I have been ruminating on the Clint Eastwood Empty Chair performance at Romney’s GOP convention, and I just can’t help loving what he was trying to do.  I’m not kidding or being facetious.  What Eastwood did was actually pretty brave and interesting and, while it didn’t really work out in the end — due to poor dramatic structure and lack of a button ending — it was still dangerous and exciting and absolutely real.

Unlike others in the media, I don’t think Eastwood was too old or feeble for the performance:

The terrible spectre of aging was all I could think about as Eastwood was talking. With any luck, someday I’ll be that old; my parents will be sooner. It’s terrifying and hard to get old, even if you’re as healthy and wealthy as Eastwood. Most people aren’t, and they need things like … “entitlements.” And so I have to wonder if Eastwood wasn’t exactly the worst person to bring out last night to tout a ticket that hasn’t shied away from taking an axe to the Medicare budget, a reminder of all the tough stuff that serves as mortality’s advance guard

What Clint was trying to do was to be funny and satiric, and if he’d planned it a bit better, I’m convinced he could’ve taken that moment on stage and made a mocking for the masses that just might have gone viral and even been the foundation for an anti-Obama advertising run from the Romney campaign.

Instead, like a high school skit gone bad, the jokes fell flat and Clint was left to struggle through the performance until he left the stage.  Clint knew he was flopping and pushing too hard to be relevant and funny, but he never panicked, and he tried to make it work until the curious and hard bitter end.

I admire Clint Eastwood’s want for danger and his hope to try to create something everlasting.  He did succeed in creating danger for the Romney campaign and in becoming an everlasting internet blooper — so he won in an unexpected way by failing miserably.  I credit Clint for that necessary human attempt at creating an immortal stone for the everlasting casting.

We could all use a little less safety and predictability and a lot more Clint Eastwood gutsiness in our lives.  He wasn’t timid.  He was dramatic.  He was memorable.  How many of us can say we’ve ever had that sort of shot in life to make live, dramatic, history in front of a nation and mean it?

I am reminded of one of my favorite Richard M. Nixon quotes that he shared while reflecting on the measure of his life and it is, perhaps, the perfect button Clint Eastwood was searching for in his dramatic chair interpretation:

Success is a voyage, not a harbor, with its own perils to the spirit.  The game of life is win, to come up a success, and to achieve what we set out to do.  Yet, there is always the danger of failing as a human being.  The lesson that most of us on this voyage never learn, but can never quite forget, is that sometimes to win is to lose.


  1. It reminded me a bit of the now classic Debbie Downer sketches on SNL where half the fun was watching for when the cast would break character and laugh at the Debbie character. He meant well but could have done with a little less improv and a bit more script.

    1. Good point, Gordon!

      Yes, Clint needed a little scripted guidance and then I bet it would have been a knockout performance. It was too much impulse and improv and not enough planning. Romney’s handlers are partly to blame because they didn’t clear, or even check with, Clint to see what he was going to say. They just left him alone — and that’s always dangerous. You have to know where you’re going to end up when you start out.

  2. Um. I was a die-hard fan of Clint Eastwood….I still am…. I think what he managed to do is dramatic, memorable (not sure in which way) may be…. but I wouldn’t want to remember him because of this.

    1. Hi Katha!

      What I love about Clint’s post performance is that he still doesn’t care:

      Clint Eastwood’s empty chair monologue at the Republican National Convention a few weeks ago drew quite a bit of criticism, but the actor said the reactions haven’t bothered him.


      That makes me admire him even more — I still disagree with his Romney support — because he’s a True Artist who put all his belief in the performance process even though he didn’t find great success.

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