Why did Republicans let Clint Eastwood make dirty jokes to a chair right before Mitt Romney accepted the presidential nomination? Like so many train wrecks, this one was set in motion long before the spectacular crash, seemingly insignificant actions building with unstoppable momentum to spectacular fireball. Here's how far back this thing goes:
August 3. Eastwood attends a Romney fundraiser in Sun Valley, Idaho. He joked to reporters that he hadn't endorsed the Republican on the way into the event, but later, Romney asked the actor on stage. Romney said Eastwood was someone "who has pursued his dreams in a very unusual way" and who "stood up to the industry and did things his own way." That, my friends, is foreshadowing. Eastwood told the audience he would vote for Romney.
Later August 3. Romney personally asked Eastwood to attend the Republican National Convention, The New York Times' Michael Barbaro and Jeremy W. Peters report.
Sometime mid-August. Two Romney aides (Russ Schriefer and Stuart Stevens) cleared Eastwood's appearance.
Sometime mid-August. Several top aides reviewed Eastwood's talking points. "Convention planners had assumed the Hollywood legend would reprise the powerful and typically gruff/charming performance he delivered" at the Idaho fundraiser, Time's Mark Halperin reports.
Week of the convention. No Eastwood rehearsal. Eastwood doesn't like teleprompters.
August 30, hours before Eastwood's speech. Romney aides discuss Eastwood's talking points with the actor, The Times reports.
August 30, minutes before Eastwood took the stage. Eastwood decides to ad-lib. He asks production staff if he could use a chair. He did not elaborate on how he wanted to use the chair. "The prop person probably thought he was going to sit in it," a Romney aide told The Times. BuzzFeed confirms this aide's assumption.
August 30, in the middle of Eastwood's speech. Eastwood was supposed to talk for five minutes, but he went on for 10. A red light on the camera stand flicked on to warn him that he was over time.
August 30, mid-chair talk. Romney stands backstage, tickled pink. "I was backstage with him and he was laughing," Stevens told The Times.
August 30, post-chair talk. Romney personally thanks Eastwood for his speech, BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins reports.
August 31. Eastwood goes on vacation and is unavailable for comment, his manager tells The Times.
August 31. Several Romney aides insist to The Times that they had nothing to do with the crazy Eastwood speech. "'Not me,' said an exasperated-looking senior adviser."