It was a very interesting and times revealing night. I purposely waited to write any reaction to Thursday night’s final night of the GOP Convention in Tampa because to be frank, I don’t know if I really knew how I felt about it all.
Clearly it was supposed to be a night for Mitt Romney, but just as clearly it didn’t turn out that way.
As I look back in reflection, the thing I cannot get out of my mind is the Clint Eastwood speech or skit or whatever it was. He was at his best when he looked directly at the audience and stated simply, “If you can’t do the job you should be let go.”
It got a rousing response from the faithful, but when he turned and started talking to the empty chair I started to think I was watching a bad skit on the Tonight Show. I began to wonder how the Romney people who shamelessly touted the appearance were going to get “The Clint Eastwood” off the stage in a way that would save face for everyone. Many people in the Forum struggled to hear Eastwood because he would turn away from the directional microphone, making him hard to hear.
Then he turned to face the front again and delivered another direct blow about how bad it is to have over 20 million Americans without jobs. Unfortunately just when you thought it was going to end, he turned back to his imaginary routine and once again you began to worry about an 82-year-old legend who may have finally found a role he shouldn’t play.
Sen. Marco Rubio benefited from the Eastwood warm-up act and delivered the speech of the night. Any other time, Americans might be talking about his speech in the same breath with Mario Cuomo and Barack Obama. Would it fuel unfulfilled stirrings of the former or a presidential run of the latter. It stirred with passion, with vigor and made me begin to imagine that America could very well have a president of Cuban descent in my lifetime.
As I remember the surprise guest’s speech wasn’t even acknowledged during Romney’s speech and little wonder why. He was probably hoping for a little separation at that point but it may have been too late.
Anticipation built all day for the Eastwood appearance. His voice was used in a Chrysler TV commercial during the Super Bowl and many took that as a tacit endorsement of President Obama. Now he was going to make their day by setting the record straight. Everyone was buying in, including me. It was going to be great theater. I can tell you the hallways on the fifth floor where I was hunkered down in waiting were empty with anticipation for his speech.
After the night was over, people left with mixed emotions. They felt good about their presidential candidate, felt good about the party’s future, but they left talking about the actor’s speech. Years later delegates will tell their family and friends they were in the Forum in Tampa, Florida for that speech by Clint Eastwood. You know – the one with the empty chair.
That may get you ratings but it won’t win you an election.