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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Surprise Speaker Delivers the Unexpected


TAMPA, Fla.-Clint Eastwood's rambling, head-scratching endorsement of Mitt Romney on Thursday set off immediate questions and finger-pointing among Romney supporters: Who booked Mr. Eastwood? Did anyone have an idea of what he was going to say? Did anyone read his remarks before they were broadcast?

The actor, in one of the more unusual moments in Republican convention history, offered a speech in which he pretended to have an off-color conversation with an imaginary President Obama sitting by his side in an empty chair.

“Mr. President, how do you handle promises that you made when you were running for election?” the onetime Dirty Harry said, mumbling to a befuddled crowd of thousands in the convention hall and millions of television viewers.

As thousands of “OMG!” tweets started flying, Mr. Eastwood, 82, asked the invisible Mr. Obama why he had not closed the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

“What do you mean shut up?” he said, continuing to talk to his imaginary companion. A moment later, he stopped again, saying, “What do you want me to tell Mr. Romney?”

“I can't tell him that. He can't do that to himself,” Mr. Eastwood said. “You're getting as bad as Biden.”

On Twitter, one person said, “If Romney is elected, Clint Eastwood will be named Secretary of BlargleflagglemurplePANCAKES!!!”

Another wondered: “OK, who is going to reality check the Clint Eastwood speech?”

One Romney aide said that Mr. Eastwood had been booked months ago and that the expectation was that he would deliver a more standard endorsement, as he did earlier this year.

Another aide tried gamely to find an upside, saying that the Eastwood appearance offered a moment of unpredictability in a convention that was otherwise surprise-free.