The Romney presidential campaign distanced itself from Clint Eastwood's odd appearance at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night, saying his conversation with a phantom President Obama amounted to "ad-libbing" and a joke.
"Judging an American icon like Clint Eastwood through a typical political lens doesn't work," a Romney spokesman said in response to a question from MSNBC. "His ad-libbing was a break from the political speech-making, and the crowd enjoyed it."
But Eastwood's appearance sparked critical and querelous reactions from the political commentators who were analyzing the speeches in Tampa.
In rambling, sometimes confusing remarks, the legendary director and actor – a Republican former mayor of Carmel, Calif. – addressed an empty chair where he pretended that Obama was sitting.
In his remarks, Eastwood acted as though the invisible Obama in the chair was cursing Mitt Romney and him as he critiqued Obama's policies, saying things ilke, "So, Mr. President: How do you handle promises that you've made when you were running for election? ... I know some of the people in your own party were very disappointed that you didn't close Gitmo. ... What do you mean shut up? ... I thought it was just because somebody had the stupid idea of trying terrorists in downtown New York City."
Eastwood's trademark, deadpan delivery struck many as odd and drew immediate criticism from television commentators as disrespectful to the president.
"Clint Eastwood was a disaster," opined left-wing MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell, who also declared that Eastwood's appearance was the brainchild of Republican strategist Stuart Stevens, a former producer on the political drama "Commander in Chief."
He added: "For a final hour of convention to include what Clint Eastwood did up here was absolutely disastrous."
Tom Brokaw tweeted: "Clint Eastwood became huge star as a man of few words As a surprise guest on the Tampa stage he had too many words (I say as a friend)."
Here is a sampling of other reactions to the appearance over Twitter:
Just ordered extra beer for the live midnight show guests. I think we all need one after Clint. #CNN
Clint Eastwood should stay home, and look at his old Italian Westerns. He gets the highest award-Wreckitude! Wreckitude! Embarassing to All
Blake Shelton @blakeshelton
I. Love. Clint Eastwood.
Breaking News: Clint Eastwood is yelling at an invisible Joe Biden standing at a urinal
Clint Eastwood made my day.
Hey Republicans why stop at Clint Eastwood bring Mel Gibson out next.
Respect to Clint. 82 years old and putting Twitter over capacity.
Havent partaken in a while, but may need to smoke a joint and watch Clint speech over at half-speed.
That's what I thought! RT @dagdahlcast: Clint's doing an old Albert Brooks routine!
#Clint Eastwood needs to Geaux before he embarrass himself. Go ahead and make our convention a laughing stock.
Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic. He didn't need to do this to himself. It's unworthy of him.
#DearWhitePeople - Am I the only one that got a shiver up my spine when Clint Eastwood said to a crazed white crowd "We own this country"
clint eastwood is CRAY