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Play Clinty For Me



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Like William F. Gavin, I hugely enjoyed Clint Eastwood’s turn last night, but I’m not sure I agree that it was “unintentionally hilarious” and that “he forgot his lines, lost his way.” Clint is a brilliant actor, and a superb director of other actors (and I don’t just mean a quarter-century ago: In the last five years, he’s directed eight films). He’s also, as Mr. Gavin observed, a terrific jazz improviser at the piano — and, in film and music documentaries, an extremely articulate interviewee. So I wouldn’t assume that the general tenor of his performance wasn’t exactly as he intended. The hair was a clue: No Hollywood icon goes out on stage like that unless he means to.

John Hayward writes:

The intended recipient was not Mitt Romney, the convention delegates, or even Republican voters, but rather wavering independents. Clint was there to tell them it’s OK to find Obama, his ugly campaign operation, and his increasingly shrill band of die-hard defenders ridiculous. It’s OK to laugh at them.

I’m not sure he could have pulled that off if he’d delivered a slick telepromptered pitch. As Mr. Hayward suggests, the hard lines packed more of a punch for being delivered in the midst of a Bob Newhart empty-chair shtick from the Dean Martin show circa 1968. Indeed, they were some of the hardest lines of the convention and may well prove the take-home (“We own this country . . . Politicians are employees of ours . . . And when somebody does not do the job, we’ve got to let them go”), but they seemed more effective for appearing to emerge extemporaneously from the general shambles.

The curse of political operatives is that they make everything the same. A guy smoothly reading platitudinous codswallop while rotating his head from the left-hand teleprompter to the right-hand teleprompter like clockwork as if he’s at Centre Court watching the world’s slowest Wimbledon rally is a very reductive idea of “professionalism.” Even politicians you’re well disposed to come across as slick bores in that format. Which is by way of saying Clint is too sharp and too crafty not to have known what he was doing.

Oh, and next time ’round, he should sing.

Incidentally, I’m not generally in favor of what Rob Long would call “working blue,” but, if you’re going to do it, doing anatomically impossible sex-act cross-talk with an invisible presidential straight-man in front of the Republican Convention is definitely the way to go.   



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