Political conventions occasionally produce memorable moments that endure. The Chicago riots in 1968, Cuomo's "Tale of Two Cities" speech in 1984, Al kissing Tipper in 2000, Obama's "audacity of hope" in 2004 -- these are memories that quickly entered the political history books, reminding us why conventions still matter.
Last night, we saw another such moment, when Clint Eastwood decided to argue with an empty chair.
Chances are you've at least heard about Eastwood's "speech," but for those who missed it, trust me when I tell you it's worth your time. As Rachel explained on the air once it was over, "That was the weirdest thing I've ever seen at a political convention in my entire life, and it will be the weirdest thing I've ever seen if I live to be 100."
Apparently, the Romney campaign thought it would be a good idea to send an 82-year-old man onto the stage without prepared remarks. Eastwood was an odd choice anyway -- he's pro-choice and supports gay rights -- but I can appreciate the fact that the man enjoys an iconic status. He was the "surprise" guest, and convention organizers scrapped a compelling Romney bio film, just so Americans could see the Hollywood star's remarks.
Jamelle Bouie, in arguably my favorite line of the convention, said, "This is a perfect representation of the campaign: an old white man arguing with an imaginary Barack Obama."
And even if we look past the bizarre chair shtick and the rambling remarks, the points Eastwood tried to make were a mess. The actor wants to withdraw quickly from Afghanistan, which is the opposite of Romney's position. Eastwood thinks it's a bad idea "for attorneys to be president," overlooking the fact that Romney has a law degree. He even felt comfortable mocking Joe Biden's speeches, even while delivering a meandering, cringe-inducing speech of his own.
But what helped make this a truly epic convention moment was the realization among Republicans that they'd made a horrible mistake. Paul Ryan was shown on camera looking deeply uncomfortable; Romney aides were overcome with a sense of dread; and it only took a few minutes for the campaign to start telling reporters that they weren't responsible for this train wreck.
A month from now, no one will remember a word from Romney's speech, but a decade from now, we'll still be talking about the time a confused Clint Eastwood had a debate with an empty chair, and lost.