“Attic Salt” column for Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012

The morning after Clint Eastwood’s remarkable appearance at the Republican nominating convention the pundits were asking each other if Eastwood’s going off message would hurt Mitt Romney in what promises to be a close race with President Barack Obama.

The pundits should talk to people waiting in line to buy batteries and bottled water.

Instead of flying in after a storm to make sympathetic noises, Romney and the president would do well to stand behind the counter at a hardware store where people were buying propane the day after Isaac hit.

I am already tired of Mitt Romney. I’ve been tired of the president’s omnipresence for the last two years. Watching Eastwood talking to the empty chair the other night, I saw a fictional character more real than Romney or Obama.

I saw an old man sitting on his front porch with an ice chest full of beer and a rifle in his lap. Clint Eastwood’s character in “Gran Torino” overcame his prejudice against Asian immigrants after street thugs born in America posed a bigger threat to his neighborhood.

There are many things in the minds of Americans as summer draws to a close and fall offers the promise of cooler weather and, perhaps, a change in national leadership.

I don’t know what it will take for Congress to wake up to the damage it’s causing by refusing to work with men and women in the other party.

Flooding in South Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as the Midwest, fires in the American West and the crumbling bridges and railroad beds in the Northeast, along with the neglect suffered by our national parks, suggest a modern version of the Works Progress Administration, the WPA that put Americans to work during The Great Depression.

We’ve talked about it but not implemented it because of the expense. Better to let our out-of work young people fight erosion in national parks than unwinnable wars in the Middle East.

Eastwood may not be the person you want to turn the podium over to if you’re trying to stay on message, but he did put his money where his mouth was when he served a two-year term as mayor of Carmel, Calif. (1986-88).

The YouTube video of Clint being Eastwood reveals the stunt to be not that funny and overly long. Missing from the video is the “is-this-really-happening” aspect of the live performance.

We need more “is-this-really-happening”? Republicans working with Democrats. Young people digging fire lines and making tent pads in Kisatchie. Is this really happening?

What will it take to make us work together as a nation, to ask each other not “Who did you vote?” for but, “What do you need? How can I help?”

We have that conversation after a hurricane drops trees on our houses and floods our homes. We need to have that talk when the sun is shining.