Following his memorable and meme-worthy televised debate with an empty chair at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night, Clint Eastwood had an unlikely defender in the form of left-leaning comedian and television host Bill Maher. During a panel discussion on Friday's edition of Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO, the self-described progressive libertarian brought up the hot topic and took a defensive stance, giving Eastwood credit for going up on stage without a script or a teleprompter.
Although he vehemently disagreed with Eastwood's commentary and expressed surprise that his views were so far to the right, Maher believed that the Dirty Harry star deserved respect from observers who usually argue that convention speeches are too rehearsed and over-produced. He also acknowledged that, contrary to ridicule in the media and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, Eastwood isn't senile and obviously knew the chair was empty. Comparing the 82-year-old Oscar winner's impromptu dialogue to his own stand-up comedy routine, Maher noted that it takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to metaphorically walk a tightrope "without a net" and earn laughter from a crowd for such a lengthy period of time.
Actor Jason Alexander, who was part of this week's Real Time panel along with CNN morning-show host Soledad O'Brien and Republican political strategist Ron Christie, argued that the crowd reaction wasn't based on the content of what Eastwood said, but rather the fact that it was Eastwood saying it. The former Seinfeld star also made a good point when he mentioned that the Republican base always criticizes Democrats in the entertainment industry for expressing their political viewpoints, yet they gave the prime speaking slot to an actor. (Not to mention all of the actors they have elected to office.) Regardless of their affiliation, the panel members agreed that the media attention given to Eastwood's schtick detracted from the speeches given by Florida Senator Marco Rubio and presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
In this case, I agree with both Maher and Alexander to varying degrees. While it was admirable that the legendary actor/director tried to do something different from the usual convention speech, Eastwood was basically preaching to the choir and likely would have received applause no matter how he presented himself. How did you feel about it?