director had had his few minutes on stage.) The Internet and ran wild with Eastwood's performance, the video went viral, and there was even a Twitter account created especially for "Invisible Obama," the actor's imaginary talking partner that was symbolized by an empty chair. Of course, comedic fake news show host Jon Stewart couldn't pass up such a moment. He pointed out on "The Daily Show" on a special edition (Friday night) of the Comedy Central staple that Eastwood's 12-minute speech was "the most joy" he had received "from an old man since Dick Cheney non-fatally shot one in the face."
Taping the show in Tampa, Stewart joked about the heat and how hard it was to get cash that didn't have body glitter on it (a reference to Tampa's strip clubs). And then, turning to politics and a segment entitled "RNC 2012 -- The Road To Jeb Bush 2016," he admitted that he was "a bit dispirited" by everything that had gone on at the RNC during the week, but, then, Eastwood saved the day.
After showing a video clip of Eastwood taking the stage at the RNC, Stewart yelled, "Yes!! Amidst the tired rhetoric, empty platitudes, and overwrought attacks, a fistful of awesome emerged in the night where it spent 12 minutes -- on the most important night of Mitt Romney's life -- yelling at a chair."
And in a mocking somber and melodramatic voice, Stewart intoned: "And oh, how the outlaw josey wailed." After showing Eastwood's stumbling, somewhat incoherent (at first) back and forth that began his ad libbed skit, Stewart, still in mock voice: "Are we not entertained?"
Eastwood began his speech by noting that America might need a businessman to get rid of the "embarrassing" 23 million unemployed in America, emphasizing that when someone isn't doing the job, they have to be "let go." But part of Eastwood's speech was devoted to speaking to and with a nonexistent President Obama, turning to glance and speak to or over his shoulder at the empty chair placed at his stage left. The Tampa crowd seemed to have lost the "Fistful of Dollars" actor's direction at first but soon caught on and began to enjoy the 82-year-old Oscar winner's performance, one where he chided the president on unkept promises and his differences with Romney.
The speech was an immediate hit. The hashtag "Invisible Obama" was created on Twitter and within ten minutes had 4,700 followers. By late Friday, the account had over 60,000 followers. The famed director's use of the empty chair as a prop also became a meme, with many followers posting photos of themselves pointing at empty chairs. Some even included animals attentively staring at an empty seat.
At one point in the dialogue with the chair, Eastwood was apparently told to "shut up" by the nonexistent Obama and Eastwood let the transparent imaginary entity know that he would not, that it was his turn to speak. Stewart, doing an awful Eastwood impersonation, joked, "I'm hear to lend my support to Mitt Romney in his crucial hour. You will not silence me, invisible Barack Obama."
And after a few obligatory remarks following Romney's acceptance speech, many commentators, analysts, and pundits returned to the topic of Eastwood, who finished his speech by leading the crowd into a recitation of one of the most famous lines from his career (taken from the "Dirty Harry" movie, "Sudden Impact"),"Go ahead...," he said.
The crowd enthusiastically responded, "Make my day!"
Although it is doubtful that Eastwood made Romney's day, stealing his acceptance speech thunder and perhaps doing nothing to garner more support for the Romney presidential campaign, there is little doubt the legendary director of such great films as "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Invictus" made Jon Stewart's day, not to mention thousands of others who found the speech more as something to joke about than as something of political noteworthiness.
In fact, Romney's campaign was so worried about the reception of Eastwood's speech that they issued a disclaimer while Mitt Romney was giving his acceptance speech. "He's an American icon," Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho told CNN's Piers Morgan. "You can't look at him through the same political lens that you would other politicians. He's Clint Eastwood."
GOP pollster Frank Luntz noted (per the Detroit Free Press) that the fact that everyone was talking about Eastwood "means we're not talking about the language he (Romney) put forward."
So what did President Obama think of the speech that everyone was talking about?
"This seat is taken," was posted to the president's Twitter account soon after the speech, a photo of the back of the presidential chair prominently chair prominently displayed.
Watch Jon Stewart's take on Clint Eastwood's empty chair speech (from "The Daily Show"):
(photo credit: Martin Kraft, Creative Commons)