Maddow: Eastwood’s RNC ‘meltdown’ was a ‘political disaster’

By David Ferguson
Saturday, September 1, 2012 12:09 EDT
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Rachel Maddow on Eastwood's RNC meltdown
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Friday night on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow broke down just what it was that made Thursday night’s prime-time adress by actor Clint Eastwood to the Republican National Convention so strangely jarring.  She also discussed the fact that its placement in the convention line-up was a particularly poor choice on the night that the Party was hoping to generate the most buzz and energy over the fall election.

“Here’s the thing about Clint Eastwood that went so badly wrong for the Republican Party and the Mitt Romney campaign last night,” she said at the top of the segment. “It’s the timing.”

“They want maximum political impact from their convention,” she went on, “and to get that maximum political impact, they need maximum exposure.”  That translates to having as many people watching as possible.  Conventions, these days, are more like informercials, she said.  They key is to portray your candidate in the best possible light when the most people are watching.

The major networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, are each devoting just one hour per night to covering the conventions, from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00.  Typically, political parties will begin that hour with a soft focus, feel-good video portrait of the candidate.  They’re ads, she said, the creme de la creme of political ads.  ”This is the best the campaign can do,” she explained, the most carefully engineered vision of the candidate that it can produce.

This is accepted as the standard.  Broadcasters set store by it, planning their coverage around the video, perhaps a short speech by a supporter, and the candidate’s acceptance speech for the nomination.  Thursday night, however, the Romney campaign announced that it would show the video, followed by Eastwood, then Marco Rubio and finally, Gov. Romney’s speech.

For some reason, the video, which Maddow reported was actually pretty good, ran before the switch-over, so no one watching the networks’ convention coverage saw it.  Then came Eastwood’s bizarre, rambling speech to a chair.

The Romney campaign must have thought that Eastwood was going to be such an amazing campaign moment that it should supplant the video, and they broadcast it to 25 million people.

“What they did last night was a political disaster,” Maddow said.  ”This is unheard-of.”

Blame for it presumably lies with Romney’s trusted inner circle of advisers, Eric “Etch-a-Sketch” Fehrnstrom, Stuart Stevens, Russ Schriefer and Matt Rhoades.  Now the campaign seems to be at odds with itself as everyone tries to shift the blame for what many see as a spectacular show of incompetence by the campaign.

“This is not about Clint Eastwood,” said Maddow, “This is about the Romney campaign blowing their biggest moment in the campaign so far.”

She concluded, “If nobody gets fired for this, what does that say about who’s in charge over there?”

Watch the clip, embedded via MSNBC, below:

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David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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