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Clint’s speech: bad and ugly for Mitt

The music couldn’t have been more fitting when Clint Eastwood walked on the Republican National Convention stage to a rendition of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’s theme.

Eastwood’s speech, though, was more bad than ugly and far more ugly than good.

In 12 rambling minutes, Eastwood both wowed and puzzled. His more lucid and plain-spoken points were lost amid a meandering and muttering monologue involving suggestive crudities and an imaginary President Barack Obama in an empty chair.

But the bizarre performance art Thursday at a national convention reflected less poorly on Eastwood (aging actors are supposed to be eccentric), than on Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign.

Indeed, if Romney wins the presidency this fall, it could be in spite of his campaign, not because of it.

Consider: on the most-important night of Romney’s political life, his campaign allowed an aging actor to participate in a highly scripted primetime event with no script. Actors love scripts. If they don’t have them, they can wind up talking to chairs.

And when Eastwood said he wanted to bring a chair onstage, why did no one simply say “no” or “why” or “have you had your Thorazine this morning?”

But Eastwood went up there, unplugged and unchecked with a piece of furniture.

The mockery followed within moments when someone launched a fake Twitter handle, “Invisible Obama,” which attracted nearly 67,000 followers in less than four days.

The president got in on the act, Tweeting a photo of him sitting with his advisors in a leather chair with “The President” embossed in bronze plate. “This seat’s taken,” the picture said.

A new internet meme was also born: “Eastwooding,” in which people photograph themselves next to an empty chair. And, four days on, pundits were still talking about Eastwood’s speech as a mistake.

This won’t kill Romney’s campaign. He gave a solid speech Thursday when he was nominated. He remains essentially tied neck-and-neck with Obama in crucial swing states like Florida.

But speeches matter and have an effect. That’s why the campaign scheduled Eastwood in primetime, at 10 p.m. After the threat of Hurricane Isaac dampened the mood and delayed the convention, Eastwood’s hot air was not much help.

Eastwood’s speech was so odd that, when Florida Sen. Marco Rubio followed him, he seemed to joke about what Eastwood was drinking when he took a sip from a water bottle at the podium.

“I think I just drank Clint Eastwood’s water,” Rubio smiled.

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