Saturday, September 1, 2012

Clint Eastwood Stars in 2012 Remake of The Sting

Clint Eastwood’s seemingly bizarre performance this past Thursday night at the Republican National Convention confused some and shocked many (see video).

The 82 year old Eastwood appeared on stage with slightly disheveled gray hair and in a halting voice gave a twelve minute rambling “unscripted” speech in which he pretended to talk with President Obama whom he indicated was sitting in an empty chair on stage.  Clint attributed to the invisible Obama off-color remarks about what Romney and Clint ought to "do to themselves."  The crowd in the convention roared and laughed in response to Eastwood’s performance.  Clint’s presentation which was scheduled for a few minutes, went on for twelve minutes delaying Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech past the start of prime time.  Eastwood’s presentation, rather than Mitt Romney's speech, became the focus of the talking head punditry.

How to explain Eastwood’s presentation? First some background.

Clint Eastwood’s political views are hardly mainstream Republican.  He is pro-choice, supports gay rights and same-sex marriage, and opposed the Vietnam War, the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War.

Clint Eastwood is an active film director, producer and lead actor.  Many find his films from recent years to be the best of his career.  His newest film Trouble with the Curve is scheduled to be released shortly.  Eastwood is reputed to maintain the tightest artistic control of films that he directs.

Why would a man who is still at the top of his moviemaking game, with a reputation for rigorous attention to detail appear somewhat unkempt on nationally broadcast television and give a halting, unscripted, disorganized, rambling and off-color performance in support of Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign?

My wife suggested to me that Clint Eastwood’s performance was not unscripted it all – it was the performance of a consummate artist and actor who artfully skewered his hosts.  I agree with her.

One can understand the Clint Eastwood presentation best if one has seen his 2008 film Gran Torino as well as the 1973 classic George Roy Hill film The Sting starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.  In Gran Torino Eastwood plays an aging, recently widowed, retired autoworker and Korean war veteran who is living in a Detroit suburb.  His character, Walt Kowalski, deals with his own dwindling faculties, illness, and alienation from his family.  Walt Kowalski ends up sacrificing his life in order to protect the Hmong family, who lives next door, from Hmong gang violence.  Kowalski sacrifices his own life by inducing the Hmong gang to shoot him thus enabling the police to arrest the Hmong gang for his murder.

In The Sting, Johnny Hooker (Redford) is a grifter (con man).  Hooker's friend and fellow grifter, Luther Coleman, is murdered on the orders of gangster Doyle Lonnegan.  Then Hooker seeks out the legendary con man Henry Gondorff (Newman) to teach him how to execute the “big con” on Doyle Lonnegan.  The key idea behind the “big con” is that the mark (Lonnegan) must never know that he had been conned so that he won’t attempt to seek revenge.

Thursday night Clint Eastwood masterfully combined the characters of Henry Gondorff and Walt Kowalski. Like Henry Gondorf he conned, mocked and humiliated the Republican conventioneers and the Romney gang without their realizing it.  Like Walt Kowalski he sacrificed himself, at least some of his own dignity, in the process.

Eastwood succeeded having the national news networks in prime time show the Republican conventioneers roaring in laughter in response to his off-color remarks and the most demeaning representation of a sitting President of the United States.  He even went so far as to give the throat-cutting sign when saying “And when somebody does not do the job, we got to let them go.”  (Will the Secret Service call Clint in for questioning?).  For the swing voters watching the broadcast, Eastwood successfully cast the Republicans (himself included)  as a bunch of foul-mouthed boors who have no respect for the office of the Presidency.

Clint Eastwood making the throat-cutting sign

 Eastwood opened his remarks saying how conservatives in Hollywood don't go around "hotdogging" their views.  Was this a dig aimed at Paul Ryan who, according to Wikipedia, during summers at college worked as a salesman for Oscar Mayer and got to drive the Wienermobile?  Who knows.

Let us look at the text of some of Clint’s remarks:

"But I just think that there is so much to be done, and I think that Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are two guys that can come along. See, I never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to the president, anyway. I think attorneys are so busy -- you know they’re always taught to argue everything, and always weight everything -- weigh both sides. They are always devil’s advocating this and bifurcating this and bifurcating that. You know all that stuff. But, I think it is maybe time -- what do you think -- for maybe a businessman. How about that? A stellar businessman. Quote, unquote, 'a stellar businessman.' "

In this quote Eastwood states that Romney and Ryan won’t bother considering both sides of an issue because Romney is  “a stellar businessman.”  The additional irony of course is that Romney in fact has a law degree and Ryan has no business experience (perhaps except as the aforementioned Oscar Mayer salesman).

Here is another quote:

 "I know you were against the war in Iraq, and that’s okay. But you thought the war in Afghanistan was OK. You know, I mean -- you thought that was something worth doing. We didn’t check with the Russians to see how did it -- they did there for 10 years. But we did it, and it is something to be thought about, and I think that, when we get to maybe -- I think you’ve mentioned something about having a target date for bringing everybody home. You gave that target date, and I think Mr. Romney asked the only sensible question, you know, he says, 'Why are you giving the date out now? Why don’t you just bring them home tomorrow morning?' "

The conventioneers uproariously cheered these remarks as well – apparently endorsing Obama’s ending the war in Iraq and Eastwood’s ridiculing the war in Afghanistan.  Romney of course opposed ending the war in Iraq and wants to extend the war in Afghanistan – two wars initiated by Obama’s Republican predecessor.


"We don’t have to be -- what I’m saying, we do not have to be metal (ph) masochists and vote for somebody that we don’t really even want in office just because they seem to be nice guys or maybe not so nice guys, if you look at some of the recent ads going out there, I don’t know."

Who is the “not so nice guy” Clint is talking about here? President Obama or Mitt Romney - famous for his attack ads on his fellow Republican candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination, his history of high school bullying, self-proclaimed love of firing people, and  his driving with his dog caged on the roof of his car?

Clint Eastwood single-handedly threw the carefully scripted Republican convention off course:  delaying Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech past the start of prime time, making his speech the focus of media attention rather than Mitt Romney's, and making the Republicans and Republican conventioneers look more boorish, ridiculous and hypocritical than even John Stewart ever could.  However, his artifice was such that the Republicans had to defend his performance and could not attack him.

As dozens of movie villains have learned, never underestimate Clint Eastwood.

The conventioneers chanted “make my day” at the end of his speech.  Indeed Clint had maneuvered them to truly make his day.


In the spirit of this blog, it should be understood that the above discussion constitutes the formation of a hypothesis; the one individual who could unambiguously affirm or refute this hypothesis - Clint Eastwood - is not currently commenting.


  1. While your theory is intriguing and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter, let us not forget that Eastwood was a last-minute replacement for a video of Donald Trump firing an Obama lookalike. I feel the simpler explanation is that the candidate's overall ability to run a campaign correlates with his ability to organize a convention.

  2. I think tis is spot on. When I watched Clint Eastwood's speech (after hearing of it's controversy) I was aware of an undercurrent in his remarks that did not sound to be in keeping with Republican policies or positions. It seemed to be a put on by a man far too intelligent to be the befuddled gentleman he was pretending to be. All of your examples above jumped out at me too. At times, they seemed more jabs at the GOP, esp. those pertaining to war, than an endorsement. Mr. Eastwood was sending a message to millions. You are correct too that the reactions shots displayed those in the audience as insensitive, coarse buffoons.

  3. Here's my take on it...

  4. Maybe this blog should be retitled Conspiracy Theory Trumps Common Sense or something. Joking aside, Clint Eastwood does not maintain tight artistic control at all; that is incorrect. As a director he is famously relaxed and is considered very much an actor's director and that is the pretty much the exact opposite of the control freak director micromanaging every little detail. Seems to me he stepped onstage and tried to use his directing skills to perform a political speech, even assigning himself a costar to play off of -- a classic director's technique, particularly for an actor's director. But those techniques just didn't play nearly as well in the politcal arena as they do in the filmmaking arena. Common sense explains this one quite adequately, but thanks for the amusement...

  5. Finally, someone who figured it out! This was planned and Clint is a genius to get this past the RNC minders.

    He took all of his criticisms of the country and the republicans and simply juxtaposed them with Obama/Biden's names instead of Bush/Cheney or Romney/Ryan and everyone cheers, because they do not listen to what he is actually saying.

    Didn't Romney famously call Ryan an intellectual leader of the republican party, as opposed to anyone ever calling Biden an intellectual leader of the democratic party?

    Also, the comment about not closing Gitmo because we paid alot of money for it seemed to be an assertion that money is more important than human rights, which Romney has shown to be one of his fundamental values.

    In addition to getting the crowd to cheer at the vulgar comments that are unattributable to the real Obama, the Obama in the chair was an "invisible man", which is a rather sophisticated reference to the famous book by Ralph Ellison in which one of the ways that the Black Man (the main character) experiences racism is that he is treated/made to feel invisible.

    This was a subversive statement. As Clint said, "I'll start it, you finish it...."

    1. Anonymous, you provide some excellent additional insights - all of which are supportive of the hypothesis I presented. Thank you.

  6. "People loved it or hated it, and that's fine," Eastwood offered. "I figure if somebody's dumb enough to ask me to go to a political convention and say something, they're gonna have to take what they get.",0,7935944.story