Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away...
Lots of you will recognise these words, the opening verse of William Hughes Mearns’ 1899 poem Antigonish, also known as The Little Man Who Wasn’t There. I’ve had occasion to use it previous articles, most recently in a piece on my blog about David Cameron, the British Prime Minister.
It immediately came to mind again on Friday, when I watched a recording of Clint Eastwood addressing an empty chair at the Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida. The empty chair, as you will all know - unless you spent a long weekend on Mars - was Obama, The Little President Who Wasn’t There.
Of course I wasn’t there myself. I might have missed the whole thing but for a minor fuss in the British press over Eastwood’s ‘bizarre’ attack on Obama. I might have missed it but for the fact that not long after a Twitter account called @InvisibleObama was created, which, when I wrote this, had attracted over 55,000 followers. I might have missed it but for the fact that Eastwood was mocked here for the inarticulate nature of his remarks by John Prescott.
John Prescott! Now that, for me, was the clincher, John Prescott mocking someone, anyone, for being inarticulate. I’m guessing few Americans know of this man. I rather wish I was also in this blissful state of ignorance!
Anyway, John Prescott, now Baron Prescott, whom I recently described as the stupidest man ever to attain high office, was Deputy Prime Minister in the government of Tony Blair. He was notorious for his mangled use of the English language, for his repeated inability to make sense. Would you like an example? Then here you are:
The objectives remain the same and indeed that has been made clear by the Prime Minister in a speech yesterday that the objectives are clear and the one about the removal of the Taliban is not something we have as a clear objective to implement but it is possible a consequence that will flow from the Taliban clearly giving protection to Bin Laden and the UN resolution made it absolutely clear that anyone that finds them in that position declares themselves an enemy and that clearly is a matter for these objectives.
See, the objectives remain clear. Sadly nothing else does!
So, with Prescott’s imprimatur in mind, off I went to YouTube to see and hear Dirty Harry in action. What did I think? I loved it, that’s what; I thought it was shot straight from the hip, funny, unscripted and authentic. Clint may have muffed a few cues but there were some great homeruns.
To begin with I loved the idea of the vacant man in the vacant chair, which seems to me to be the perfect metaphor for the whole vacant Obama presidency. Thank goodness he wasn’t there; otherwise the delegates might have been bored to distraction by yet another verbose and empty speech, the defining characteristic of a verbose and empty man, good at making promises, bad at keeping them.
As Eastwood continued I found myself both beguiled and amused. This was no anodyne celebrity endorsement. Awkward he may have been at points in his ghost dialogue, but I’m guessing that a great many Americans in the audience beyond would also love to be in a position to interrogate their chief executive. Yes, they might be a bit tongue-tied but I feel sure that they would want to make the same point: it is an absolute disgrace that over twenty million Americans are out of work.
At one point I laughed out loud. It was when Eastwood described Vice President Joe Biden as a “kind of grin with a body behind it”, which, in so few words, sums up this vacuous man perfectly. Then there was the decider, this one directed clearly at the invisible man – “When somebody does not do the job we’ve got to let them go.” The thing is there was no anger in Eastwood’s tone, though anger may have been justified; just a note of quiet regret.
There’s the truth of it. Great stuff, Clint, delivered straight from the heart. This, I think, is what Tampa will be remembered for. It may also be remembered for the fact that the Obama people are so rattled that they have been attacking an American icon. That might just make the nation’s day come November.