New Book Details Clint Eastwood’s Disastrous Speech at 2012 Republican Convention

Clint Eastwood
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

“Double Down: Game Change 2012,” Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s follow up to “Game Change,” answers one of the more perplexing questions of the 2012 presidential campaign: Why did Mitt Romney’s team give carte blanche to Clint Eastwood to say whatever he wanted in the final hour of the final night of the Republican National Convention? That’s when Eastwood famously spoke to an empty chair, in which the actor went well over his alloted time and left most of the audience baffled.

Romney’s senior strategist, Stuart Stevens, was backstage with Romney watching Eastwood, and while the Republican nominee “seemed to think it was funny — at least at first,” the authors write, Stevens was so upset by the “disaster occurring on stage” that he “excused himself, went into another room and vomited.”

Eastwood’s imaginary conversation with Obama instantly generated a storm of Twitter quips and a few parody handles, but the real damage may have been that much of the aftermath focused on the incident and not Romney’s speech later in the evening. Halperin and Heilemann give a simple explanation for how Eastwood came to be invited in the first place:
Romney was “starstruck.”

A month before the late August appearance, Eastwood and his wife, Dina, had dinner with Mitt and Ann Romney in Carmel, Calif., and it soon led to the candidate asking for his help.

Eastwood showed up at an Aug. 3 fundraiser in Sun Valley, Idaho, where he gave a shorter speech to donors that was enough of a hit with the crowd that Romney instructed his staff to try to get him for the convention.

According to “Double Down,” some on the Romney staff had reservations about Eastwood, then 82, and that his remarks weren’t being vetted beforehand. Other convention speakers ran their remarks by the campaign. Russ Schriefer, in charge of programming the convention for the Romney campaign, tried to give him suggestions for what he should say. But Schriefer was confident that Eastwood could wing it without a script.

In his hotel, Eastwood was listening to an oldies station and heard Neil Diamond’s “I Am…I Said,” which features a line about talking to a
chair, the authors write. Just before making his entrance on stage, Eastwood asked a stage hand to put a stool on stage to the left of
the podium. The result was a mixture of standup and surrealism, and while Eastwood recovered somewhat by the end of his speech,
campaign aides were fuming.

Eastwood later said, “If somebody’s dumb enough to ask me to say something, they’re gonna have to take what they can get.” As it turned out, Diamond had a role in the 2012 campaign, too, but for Obama. He performed for California volunteers two days before the election. “Double Down,” published on Tuesday, has been optioned by HBO, just as the network did with “Game Change.” Halperin and Heilemann’s book also features passages on Donald Trump’s flirtation with running for president, and Romney’s efforts to keep him in check yet still draw his support.

Jeffrey Katzenberg is mentioned as one of the few deep pocketed Democratic donors to step forward early to support an Obama SuperPAC, Priorities USA Action, even while other progressives remained circumspect.

He eventually rounded up nine Hollywood and tech figures to attend an October, 2012, lunch at his home with Obama and former President Bill Clinton. At the time, the campaign billed it as a “thank you” event to the president’s supporters, not a fundraiser, and while the donors’ identities were kept secret, the authors said that Seth MacFarlane, Steven Spielberg, Sean Parker and Eric Schmidt were among the donors present. After they left, at Katzenberg’s home Clinton gave advice to Obama about how o come back from a shoddy debate performance just days earlier.

The authors also make mention of the movie that Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, watched in his hotel room the day of his convention speech. It was HBO’s “Game Change,” which focused on John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. “Ryan was riveted, but soon regretted it,” the authors write.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 26

Leave a Reply

26 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Donna Grace says:

    Theater and acting classes and rehearsals use inanimate objects which actors use to address lines. Finger pointing at Clint Eastwood fora poorly run campaign is out of place. Romney needed a better campaign staff and strategy.

  2. julia says:

    I lived on the Monterey Peninsula for 30 years. Clint Eastwood owned the Hog’s Breath in Monterey.I don’t think the man ever been happy.He does not know how to treat a dog.I knew the marriage between him and Dina would not last.He is in his 80’s and still trying to be 20 years old .He has one foot on a banana peel and the other foot in the grave.

  3. Ronnie Schwartz says:

    I personally lost all respect for Eastwood after his speech and didn’t like his comment about asking and getting whatever he dished out. I will say to you, Clint, you may be a big star, one whose movies I liked very much, but you need to rein in that bigger than life ego.

  4. Alexander Wells says:

    Clint’s speech was goofy and underprepared. If indeed it was never vetted then that gives us an idea of how Mitt Romney is not a good judge of character. His choice a running mate was even more bizarre. Americans don’t vote for heartless CEO types for president, anyway.

  5. Let me understand this situation… Eastwood was loved and respected as a talent and humanitarian for decades prior to the “empty chair” debate… Then instantly labeled an old stupid fool and deemed unprofessional. Did anyone ever think he exactly right… And now the proof is in the pudding. Spin is just that… Clinton and all those that waste their position can simply sit back, count their money and dream about WHAT IF. Eastwood is the real deal… Even with the rough edges he resonates with the heart of many people. All the spin can’t change that. Lipstick on your pig…

  6. Monty Reynolds says:

    Second that !

  7. The Bucktown Kid says:

    Clint Eastwood’s speech was a disservice to the candidate that he was supposed to be supporting.

  8. Robin Boyd says:

    I watched that speech in real time, and to be honest, I thought it was pretty innovative. Yes, it was a bit strained, and yes it was certainly odd, but it was also reminiscent of monologues in the vain that Bob Newhart did with famous people in history as phone conversations.

    The use of the chair as a prop for Obama, who even when he is present, doesn’t listen to anything but his own teleprompted voice, was quite indicative of Obama’s general attitude of not listening to anyone. I took it that Mr. Eastwood was equating talking to Obama to talking to an empty chair.

    OK, not a great speech or even a best from Mr. Eastwood, but it certainly does not deserve the panning it recieved and continues to receive. Maybe if the rest of the Republican Party took itself a bit less serious and actually put someone up for president who is charasmatic enough to actually win, Mr. Eastwood’s speech would not be the only thing everyone talks about from the Republican side of that election.

  9. cadavra says:

    I’ve always suspected that Eastwood was pissed off by the way the right-wing condemned him for that pro-Chrysler commercial he’d made earlier in the year (which they interpreted as a subtle endorsement of Obama’s policies) and saw this as a way to get back at them.

  10. Nanny Mo says:

    It shows the bias of this writer to headline the article “Disastrous” speech. I recall that the GOP loved it at the time. It would have been fair (and more like a professional journalist) to have said, Eastwood’s “Unconventional” or possibly “Controversial” Speech. It’s a shame to see another journalist use his pen to slant history. It’s rather dishonest.

    • waltcoogan says:

      Well, Nanny, Romney became the first Republican presidential nominee to suffer a dip in the Gallup poll following his convention address since the firm began conducting that poll in 1972. Partisan, non-strategical members of the GOP “loved” the speech because they loved anything that proved anti-Obama, but there is empirical evidence suggesting that the speech proved detrimental.

    • Michael Anthony says:

      Only a naive person would believe the GOP “loved” his remarks. Maybe those on the convention floor, but many of those believed there was a massive coverup of epic proportions over a certain someone’s birth certificate.

      Don’t you ever get tired of claiming bias when you don’t agree with a headline or story? Its generally agreed that Eastwood’s performance was a disaster. Sorry, but your spin won’t work on this incident.

    • Tetsuo S. says:

      It doesn’t matter if the GOP loved it, hardliners are just feeding from an echo chamber. What matters is if it got any independents or Democrats to look at the President and have second thoughts. All it did was make the GOP look bizarre and desperate and was therefore something of a disaster.

  11. Tommy D. says:

    Compared to Obama, an empty chair also has four more legs to stand on than our faux President. That said, a genuine disaster is Obama’s first debate against Mitt Romney. We all know how well this book won’t sell.

    • He’s the real president, you twit. He won, the country won and avoided yet another horrible candidate by the GOP. Suck it up, buttercup

    • jjsemp says:

      We won. Get over it.

      • writersmama says:

        I loved his speech..in fact, I breathed a sigh of relief. “Keep ’em coming” was my mantra I chanted through election day. The GOP is like that…they give you good stuff to make fun of…just ask any stand up comic…:)

      • Michael Anthony says:

        Me thinks Centurian needs a course in basic economics, along with how things really work in DC. Especially the bit about Obama destroying our healthcare system. Just another person who has no clue about what Obamacare us all about.

      • Centurian says:

        Yes, you won, and since have destroyed our economy, healthcare, foreign policy, job growth. Great work obama. If that is winning for you at the expense of the country than we don’t need it.

  12. L Anne says:

    I reckon Stevens vomited because he suddenly realized he himself (as well as Mr. Romney) was lacking the pair of male body parts that Mr. Eastwood obviously has. That’s gotta be a hard thing to accept.

    • Centurian says:

      Phil Motta, when the president triples our national debt and rising, does nothing to help stimulate an economy then yes that is destroying it both in the immediate sense and for future generations that will be forced to pay off the debt. No debt ceiling or budget…

      • eaglesfanintn says:

        The budget comes from the House so if you want to blame someone, blame Boner and the rest of the feckless rats running around there playing dress up. Perhaps you need to go back and read the Constitution, which, by the way, says nothing about a debt ceiling. Another right wing tool spouting about things way above their pay grade.

  13. Jim says:

    Neil Diamond should sue for infringement!

  14. I DO NOT COMPUTE says:

    Stevens was so upset by the “disaster occurring on stage” that he “excused himself, went into another room and vomited.” I had the same reaction…for different reasons.

More Film News from Variety

Loading