After Clint Eastwood’s speech at the RNC last week, journalists covering the convention overwhelmingly judged it as an epic fail. I gave my own brief evaluation of the speech via Twitter. While I didn’t appreciate Eastwood’s implied vulgarities, I didn’t think the speech went nearly as badly as the analysts were suggesting. My exact words, “The Eastwood speech played really well in the convention hall. It probably played better among TV viewers than commentators give credit.”
It turns out that some recent polling is showing that the speech did in fact play better than many originally thought. A new Pew Research Center Poll says that among convention watchers in general 20% thought Clint Eastwood was the highlight of the Convention. Only 17% said the same for Romney’s speech. Among viewers who labeled themselves as independents (the all important demographic in the general election campaign), the numbers were 26% for Eastwood and 17% for Romney.
I didn’t view Eastwood’s remarks as a convention speech. It was a totally different genre altogether. It was satire—a comedy bit with a political point. It was more acting than actual speechifying. Not unlike something one would see on “The Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report.” It looks like there were many viewers who received it that way as well.
Having said that, I thought the vulgarities were a bridge too far, even for satire. Our national discourse would be much better off without such insults. I’m betting that convention organizers will think twice before rolling the dice like that again. Eastwood is still the story of that night, not Romney. In any case, all of the RNC speeches have been eclipsed by the performance that Michelle Obama turned in last night. I couldn’t disagree more with her views on abortion and marriage, but her speech is nevertheless the most effective convention address that we’ve seen this cycle.