If it's true that most voters don't follow presidential races closely till after Labor Day, here's what they're going to take away from Clint Eastwood's speech at the GOP convention:
1. There was a convention. 2. "Make my day, punk" endorsed the Republican ticket. 3. Who's Paul Ryan?
Watching Mr. Eastwood on Thursday night reminded me of watching Jimmy Stewart hold forth years ago from the chair next to Johnny Carson's desk. You couldn't always tell what was shtick and what was the onset of old age as the star of "It's A Wonderful Life" and "Rear Window" stammered through his folksy stories, but you knew this movie legend had earned the right to do things his way, and you could see Johnny's eyes sparkling as he waited for what was always a big payoff. As a high schooler, I was awed watching how the pros displayed style and respect.
Watching left-wing politicos and supposedly unbiased reporters react to Mr. Eastwood's idiosyncratic speech reminds me of high school in other ways, too. An iconic Hollywood figure contradicting the rigid limousine-liberal norm of his company town is rather like the star quarterback leaving the cool kids' lunch table to go sit with the math geeks. Deserted, the in-crowd reveals its insecurity in noisy, snarky disdain.
Thus the savaging of Clint Eastwood. The lefties had to laugh and mock him to defuse the real damage the coolest man in Hollywood could do.
It's too bad the Romney camp wasn't confident enough to fully embrace Mr. Eastwood's jest and to point out, proudly, the desperate game of left-wing misdirection it inspired.
Film propagandist Michael Moore claimed Mr. Eastwood's "crazy speech" will overshadow forever -- forever! -- his cinematic achievements. On The Daily Beast, he crowed, "The people of the future will know nothing about 'Dirty Harry' or 'Josey Wales' or 'Million Dollar Baby.' "
Nothing? Obviously Mr. Moore is familiar with delusion -- as anyone who's seen his work already knew.
Like many mainstream and/or left-leaning media outlets, this newspaper carried a front-page news (not opinion) headline that characterized Mr. Eastwood's speech as "rambling." Huh. There were only a couple of moments where I thought, watching it unfold live, that the great director might be scrambling to sustain the thread of his narrative.
Judge for yourself: "What they'll say is, 'Well it costs too much money,' but you know what? It would cost, about ... It ... it ... it would cost about the same as what we would spend ... It ... Over the course of 10 years it would cost what it would costs us ... All right. OK. We're going to ... It ... It would cost us about the same as it would cost for about -- hold on one second. I can't hear myself. But I'm glad you're fired up, though. I'm glad."
Oops, wait a second -- that's not the "rambling" Clint Eastwood. That's the rambling Barack Obama at a big town hall meeting in Bristol, Va., in 2008 when either his teleprompter or his hidden earpiece, or both, went down, and he had to extemporize.
And unlike the enthusiastic GOP audience that laughed and applauded and shouted "Make my day" at the appropriate moments, no one in then-Senator Obama's crowd was "fired up" or making much noise.
But if you want to find a mainstream or liberal media outlet that covered that stunning event, much less accurately characterized it as rambling, well, good luck. They are the in-crowd, the arbiters of cool at the cafeteria table of politics, and they decide who gets a pass and who gets a nationwide noogie.
But if you want to find Mr. Eastwood's speech, you won't have to dig. The video and text are available everywhere. It's not just because the Eastwood speech is only a few days old; after all, everything lives forever on the Internet -- unless it's scrubbed away, like Mr. Obama's babbling, by those who know it doesn't fit the image they're invested in. No, Mr. Eastwood's odd but gently bracing speech is being covered everywhere because an 82-year-old actor/director's minor stumbles are a much bigger concern to the fate of the free world than the current president's incoherence when he doesn't have someone feeding him lines.
Maybe Mr. Eastwood has directed such actors.
Anyone who actually watched the director's clever eyes knew that he knew where he was headed the whole time. And that he was going to get there his own way.
Of the brouhaha over his "crazy," "rambling speech," even the least informed voters are alert enough to have heard the expression, "Consider the source."
Ruth Ann Dailey: firstname.lastname@example.org.