There’s a zone in which people getting up in years lose the inner guide that causes most adults to keep their remarks within certain bounds of appropriateness for time, place, who is being talked about and who’s listening — a sad eventuality demonstrated spectacularly by Clint Eastwood at the GOP convention in Tampa last night.
As a special guest speaker, Eastwood’s schtick of choice was to bitch and moan, disrespectfully and crudely, to an empty chair on which the audience was supposed to imagine President Barack Obama was sitting.
Eastwood’s complaints included the Obama administration’s aborted plan to try Guantanamo prisoners in New York City and the president’s decision to complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2014.
He attacked Obama for, of all things, riding in Air Force One. “You could still use a plane,” he said, “Not that big gas guzzler you are going around to colleges and talking about student loans and stuff like that.”
“I can’t do that to myself,” Eastwood said several times to the empty chair next to him, pretending, apparently, that the president was telling Eastwood to go f*** himself.
That kind of thing might be OK for a private gathering of like-minded cronies. At an event viewed by a mixed audience of millions — including schoolchildren encouraged to watch by their teachers — Eastwood’s lame attempt at caustic humor was appallingly out of place.
Criticizing Obama’s decisions and accomplishments, or lack thereof, was to be expected. Putting foul language in the president’s mouth was not. It was demeaning, insulting and completely uncalled for to Obama personally. It was also disrespectful to the office Obama holds.
After his tasteless turn on stage, event managers claimed they had no idea what Eastwood was going to do. We give as much credence to that as we do to most of what comes out of Republicans’ mouths any more.
We think Romney’s crew let their candidate and Eastwood himself down by allowing this superb actor, director and producer, so long an icon of American filmmaking, to make a fool of himself in front of the nation.
We’d prefer to remember Eastwood as his unforgettable character, police Inspector Harry Callahan, than as a punk who thinks anything goes when he’s badmouthing a president he disagrees with.