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Mitt Romney formally accepted the nomination of his party for president in what was the most bizarre night of the Republican National Convention.
Standing before thousands of cheering delegates on the last night of the GOP convention in Tampa, Fl., Romney attempted to show his personal side and put emphasis on his plan to create 12 million new jobs.
“As president, I will protect the sanctity of life,” Romney told the crowd. “I will honor the institution of marriage, and I will guarantee America’s first liberty: the freedom of religion.”
The acceptance speech was largely a formality, providing Romney his largest audience yet, and comes after a drawn-out primary campaign in which Romney had long been the frontrunner.
However, while Romney’s convention speech was no more memorable than countless other convention speeches over the years, an appearance by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood earlier in the evening stole the show.
Before the former Massachusetts governor took to the stage, Eastwood addressed Republican delegates in one of the most anticipated speeches of the convention.
And he did not disappoint.
Sauntering out to the twang of guitar like in many of the Westerns that made him famous, the Academy Award-wining director was greeted by cheers and chants of “Make my day!”
However, things quickly took a strange turn. Without the help of teleprompters, Eastwood gave a rambling speech in which he spent most of his 11 minutes on stage talking to an empty chair meant to represent President Barack Obama.
“How do you handle the promises you’ve made? What do you say?” Eastwood said to the empty chair.
At one point, the imaginary Obama appeared to grow hostile, telling Eastwood to “shut up.”
“What do you want me to tell Romney? I can’t tell him to do that. He can’t do that to himself. You’re absolutely crazy!” Eastwood said to the empty chair. “You’re getting as bad as Biden. Biden is the intellect in the Democratic Party. It’s just kind of a grin with a body behind it.”
The Romney campaign told reporters that Eastwood was ad-libbing. According to the Associated Press, stern-faced Romney aides backstage winced at times as Eastwood’s remarks stretched on.
Although Eastwood urged support for Romney, at one point stating, “When somebody doesn’t do the job, you gotta let ’em go,” the empty chair became the most memorable moment of night, in many ways overshadowing the speech Romney himself gave shortly after.
While delegates seemed to love Eastwood’s appearance, many observers labeled it a train wreck.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow questioned if Eastwood’s age — he is 82 years old — had something to do with the awkward nature of the speech.
“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,” Maddow declared.
It was an opinion echoed by others, including film critic Roger Ebert.
“Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic,” Ebert tweeted. “He didn’t need to do this to himself. It’s unworthy of him.”
Nevertheless, the speech quickly became one of the most memorable of the three day convention.
Eastwood’s differences with the Republican Party appeared in his speech as well when he criticized the war in Afghanistan. Eastwood identifies as a libertarian and is moderate on social issues and supports marriage equality.
In an interview Eastwood gave with Leonardo DiCaprio to GQ magazine in September 2011, Eastwood said he didn’t “give a fuck about who wants to get married,” describing “bullshit” arguments about the sanctity of marriage as “crap.”
Despite those political differences, Republicans, who often blast Obama for support from Hollywood celebrities, were given a star to get excited about.
Shortly after Romney’s speech concluded, the Obama campaign took to Twitter to respond to Romney and Eastwood:
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 31, 2012
WATCH Eastwood’s speech here: