It’s been a little over a year since Clint Eastwood gave his now-infamous speech at the Republican National Convention, where he secured votes against uppity chairs from the conservatives’ core base of tough old stools. And Eastwood has since explained away the moment with a variety of reasons—ranging from age giving one the right to say anything they want to any imaginary President they damn well please, to his speech symbolizing the unscripted point of view of “Joe Citizen,” who hails from the humble town of Oscarwinningmillionaireburg, where he’s also the mayor.
But now a new book from Game Change authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, aptly titled Double Down: Game Change 2012, provides even more insight into what inspired Eastwood’s remarks, besides unfocused anger and the fact that the elderly have always had a fragile accord with chairs. “If somebody’s dumb enough to ask me to say something, they’re gonna have to take what they can get,” the book quotes Eastwood as saying, in a rather fitting summation of the entire modern political machine.
In the estimation of Halperin and Heilemann, Romney's dumb decision was only made because he was “starstruck,” so overwhelmed by a speech the actor had given at an earlier fundraiser—and, perhaps more tellingly, by a dinner they’d had together—he instructed his staff to get Eastwood to the RNC, giving his new movie star pal carte blanche to say whatever he wanted. And so, as Eastwood sat in his hotel room, exchanging tense stares with the ottoman, Double Down reports he filled in that blank with something he heard on the radio: Neil Diamond’s “I Am… I Said,” a song in which a confused man complains inarticulately about being “lost, and I can’t even say why,” to the utter indifference of even inanimate objects. The basic framework for his speech set, Eastwood took the stage, Romney’s advisors relieved that at least he hadn’t been listening to “The Pot Smoker’s Song.”
Unfortunately, any relief was short-lived. As Romney watched backstage with his senior strategist Stuart Stevens, he even “seemed to think it was funny—at least at first,” before Romney’s laughter apparently turned forced in a way to which his advisors were unaccustomed. But eventually, everyone realized that maybe an old man rambling hostilely at furniture was not what they’d had in mind, back when Romney had first imagined Eastwood taking the stage in a dusty poncho, shooting Obama, then swinging Romney up into the saddle to ride together into the sunset, nothing but adventure and a no-longer-lonely desert ahead.
Indeed, the book says, as the speech wore on, Stevens “excused himself, went into another room and vomited,” in a scene we can’t wait to see (maybe Robert Forster play?) whenever HBO gets around to making its Double Down movie. Auditions should be fierce for whoever gets to play the chair; it gets all the best lines.