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The Republican National Convention was carefully designed to introduce America to the "real" Mitt Romney.

But we'll remember it primarily for two other people: The "phantom" Barack Obama and, in the role that may redefine his career, Clint Eastwood as "Crazy Harry."

Make my day, indeed.

For years we've pined for the old-fashioned, unscripted, bare-knuckle political conventions of yore, when anything could happen and usually did. Take the Democrats' 1968 party in Chicago, with riots outside the hall, Dan Rather getting knocked down on the convention floor and Sen. Abe Ribicoff veering off-message in his speech nominating George McGovern to instead criticize Chicago Mayor Richard Daly, who stood in the audience to shout for Ribicoff to get off the podium.

Now that's what I call a good convention.

These days, conventions are so planned and scripted and sanitized that not even the TV networks seem all that interested in what's going on inside the halls. Everything is pre-ordained, vetted, focus-grouped and polled before a single word is spoken from the podium.

Except for Clint Eastwood.

In an extraordinary moment of spontaneity and candor, the Republicans allowed the 82-year-old actor to take the stage last night without a script, and apparently without a clue as to what he was about to do. And Eastwood, looking slightly disheveled with mussed hair and an ill-fitting suit, turned in the signature performance of the GOP's three days in Tampa.

Conservatives exist in Hollywood, he told the adoring crowd, they just "play it closer to the vest. They don't go around hot-dogging it."

Then, grinning as if he was having the time of his life, Eastwood hot-dogged it.

Speaking to an empty chair in which supposedly sat President Obama, Eastwood said he had some questions for the chief executive. The first question set the rambling tone for the rest of the performance:

"So, Mr. President, how do you handle promises that you have made when you were running for election, and how do you handle them? I mean, what do you say to people? Do you just — you know — I know — people were wondering — you don't — handle that OK."

The phantom president was speechless, as anyone faced with that question would be. But Eastwood supplied Obama's lines.

"What do you mean, &‘Shut up'?"

Had the GOP convention staff been on top of their game, somebody would have escorted Eastwood off the stage right then. But they let him go on, and on — reportedly using twice the time he had been allotted. And the show just got weirder and weirder.

At another pause he turned to the empty chair and said, " ... what do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. He can't do that to himself."

The delegates, or at least those who weren't cringing, loved this stuff. But there's a reason that Eastwood has made a career out of acting and directing, and not stand-up comedy. He was far from sharp and really had very little to say in the nearly 12 minutes he had the microphone.

Even his endorsement of the GOP ticket was tepid: "I just think there's so much to be done and Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are two guys that can come along ... " and then he drifted off on a tangent about how attorneys shouldn't be president, finally coming around to his point: "I think it is maybe time — what do you think? — for maybe a businessman."

In a way, it was sad to see Eastwood up there mumbling and rambling. But it was also fun to see part of a political convention that was spontaneous and risky.

Here's hoping the Democrats will let Betty White have the podium for a few minutes next week in Charlotte.

<i>Chris Coursey's blog offers a community commentary and forum, from issues of the day to the ingredients of life in Sonoma County. </i>