Clint Eastwood's Empty Chair, 2012
Some might argue that actor Clint Eastwood's surprise appearance at the GOP convention wasn't a speech so much as a "performance"—to use the word favored by Republican nominee Mitt Romney's spin team—or a train wreck, as virtually every political commentator put it. Either way it became an instant classic, if for the wrong reasons.
Eastwood had made a surprise endorsement of Romney at a Sun Valley, Idaho fundraiser in early August, giving a "powerful and typically gruff/charming performance," according to Time's Mark Halperin. Romney campaign officials thought that having him appear at the convention as a surprise guest could bring some spontaneity to the highly scripted event. They gave him a five minute time slot at the top of the TV networks' hour of coverage and some talking points but, inexplicably, "did not conduct rehearsals or insist on a script or communicate guidelines for the style or format of his remarks," the New York Times reported. Shortly before going on, the actor asked to have a chair onstage with him; no one apparently thought to ask why.
Convention attendees gave him warm applause throughout, but his rambling, mumbled remarks, mostly directed at the empty chair, which was supposed to represent President Obama, prompted the Internet to light up with puzzlement and scorn. "What do you mean, shut up?" Eastwood asked the Obama only he could see and hear. And then later: "What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that—can't do that to himself. You're crazy. You're absolutely crazy."
By the time Eastwood was finished, he had—ignoring the blinking red light signaling that he was over his limit—stretched his five minutes into 12, spawned an Internet meme, "Eastwooding," and earned himself an unwanted place in convention history.