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The National Empty Chair Day – “Eastwooding” Obama

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Americans are exceptional.

In her recent address at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained why; “After all, when the world looks to America, they look to us because we are the most successful political and economic experiment in human history. That is the true basis of ‘American Exceptionalism.’

“The essence of America, that which really unites us is not ethnicity, or nationality or religion.  It is an idea, and what an idea it is – that you can come from humble circumstances and do great things. That it doesn’t matter where you came from but where you are going.”

Nothing has proven that can-do spirit more than the phenomenon of the National Empty Chair Day. For those of you who missed it, here is what happened:

Before the Thursday night acceptance speech at the RNC by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, viewers were treated to a “mystery guest,” American iconic actor, director, producer, composer and politician Clint Eastwood. In his appearance Eastwood broke from the expected formal address and had a casual, seemingly unscripted conversation with a pretend President Obama who was supposedly sitting in an empty chair next to the podium.

Weird? Well, certainly different. But many of his lines were some of the most powerful of the night, and that’s saying a lot in an evening of great speeches. Eastwood; “I would just like to say something, ladies and gentlemen. Something that I think is very important. It is that, you, we — we own this country. . . And we should not ever forget that. And when somebody does not do the job, we got to let them go. . . I think if you (Obama) just step aside and Mr. Romney can kind of take over. You can maybe still use a plane.”

And that is the crux of the matter. Eastwood gave Americans permission publicly to disagree with the president and his policies, to fire him, and to laugh while doing so.

Surprise, surprise, that did not go over well with Democrats, and it didn’t take long for the personal attacks against Eastwood to begin.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics who formerly worked for Virginia Democratic politician Henry Howell, and who has written a number of books, including one suggesting extensive changes to the U.S. Constitution, tweeted:

“I’d feel better if I knew for sure that Clint doesn’t see anyone in the chair. :)”

Actor and gay rights activist George Takei tweeted that he could use the Eastwood tactic at the next week’s Democratic National Convention.

“I’m drafting a DNC speech to imaginary Romney in an empty factory,” Takei’s tweet said.

This past June, Lee Saunders was elected president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest public worker union in America.  According to a story in the Huff Post Los Angeles, the AFSCME is expected to spend about $100 million this year to help re-elect President Barack Obama and boost dozens of other Democrats running at the state and local levels.

In a Monday morning breakfast meeting speech to Ohio delegates in Charlotte, Saunders took the stage. Here is one account from Cleveland.com:

Saunders shook awake those clearing the cobwebs after a late first night in town.

The Cleveland native and national AFSCME president took an empty chair on stage, so early on the audience was prepared for some Eastwooding, a riff on actor Clint Eastwood’s surprising performance at last week’s Republican National Convention.

“Are you ready to rumble?” Saunders roared by way of introduction.

After a speech filled with fiery anti-GOP rhetoric — he accused the Republicans of abandoning “all pretense of compassion” — he turned to the chair. Saunders had a brief conversation with an imaginary Eastwood. He closed by slamming GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan.

“So Dirty Harry, make my day,” Saunders continued, quoting the Eastwood character. “We’re gonna kick some ass in November.”

Then he kicked the chair. Loudly.

A similar account by Examiner.com said he actually kicked the chair off the stage to laughter and applause. Nice.

As the left worked feverishly to spin Eastwood’s speech into the ramblings of a senile old man, conservatives were making their own plans, and National Empty Chair Day was born.

Monday, September3 (Labor Day) was the designated day to tweet or post photos of empty chairs and messages criticizing Obama.

The Facebook page “The National Empty Chair Event” (Eastwooding Obama) was created by Adam C. Miller, Angus Smith and Chris L. Lotto. Here are their instructions:

“America pays homage to Clint Eastwood’s famous interview of the “Empty Chair” (The empty chair signifies an absentee leader)! Clean off your empty chairs in your garage, and prepare to display them on your front lawns with a “Reserved for President Obama” sign . . . you can type them out or just write it on a piece of paper, poster board, etc.

God Bless America . . . and ALL our EMPTY CHAIRS!!!”

On Tuesday someone named Sam who seemed to be managing the page said he still had over 600 photos to download. Empty chair postings were on group and individual pages all across the country, and at least five of my friends changed their profile picture to that of a chair.

Facebook has become an American water cooler. We share the best of what we have seen and heard with like-minded friends, guaranteeing that we will not be so easily fooled or passed over as in 2008.

And that American Exceptionalism I was referring to? I will let the photos below speak for themselves. If you laugh out loud at least once, my work here is done. It makes you proud to be an American. Something our present Administration does not seem to understand.

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