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Sep 072012

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In his first interview since the infamous invisible Obama empty chair routine that transfixed the Republican National Convention last month, Clint Eastwood says the Romney campaign didn’t know what he was going to say and he didn’t come up with the empty chair idea until he was about to go on stage.

“They vet most of the people, but I told them, ‘You can’t do that with me, because I don’t know what I’m going to say,’” Eastwood told the Carmel Pine Cone of Carmel, California.

He says he came up with the idea to interview an absent Obama just before taking the stage.

“There was a stool there, and some fella kept asking me if I wanted to sit down,” Eastwood said. “When I saw the stool sitting there, it gave me the idea. I’ll just put the stool out there and I’ll talk to Mr. Obama and ask him why he didn’t keep all of the promises he made to everybody.”

The only person he told about the idea was the stage hand, he said.

“The guy said, ‘You mean you want it at the podium?’ and I said, ‘No, just put it right there next to it.’”

Eastwood said he’s not used to giving speeches, but in his estimation, that was supposed to be part of his draw for independent voters that might be watching.

“It was supposed to be a contrast with all the scripted speeches, because I’m Joe Citizen,” Eastwood said. “I’m a movie maker, but I have the same feelings as the average guy out there,” he said.

Check out the entire interview from the Carmel Pine Cone.

Watch Eastwood’s empty chair speech:

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Aug 312012

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Clint Eastwood caused quite the stir on the national stage of the Republican National Convention Thursday night when he interviewed an empty chair, addressing it as “President Obama.”  The off-color interview sparked a rush of Internet buzz and produced at least two new twitter trends.

The twitter handle @invisibleobama inspired by the empty seat that accompanied Eastwood on the stage in Tampa, Fla., has generated more than 37,000 followers and counting.

The account had gained more than 20,000 followers in 45 minutes and had been mentioned more than 10,000 times on Twitter.  And its counterpart, #eastwooding, has prompted tweeters to post pictures of empty chairs either in support of or to mock Eastwood’s provocative “interview.”

Republicans aren’t the only ones having the cyber fun.  Supporters of President Obama have also been tweet-sharing a digitally altered image from an episode of The Simpsons.  The original image from the episode shows a picture of Grandpa Simpson below the headline, “Old man yells at chair.”

Now, Obama supporters have made the image their own, adding Eastwood’s mug below the newspaper headline.

The 82-year-old actor’s performance even enticed the Obama campaign to play along, tweeting, “This seat’s taken” at about 12:30 a.m. Friday morning.

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Aug 312012

Robin poses with her sister and doctor. ABC/Fred Lee(NEW YORK) — Ann Romney Friday morning sent a message of love and support to ABC’s Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts, whose mother, Lucimarian Tolliver Roberts, passed away Thursday night.  The news came just hours after Robin Roberts began an extended medical leave in preparation for a bone marrow transplant.

“Our love is with her.  She’s lost her mother.  I don’t think there’s a harder thing we do in our lives than to lose our mothers so our thoughts and prayers, Robin, they’re with you,” said Romney, who tweeted a message of support to Robin Roberts earlier this week as well.

Speaking to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America, Mrs. Romney said she spent the time after her husband’s speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., with her grandchildren, who she said couldn’t be prouder of their grandfather, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“As you might imagine, with all the grandchildren again, all these little ones, I don’t think they had more fun in their life than that balloon drop and I don’t know if you know, George, but they were down in the stairs and some of them are pretty little and when the third, oh my gosh, balloons were flying.  I was in my heels and I was diving down because I thought some of them, they were, they were buried in there,” Mrs. Romney said.  ”We couldn’t even find them but they had such a great time.  And then afterwards they all came up to the room.  It was very late for them, as you might imagine, they were very little but it didn’t matter, they were screaming and jumping on their grandfather and were so proud of him.”

When Stephanopoulos asked her about how she envisioned her role as first lady should her husband win the election, Mrs. Romney said that the issue of at-risk youth was close to her heart.

“For a long time, many years, I’ve spent with at-risk youth and my concern is making sure that every child lives their fullest potential and we have so many people in this country right now that are not getting the proper education, that are not having perhaps the kind of family life that leads them to having the total support and my heart goes out to those kids,” she said.  “They have such potential.  We have such great kids in this country and some of them just aren’t able to reach their full potential so I would hope that I’d be able to work with at-risk youth.”

Stephanopoulos asked Mrs. Romney to weigh in on Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood’s speech Thursday night that left many scratching their heads.  She said she had not given the speech much thought and was unaware he would be coming on stage at all.

“I, frankly, hadn’t given it much thought.  I didn’t know he was even going to come on stage,” she said, adding that she was grateful for the support of Eastwood.

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Aug 312012

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) — Newt Gingrich, speaking alongside his wife, Callista, Thursday night in Tampa, Fla., revived the Romney camp’s claims that the Obama administration had “gutted” welfare reform by offering waivers for states seeking more flexibility in meeting federal work requirements.

On Aug. 7, Romney released an ad claiming that “under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job.  They just send you your welfare check.”

But as Gingrich himself told CNN just two days later, “We have no proof today, but I would say to you under Obama’s ideology it is absolutely true he would be comfortable sending a lot of people checks for doing nothing.”

On Thursday night, Gingrich doubled down.

“Tragically, President Obama gutted this achievement and, like Jimmy Carter, over four years he produced little effective legislation that brought the two parties together,” he said.  “Waiving the work requirements in welfare reform is just one example of his direct repudiation of President Reagan’s values.”

The language from the memo in question, though, belies much of the Republican claim.

The Health and Human Services department “will only consider approving waivers relating to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work goals of [the 1996 reform legislation],” it says.

In effect, the Obama administration has stated it would be willing to give states the option to propose more efficient ways to get welfare recipients back to work.  Any such plan would require the state to increase the number of people moving from welfare to work by 20 percent.

Among the states to file for the waivers so far are Utah and Nevada.  Both have Republican governors.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Aug 312012

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) — Mitt Romney’s son Craig choked up Thursday night when he recounted for the Republican National Convention how his grandparents immigrated from Mexico to live the American dream.

“It’s easy to forget that the story of my father’s success begins with the story of two immigrants — my grandfathers — who came to this country with little more than hope in the opportunity of America,” he said.

Craig Romney’s heartfelt story of his family’s immigrant roots was among more than half a dozen convention speakers who highlighted their immigrant backgrounds, but it has created what one expert describes as an “awkward dance” because of the GOP’s reputation for being hostile to immigration.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune told of his Norwegian grandfather immigrating through Ellis Island and changing his name along the way.  Former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum recounted how his father immigrated “from the mountains of northern Italy, on a ship named Providence.”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told of his great grandfather who arrived penniless to live the “American Dream,” and also cited struggles and triumphs of friends — a Cambodian family in Kentucky and Vietnamese brothers who arrived on a “leaky boat.”

Utah House candidate Mia Love had only two minutes to speak, but managed to mention her parents immigrating from Haiti “with $10 in their pocket.”

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s said she is the “proud daughter of Indian immigrants,” while Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz told a “love story of freedom” about his Irish-Italian working-class mom and his Cuban refugee dad.

“They made a good effort at trying to have their stage build bridges to those communities they are trying to reach out to,” said Clarissa Martinez, director of civic engagement and immigration at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group.

“While they simultaneously were doing that, they were unveiling a Republican platform that in many ways detracts from what they were doing on the stage… There is a little bit of a mixed signal or a mixed message being sent here,” Martinez said.

She said the convention speeches “up the ante” on Romney to clarify where he stands on immigration.

“Is he the candidate that the Republican platform would convey or is he the candidate that some of the speakers on that stage that would represent,” Martinez said.

The official party platform is seen as unfriendly to immigration, although it is specifically tailored to illegal immigration.  It supports self-deportation, encouraging “illegal aliens to return home voluntarily” by making it nearly impossible to support themselves in America.

It calls for building a “double-layer fence” along the U.S.-Mexico border, implementing a nationwide E-Verify system to prevent undocumented workers from being hired and making English the official language.

The GOP opposes “any form of amnesty” and supports denying federal funding to universities that, as the platform says, “provide instate tuition rates to illegal aliens, in open defiance of federal law.”

“It’s a really kind of an awkward dance,” said Stephen Nuno, an expert on minority political participation and assistant politics professor at Northern Arizona University.  “You can’t on the one hand say we love these people, we love this story, we love the character this story creates and builds, but we are going to do everything we can to discourage more people from immigrating like this again.  And if they are here we are going to make life so miserable that they want to leave.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio