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Clint and the Empty Chair; Mitt Romney's Speech at the Republican National Convention

Aired August 30, 2012 - 23:59   ET


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Thanks, Wolf, Anderson.

Good evening, and welcome to the hottest spot in Tampa, the CNN Grill, which is absolutely buzzing tonight. This is where all the political animals let their hair down. There are no bigger animals than these two, John King and Gloria Borger.

We've got so much to talk about, haven't we. Mitt Romney's amazing moment, the hugs, the tears, the balloons, the speech of his life. How did he do? We're going to find out -- a candidate talking about his faith, his family, and laying out his case against President Obama.


MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed!


ROMNEY: But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn't something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we can do something, and with your help, we will do something.

Now is the moment when we can stand up and say, I'm an American. I make my destiny. We deserve better. My children deserve better! My family deserves better! My country deserves better!



MORGAN: Mitt Romney's big speech, but let's be honest, the moment that everyone here is still talking about has got to be Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood talking to, of all things, an empty chair.


CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR AND DIRECTOR: What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. He can't do that to himself.


EASTWOOD: You're crazy. You're absolutely crazy. You're getting as bad as Biden. (LAUGHTER)


MORGAN: If you're wondering where Clint Eastwood got that crazy idea, well, it all looked a bit familiar to me at PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT. So if you want somebody to blame, you can blame me.

Anyway, here now to talk about it are colleagues John King and Gloria Borger (INAUDIBLE) And in honor of Clint Eastwood, we have an empty chair of our own. I should also mention that Clint's Hollywood friend, Jon Voigt, (INAUDIBLE) in a few moments. I'd love to hear what he has to say.

What a night! My goodness! I mean...

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I'd like him to talk to that empty chair.


MORGAN: We'll come to Mitt Romney in a moment. But to me, what most people in there are talking about right now, John, was Clint Eastwood. He didn't completely self-implode. Was it hilarious comedy? What went -- what went on out there?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the fact that we're talking about it on Mitt Romney's big night tells you it was a distraction. Inside the hall, a lot of people thought it was quite funny.

I think if you're watching at home, if you don't like Barack Obama, you probably thought it was funny and scathing. If you love the president, you probably thought it very disrespectful, including at the end, when he said if someone doesn't do the job, you let him go, and he used a hand gesture like that. You probably found that offensive and disrespectful.

This is supposed to be a night about that small sliver of people who are undecided. Can Mitt Romney win them over? It's, I think, a questionable call to begin the biggest hour on your biggest night with something that was strange.

MORGAN: But Gloria, what we discovered later, apparently, he was supposed to speak for five minutes. He went on for at least 12 minutes. And he was ad libbing. It was pretty obvious he was ad libbing.

BORGER: Have you ever had sort of a crazy uncle or that kind of thing?


BORGER: I mean, I think...

MORGAN: Wolf said earlier he found it embarrassing. Did you find it embarrassing?

BORGER: I did. I think it was rambling and I think it was a real mistake by the Romney campaign. I don't understand how they could really let that happen. I mean, you can't exactly give him the hook when he's -- when he's on the stage, but you have to set parameters.

And I think it put them behind schedule. I don't think it will appeal to women. They've spent this whole convention talking about women. I don't think this would work with women. So I think it struck a really bad note, and I guarantee you that the candidate himself probably wasn't pleased.


MORGAN: Apparently, the Romney family looked a bit stony-faced during it.

John, obviously, there will be headlines about Clint Eastwood. That's not what the Romney camp will want. (INAUDIBLE) short but sweet, a valedictory thing (ph) for him.

Let's turn to Mitt Romney's speech quickly. Success? How do you rate it?

KING: It's a very close race, and so you have to understand success is in the eye of the beholder. Again, what is Mitt Romney's biggest challenge? Number one is to convince people President Obama has had his chance and he has failed. I think that Governor Romney made a very sustained case against (SIC) that. Now, if you're supporter of the president, you won't buy that case.

But if you're an undecided voter in the middle, maybe even an Obama voter who's not quite so sure, Mitt Romney probably made a convincing case -- At least listen to me. Listen to me starting tonight through the presidential debates.

He was not very specific. And James Carville, I think, just made an excellent point. He didn't say anything new, anything any Republican wouldn't say about cutting taxes and cutting regulation.

So did he convince people that he has the new plan to create jobs? I'm not so sure about that. Did he make a pretty good case that Barack Obama came to office with lofty rhetoric and huge promises, and where are we four years later, shouldn't you be disappointed? I think he made a pretty convincing case there.

MORGAN: And I quite enjoyed his speech. I thought it was about as good as Mitt Romney can make a speech.

BORGER: That's a back-handed compliment. But yes, I mean, he was trying to tell a story, which, as we've talked about before, he hasn't really -- he hasn't really done. And he was really trying to walk this fine line. He wanted to convince Republicans, OK, get out there and vote for me, but also these persuadable voters who voted for Barack Obama in 2008. They're very focused on those people. And so he had to say to them, more in sorrow than in anger, I'm sorry the president didn't succeed, but he didn't succeed, so you have to -- you'll have to give me a shot.

MORGAN: Gloria, John, it's certainly a great talking point evening. This is the start, as we say, of the real election campaign, we all feel.

I can't get enough of Clint Eastwood's conversation with that empty chair. Here is a little bit more of it while I go over to someone from the Romney camp. Enjoy this.

We lost it. (INAUDIBLE) go and find (INAUDIBLE) Romney camp anyway. Let's go over here.

Gail, how are you? (INAUDIBLE) from the Romney camp. Now all sorts of chaos is reigning tonight. Microphones are going down. Satellites are going down. But you know what? We're in a bar. Nobody cares.


MORGAN: Now, you are one of Mr. Romney's key people. Be honest. When you were watching Clint Eastwood doing his thing, were you gulping for air? Were you palpitating?

GITCHO: No! No, no, no.

MORGAN: Were you thinking, What the hell is Dirty Harry doing up there?

GITCHO: Look, Clint Eastwood is Clint Eastwood, and the crowd loved it. He did do some improving, but to make a very serious point, and that's the 23 million Americans who are out of work, and it's a very -- it's a very big deal and it's time for a change.

MORGAN: Must have been a bit queasy, weren't you? I mean, he was supposed to speak for five minutes. He apparently ad-libbed for another seven. Everything ran late. And at one moment, you've got Dirty Harry talking to an empty chair!

Come on, Gail!

GITCHO: He ad libbed, but he was making a very serious point, and the crowd loved it. But (INAUDIBLE) you can't look at Clint Eastwood -- he's an American icon. You can't look at him through the same political lens that you would other politicians. He's Clint Eastwood.

MORGAN: If you wake up tomorrow and all the headlines are, Clint Eastwood goes bunkers, that's not good for you, is it.

GITCHO: Well, look, they won't be, and I'll tell you why. Because Mitt Romney had a killer speech tonight. And he did three things that were very important for him to do tonight.

He talked about his positive vision for the future and where he wants to take this country. He also successfully and very effectively prosecuted the case against Barack Obama. And finally, he talked about what's important to him. So that's what Americans want to hear. We have the obligation to talk about the big differences between our campaign and what President Obama has done. And when you look at what Mitt Romney wants to do, he wants to have a stronger middle class with more jobs and take home pay compared to what this president has done with the 23 million Americans struggling to find work.

MORGAN: I mean, I've got to be honest, I rather enjoyed the speech. I've seen Twitter a bit split. Some people loved it. Other people a bit scathing, a bit cynical. But I thought he did a pretty solid job.

GITCHO: He did.

MORGAN: But it is more the beginning than the end now, isn't it. We're now into the real campaign.

GITCHO: Yes, there are about 70 days left. So where we'll go from Tampa is to all of the targeted states, and we'll take the same message. We will continue to contrast Governor Romney's positive vision with the trap (ph) that President Obama (INAUDIBLE).

Americans are not happy with the way this president has run the country. They think that he's lacking leadership. So we're going to continue to show that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are going to bring more jobs, higher take-home pay, and we're going to get federal spending finally under control.

MORGAN: Finally -- one word answer. Who made the better speech, Mitt or Ann Romney?



MORGAN: I don't think you mean that.

GITCHO: She was wonderful.

MORGAN: It's a good night for you and the Romney campaign. Nice to see you.

We'll be back right after this break.


EASTWOOD: A lot of conservative people, a lot of (INAUDIBLE) Republicans, Democrats in Hollywood. In fact, I just -- I think -- in fact, there's some of them are around town. I saw Jon Voigt. There's a lot of people around here in town.


EASTWOOD: John Zeer (ph), Academy Award winner, terrific guy.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MORGAN: Welcome back to the CNN Grill. It's complete madness in here, but I like it that way. And I've been joined by Mary Bono Mack. She's a Romney surrogate, women's policy committee.

Did Mitt Romney do it for you with women tonight? Has he resonated with America's women?

REP. MARY BONO MACK (R), CALIFORNIA: Yes, absolutely, the whole convention. It's been resonating with the women of America. Tonight, Mitt Romney really sealed that deal. For me, what I loved the most -- he talked about his mother and mother running for office and how much that meant to him. I thought that was great.

MORGAN: Also very movingly about Ann. I mean, I've interviewed Ann a few times now. She's an incredibly impressive woman, isn't she.

MACK: She sure is. You know, what I love also about the Romney campaign and the way Mitt views women -- women should be whatever they want to be, and government shouldn't decide, the bad economy shouldn't decide. If a woman wants to be a mother of five kids, great. If she wants to be a lawyer, great. If she wants to do everything, be a member of Congress and raise her kids, that's great, too.

MORGAN: But if a woman wants to have an abortion, Mitt Romney doesn't want her to have one.

MACK: Well, look, Mitt -- you know, Mitt is not as strict as the platform. You know, the platform has been a discussion. I think that Mitt's goal is a very noble goal. You know, we can agree, whether you're pro-choice like I am or you're pro-life like Mitt -- we should just find a way to reduce the number of abortions in America. That's a laudable goal.

MORGAN: Overall, though, happy with the speech.

MACK: Yes, very, very happy with the speech. Absolutely.

MORGAN: Mary, lovely to see you.

MACK: Thank you, Piers.

MORGAN: Take care.

(INAUDIBLE) probably the best man here who's in Tampa at the moment to discuss Clint Eastwood's crazy speech, no other word for it, Jon Voigt, Oscar winner. How are you, sir?

JON VOIGT, ACTOR: How are you, Piers?

MORGAN: You know Clint Eastwood well. What did you -- what did you make of what happened tonight?

VOIGT: Well, listen, I think it depends on which side you're on in all of this. Obviously, people are going to try to find negatives if you're on the left. You're going to find negatives about the night. If you're on the conservative side, you're going to enjoy all the things as they were intended.

For me, first of all, it was a tremendous thing for him to show up. You know, he's a guy that doesn't do a lot of public speaking, and you know, he's a kind of a shy fellow. But that he showed up, it was a tremendous thing. And for the people who love Clint -- like I got some texts, you know, Clint's the man, from some young guys I know.

MORGAN: Right. Well, I got a few texts and a few tweets of people saying, What on earth is Clint Eastwood up to? He's gone completely crackers.

VOIGT: Well, it was very entertaining for the people that were there. And there were some very good jokes in it, and the jokes that are -- you know, the Clint Eastwood -- that kind of edge that he had in Dirty Harry. A lot of people wouldn't find it funny when he said, Make my day, either. But it became, you know, a signature performance and a signature moment in all of film. And that was what it was like up there. Only Clint could do what he did.

MORGAN: Apparently, five minutes of that was scripted, and the other seven minutes were ad libbed. I mean, it's pretty dangerous to do that, isn't it?

VOIGT: Exactly. Dangerous. And then I say, Bravo, man. That's the greatest.


MORGAN: The sort of thing Dirty Harry would do.

VOIGT: Yes! It's a lot of fun! I mean, he's really going for it.


MORGAN: How did you think Mitt Romney did tonight?

VOIGT: I think he was wonderful tonight. You know, look, as I say, it's always this way. The people on the left are going to try to find some holes in it. I think he was very clear. I think it was an elegant speech, and I think it covered what needed to be covered and crecendoed at the end in a very beautiful way.

Listen, I think this -- from my standpoint, from all the history that people have seen tonight through this -- you know, through this evening, you see this man as a tremendously compassionate man. He's a leader. He's a person who has the values in place.

It was very moving. This love story with Ann and he is very touching. And he's a guy that gets things done. There's no doubt. He takes charge and he -- you know, he gets people to be at their best. And I think that showed tonight. And he did -- the speech was very clear, very nicely delivered, and it was -- he was very presidential.

MORGAN: I mean, he's now got about 70 days left until the big election. What's he going to do now? VOIGT: Well, he's going to go back and do the work that he needs to do. And the next big moment -- and of course, they're all big moments, Piers, because all eyes are upon this every step. But the next big moments will be the debates.

MORGAN: Jon Voigt, it's great to see you. Standing up for Clint Eastwood. I expect nothing else of a great Hollywood legend.


MORGAN: It's good to see you.

I'll be right back after another short break with more debate about what's been a sensational night here at the GOP convention.



ROMNEY: Hope and change had a powerful appeal, but tonight I'd ask a simple question. If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama?


ROMNEY: You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.


MORGAN: Mitt Romney taking a shot at President Obama a little while ago. I want to bring in someone from the other side, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She's the Democratic National Committee chair, and joins (ph) me (ph) now (ph).

Debbie, welcome...


MORGAN: ... to the CNN Grill. (INAUDIBLE) most testing and inventive this evening, to put it mildly. Now, let's talk about Mitt Romney's speech. I thought, to be fair, it was a pretty good, solid speech. What did you think?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think the fact that the most commentary following Mitt Romney's speech is about an empty chair says more about Mitt Romney than it does about Barack Obama.

MORGAN: When you saw Clint Eastwood going off like he did, were you punching the air with delight?

SCHULTZ: No, I actually thought it was a little bit sad. You know, I -- it was bewildering and unfortunate.

MORGAN: I mean, he's an American hero, American icon...

SCHULTZ: He is. That's right.

MORGAN: ... one of the great movie stars in the world. I'm a huge fan of him, but I found it increasingly really uncomfortable.

SCHULTZ: Well, I thought it was a bizarre, uncomfortable, unfortunate moment. And again, you know, all the buzz after the Mitt Romney speech is about the empty chair. And I think that's a real commentary on Mitt Romney, even though they have spent the entire week making this entire convention not about Mitt Romney but about Barack Obama.

MORGAN: Let's talk about the real battle because Clint Eastwood, I think to the relief of most Republicans, will not be contesting the election in November.

Mitt Romney moves on from here. I would say, overall, it's been a pretty successful week, despite all the trials and tribulations of a storm that was distracting attention, and indeed, the empty chair. Mitt Romney, I think, will go away thinking his wife made a great speech for him. He made a pretty good speech. And it's game on now through to November.

What are the perils for the Democratic Party? When you -- when you group (ph) next week and have your own convention, what are the warning signals that you have to really be alert to?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think we're going to have a great convention next week. One of the things I think I would just differ with you on, on how they ended up in their convention this week, because Mitt Romney said a whole lot, threw a lot at Barack Obama, I mean, even saying that everyone, including him, was rooting for President Obama to be successful, when the night Mitt Romney won the Florida primary, he said, You have to remember what this election is really about, defeating Barack Obama.

No one thinks that Mitt Romney or Republicans have been rooting for Barack Obama to be successful. They've only cared about one job, his. And we're going to talk next week about President Obama and how he's fought for American jobs and fought to get this economy turned around, taken us from where we were hemorrhaging 750,000 of those jobs a month, and now we've had 29 straight months of job growth, thanks to his policies.

And our convention, unlike this one, will be the most inclusive, participatory, community-oriented convention that we've seen in political history.

MORGAN: Are you grouping (ph) around Hollywood, finding your own stars to speak, or is that idea gone on the back burner now?

SCHULTZ: You know, our stars are the middle class and working families and the people that are powering our campaign and that will carry Barack Obama back to the White House for a second term on their shoulders. MORGAN: It's going to be hard, though, next week, I think, for Barack Obama. Last time, he ran on this huge campaign of hope and change and optimism. It was almost Messianic (ph) reaction that he got.

Clearly, expectation levels have fallen quite substantially from those levels, and people will say, You know what? He's done OK, but actually, there's a lot to criticize. I mean, unemployment is at a very unacceptable high now, still over 8 percent. He's got to try and persuade the American public to give him another chance, doesn't he.

SCHULTZ: And I think he will. And President Obama has said, you know, we've come a long way, but we still have a ways to go. and you know, I think the American public recognizes President Obama inherited the largest set of problems at once of any president since FDR.

And we've made progress in spite of the fact that the Republicans every step of the way have done everything they can to throw a wrench into the works, an obstacle in his path, you know, and all the while proposing that what we should do is go back to the failed policies of the past that nearly crashed our economy and got us into this mess in the first place.

That's the contrast. You'll see next week a dramatically different vision and view that we'll present and that President Obama will talk about, one that says we should build the economy from the middle class out, and that if you work hard and play by the rules, that you should have an opportunity to be successful.

MORGAN: Are we going to carry on...

SCHULTZ: And we shouldn't just focus on people who already are successful.

MORGAN: Are we going to carry on seeing very, very unpleasant attack ads through his super-PAC, the very same super-PAC ads that Barack Obama vowed not get involved with?

SCHULTZ: Well, Barack Obama isn't involved with super-PACs. The super-PACs, as you know -- they operate on their own and...

MORGAN: Well, some of them are being run by...

SCHULTZ: ... it's unfortunate...

MORGAN: ... former White House staff, as you know.

SCHULTZ: Well, yes, but what's unfortunate is that...

MORGAN: Accusing Mitt Romney of killing women, for example.

SCHULTZ: You have a handful of billionaires on their side that are essentially trying to buy the White House. President Obama...

MORGAN: Well, both guys, to be fair, are buying super-PACs. I mean, whether they admit it or not...

SCHULTZ: There's not any remote comparison between the...

MORGAN: Well, you're being outspent.

SCHULTZ: ... third party...

MORGAN: I mean, that's because Mitt Romney's got (INAUDIBLE)

SCHULTZ: It's because there are a handful of billionaires supporting Mitt Romney who would like to buy the White House, and we're running a people-powered grassroots campaign. The average contribution to President Obama's campaign is $50.23. Ninety eight percent of our contributions are under 250 and we don't accept PAC contributions. We don't accept contributions from federal lobbyists. There's not anything remotely comparable between the way we run our campaigns and fund our campaigns and the way that the Republicans do it.

MORGAN: Well, to layman like they do look pretty -- Debbie, we can debate this further next week.

SCHULTZ: I'm sure we will.

MORGAN: In Charlotte, North Carolina. We are going to see you there. Thanks for coming in.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

MORGAN: Good to see you.

SCHULTZ: You too.

MORGAN: Coming up, the (INAUDIBLE) of Karl Rove, why he's more powerful than ever.

And American Idol, Taylor Hicks, will perform tonight in the convention is here for anchore performance.


MORGAN: There's one person who has influenced in this election cannot be ignored, Karl Rove, the man they called Bush's brain.

With me is Craig Unger, the author of the new book "Boss Rove, inside Karl Rove's secret kingdom of power." Also with me, one of my favorite guests, comedian and best-selling author and extremely irritating man from time to time, Penn Jillette. He take that as a complement.

Welcome to you all in New York. We'll come to you in a moment.

Let's start with you, Craig, because big night for the Republicans. A big week for the Republicans. Do you believe Karl Rove is still weaving his magic behind the scenes?

CRAIG UNGER, AUTHOR, BOSS ROVE: Absolutely. I think one of the biggest stories here is really going on off camera. And we've had this narrative, this spectacle sort of repeated again and again to 15,000of reporters. But if you go to Tampa Bay, there's 100 people out there. Dozens and dozens of millionaires were being entertained by the Romney campaign. They hid their badges to hide their identities so reporters would not know who they were. You have Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnet here who plans to give $100 million to the campaign.

MORGAN: Let's get in to the truth of it. The Democrats, even though President Obama vowed never to get involved with super PACs. He has done a complete u-turn. He has his own super PAC running, sometimes manned by owned former White House staff. They are all trying to do this, Craig. The thing is that Romney has got - probably got more money. Isn't it as simple as that?

UNGER: Well, it is as simple as that but is the case of election being for sale. The Democrats -- why should the Democrats fight with one hand behind their back?

MORGAN: What about principle? What about saying we're not going to try to win this by money alone?

UNGER: Well, that's a recipe -- you have David Coke in the New York delegation saying he will give as much as $40 million. Even in the "Wall Street Journal" Rove's own colleagues are saying isn't this a complete perversion of the electoral process?

MORGAN: To Penn Jillette. Penn, this whole issue of money and the elections and the ability to buy an election effectively through super PACs, I'm going to say it makes me vomit that the American system ha has now gotten to this stage where the guy with the most billionaire secret backers in secret rooms that has been discussing can effectively buy an election. What do you think about that?

PENN JILLETTE, COMEDIAN, BEST-SELLING AUTHOR: Well, can they effectively buy an election? We have people running for lower office that throw a ton of money in that still lose. I think the -- we don't spend that much. We spend less on the election than we do on frozen yogurt. I think the idea that you should have more of a say because you're on TV than someone who work somewhere else who wants to put money in is also not fair. I think freedom of speech has to be freedom of speech even more rich people.

MORGAN: So when the Supreme Court gave a green license to all of this, you were quite happy, were you, even though the effects surely, surely is that there will be an ever bigger corruption about the American process?

JILLETTE: I don't know -- if you don't have, that if you don't allow people to spend money, then incumbents always win. The only way you get press is to be an incumbent or to have money. And I think the real test of someone who is a freedom of speech nut, like me, is if you mean freedom of speech for everyone.

I have freedom of speech for the anti-abortion people. I believe in freedom of speech for all of the religious people and I believe in freedom of speech for everyone. I just think you can't just say that we have to -- I mean, money is speech and you've got to allow that, too, I think.

MORGAN: Let me bring Craig back in.


MORGAN: Quick Craig. There is an argument, if you believe in freedom of speech, then all of this should come under that. I don't agree with that.

UNGER: Well, I think it's kind of silly to think that a billion dollar mega phone that Karl Rove now has doesn't give more voice than the average Joe on the street. By contrast, John McCain spent 375 million. This is already well over a billion dollars and I think it's completely corrupted the political process.

MORGAN: I feel that strongly too.

But Penn, answer that.

JILLETTE: But Mister Unger, you're on TV and you're giving your point of view on TV and that is also not fair. You're on there because you wrote a book. I'm on TV because I happen to learn to juggle when I was 12 years old and Piers is on TV for -- well, I'm sure good reasons.

But we get to give our point of view and I think you can't say our point of view is more valid simply because we don't have a lot of money.

UNGER: You know, if you look at the Supreme Court decision with citizens united and say that is written by Anthony Kennedy, he said it's to help them to aide at their pride and disadvantaged class. Well, the Coke brothers have $40 billion.

MORGAN: They are about as least disadvantage than any human beings on God's earth could possibly be.

Anyway, for now, Craig Unger, thank you very much.

Penn, I can see further, so, why don't you stick around for the panel, if you don't mind.

JILLETTE: Yes. Thank you.

MORGAN: Stick around. We need more of your exclusive views.

Now, what happens when you make strong political views with beer? Well, we are going to find out when we come back with my all-star panel that have already been guzzling away in the CNN grill.



MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class of America. (APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: As president, I'll protect the sanctity of life. I'll honor the institution of marriage.


ROMNEY: And I will guarantee America's first liberty the freedom of religion.


MORGAN: Mitt Romney, a few minutes ago. (INAUDIBLE).

Here with me now, some people I would like to thank new pentagon all- stars. Jerry is still out somewhere. He is back with us, all time comedian Penn Jillette and Mister Ben Smith, editor in chief of Buzz Feed, Ryan Lizza, a Washington correspondent in "New Yorker" and CNN contributor, Maeve Reston, reporter for "the Los Angeles Times" and Joel Stein, "Time" magazine columnist and author. I can't go through it anymore, Mister Simple too many titles.

And I'm getting about 50,000 tweets saying are you going to drink any of this beer, Morgan? What kind of damn Brit are you? So just for the record, yes I am.

Now, Joel. Let's go to you. You are a columnist. Does it get any better for a columnist in the history of journalism than Clint Eastwood going bonkers on the stage?

JOEL STEIN, COLUMNIST, TIME MAGAZINE : In this convention, it was awesome. He did it without a teleprompter or complete control of his bladder. It was amazing.

MORGAN: Fie minutes was authorized. I mean Ben Smith, you and I big on it. Five minutes was agreed with the Romney camp. He went on for 13 minutes. So, most of it was adlib and it was complete chaos. Who do you make on it?

BEN SMITH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, BUZZFEED: I know. It was unbelievable. I mean, I do think - I mean, I think people are going to be talking about Clint Eastwood rather than Mitt Romney tomorrow, you know. The whole convention was supposed to be about women of color representing this new young Republican Party and it really -- it was dominated by this 82-year-old guy going a little bit off the rails.

MORGAN: Right. I mean, from the political point of it, be serious for a moment because coming to vote, many people come to me, there is no doubt that tomorrow's headlines on television around the world will not be Mitt Romney nails it. It will be, what the hell was Clint Eastwood's smoking?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, there was nothing to say that it was completely da-da. I mean, I don't know who from the Romney campaign authorized a man in his 80s to get up there for 15 minutes and talk to an empty chair. I mean, you did this the other night. MORGAN: Well, you the idea clearly. Clint Eastwood, dirty hairy, watching my show and taking my ideas.


MORGAN: Why are you fringing, Maeve?

MAEVE RESTON, LOS ANGELES TIMES: I think also the reason it was so tense-worthy for the Romney campaign is that they are the most button downed control campaign that I have ever seen. They do not allow a word off script and all of a sudden you have a guy out there, as soon as he hear into Guantanamo.

MORGAN: So, they were very respected news reporters they apparently are. But you have Romney advisers staring open-mouthed like statues wondering, what in the hell is he going to say next?

STEIN: He must have clear the empty chairs then.

RESTON: When he first endorsed Mitt Romney in Sun Valley, that was much more -- it seemed to be much more terse and to the point and so maybe they were not expecting that tonight. I don't think any of us were.

MORGAN: Let me go to Penn Jillette. Penn, you were watching this. I mean, do you share the gender feeling of utter kind of horror or --

JILLETTE: No. No. No. No. No. There's a certain point where you've got to say, it's Clint Eastwood, let him do whatever he wants. If you came to me and said this is a real -- how much does someone have to do, Piers, before you just give them a pass? Who the hell are you to bad-mouth Clint Eastwood?

I think the smartest thing, maybe the only good thing the Republicans did, the only good thing they did, was to let him loose. If you said to me, Clint Eastwood wants to come and be on stage, I would say, let him do whatever he wants. It doesn't reflect on Romney. It's just goofy, wild, beautiful, crazy.

MORGAN: Calm down.

JILLETTE: It's wait it should be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole idea of him being defended by you is pretty ironic. However z--

MORGAN: Exactly. That's the whole idea of him being dependent by you (INAUDIBLE) is pretty ironic. However, --


MORGAN: I love Clint Eastwood. And I just felt a little bit embarrassed. More and so, people like Tom Brokaw, Wolf Blitzer, you know, all these people. They are all feeling embarrassed. I mean, Ben, talk about the politics here. What would it do to the party's reputation that they unleashed Clint Eastwood tonight and he did what he did?

SMITH: I think these things are supposed to be very carefully scripted infomercials with this very, very careful messages to frame Mitt Romney as the avatar, this young, new kind of head -- maybe not hip but certainly fresh face for the Republican Party.

MORGAN: Am I just an out of touch Brit coming over here, trying to stick my nose and desecrating a great American icon.


MORGAN: You stay out of it, Jillette.


STEIN: -- is the nominee could be president. You know, it's been to say you're a famous movie actor, do whatever you want. I don't trust the guy. And then he goes crazy and makes look Mitt look even more boring than he is. Like there is no positive to that at all.

MORGAN: I agree. Maeve? Find me a positive.

RESTON: The real question is --

MORGAN: Tell me a positive about it.

RESTON: So I mean, if, you know, you watch this thing, you can't take your eyes away from it. I think the real question is, how many people then crave for Mitt Romney's speech. Because everyone, a million people are tweeting about this. Maybe it brought in more viewers.


LIZZA: Everyone tomorrow morning will be talking about the Republican convention.



LIZZA: And if Mitt Romney had gotten up there and had given a -- let's be honest, it was not an amazing speech. This is the most tepid that I've seen of a nominee's speech.

MORGAN: The mere fact that the first segment we do as a panel is Clint Eastwood, not Mitt Romney, it is all you need to know. I think it's been a disaster for the Republicans.


MORGAN: It's not what they need, but it is coming back. No question about it.

When we come back after the break, I want to get into Mitt Romney's speech, hit or miss?


MORGAN: Welcome back to the CNN grill.

It's nearly 1:00 a.m. on the east coast but we are still buzzing with energy and excitement about tonight's GOP convention. I'm back with Ben Smith, Ryan Lizza, Maeve Reston and Joel stein.

Let's talk about Mitt Romney because that's why we are here for like Clint Eastwood, a bit of side show.

Ryan, did Mitt Romney do enough tonight, do you think, to satisfy not just the party but the outer world?

LIZZA: I don't know. We won't know for a few days. I feel like this entire week Mitt Romney has been - had to be lifted up by the other sort of all-stars of this party. By the way, there was Marco Rubio tonight to give a great speech best of the night. Or whether it was Jeb Bush who gave a great speech and Condi who the crowd really loved.

MORGAN: I know there has been -- (INAUDIBLE).

LIZZA: It reminded me of 2004 with the democratic side. The crowd and the partisans weren't really that excited about John Kerry or Barack Obama and the other people.

MORGAN: Hold out there. I'm getting a sense of party unity. After all of that's troubling of the nomine race and everything else, holding tight in each other. They do seem to have come together and that in itself could a threat to the Democrats.

RESTON: I think that's true and I think that the Romney campaign from all of their actions on welfare and suggesting that this is going to be a base election. But I mean, really at this point, Mitt Romney needs to be beyond that. He needs to be speaking to the audience beyond the room. Tonight he tried to do that. I think the speech was a little flat and --

MORGAN: But he is a bit flat. I mean, Joel Stein --

STEIN: There are people. There was Ron Paul and people chanting --

MORGAN: But Ron Paul is Ron Paul. I mean, I love him dearly but he's always going to be in the corner with the protesters.

STEIN: They were chanting in the room. They had a chant with the USA chant.

LIZZA: Come on, that was like one or two people.

STEIN: That's not unity though. That is not unity. This is a party divided.

RESTON: I don't agree with that.

MORGAN: I think the point of Ryan made that shouldn't be early points to with ultrafication (ph) of politics now. Because it was -- (CROSSTALK)

SMITH: Romney finally gave in to that. Romney has resisted that his whole life, you know, he said the other day he didn't want to be personalized like a piece of meat, whatever that means. It finally did. You can feel the crowd like it was relief almost when he made a joke about his religion.

MORGAN: I mean, --

RESTON: The best part of the convention today where the stories that were told about them --

MORGAN: I was going to say the same thing. People from his life and his personal life paid very powerful testament to him, you know, speaking eulogies of funerals of young boys who died of leukemia. He health he given to fellow Mormon to talk. He's not afraid of his faith now. That is so great support.

Let's go to Penn Jillette. Penn, don't be prompted in your mouth, you normally are. Mitt Romney, hit or miss?

JILLETTE: Well, I don't know. What bothers me is the whole humanity and nice guy thing. If there's one thing that Obama and Romney certainly are, it's good people. They are also both smart, they are both good. I would like it to be more dry. All of the touchy-feely stuff just creeps out my New England heart. I know they care about people and I know they are smart and I know they are good. I wish they didn't spend so much time sucking up like they were on a reality show.


MORGAN: Romney doesn't want to do it but he does do it. There is no doubt we saw Mitt Romney going into areas he just feels uncomfortable doing but he has to. Having said, that I found stuff about his mother, about his upbringing, about his wife, about his children, very moody. I think the guy is a solid father-son person and those are no bad thing for the presidential candidate.

SMITH: And normally, he is a guy who has given much bigger part of his life than most of us and Ann as well to service, basically to help these folks they deserve. And he talked about that and he also used the word hell tonight and on the campaign trail notoriously said h-e double hockey sticks.


SMITH: You know, it's one of those moments --


MORGAN: We have about a minute less, maybe less. Democratic convention next week. I want each of you to give me a ten second resume of what you want next week. Ben?

SMITH: I think Penn Jillette is auditioning for the role of Clint Eastwood next week.

MORGAN: OK, Penn Jillette. We need you as Clint Eastwood.

JILLETTE: I will take it. I'll bring the empty chair.

LIZZA: I don't care much about their biography. I want to know what their plan is for the next four years.

MORGAN: OK. Maeve?

RESTON: I think Obama really needs to lay out his agenda for a second term and we are still waiting for that.


STEIN: I want - I think he can get Clint Eastwood to come to both conventions. I'm sure he doesn't know where he is. Just drag him back to do that routine again.

MORGAN: Well, I got an idea. I suspect George Clooney has been watching that tonight, thinking, Clint, you just blew it. I'm going to win the political Oscar next week in Charlotte.

Penn, I'd love to ask you your view, but tragically, we've run out of time.

JILLETTE: (making "peace sign") That's all my view is.

MORGAN: So, thank you all for a great panel, as always. I'll be back at our regular time tomorrow night with a special PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT, all the highlights from Tampa -- candid conversations with Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, John and Cindy McCain, Rick and Karen Santorum, and the Romney boys and Condoleezza Rice.

For now, from Tampa, good night and God bless America.