November 2, 2000


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On Saturday, hundreds of adoring fans crowded the Ag Quad, where Hillary Clinton was kicking off her countdown-to-election-day bus tour. But I’m not so sure it was Hillary the crowd adored.

Also speaking in the Ag Quad that morning was the hunky and famous Ben “My-girl-Hillary-is-wicked-smart” Affleck. The pro-Hillary message was delivered in both her speech and in Affleck’s, but which of the two conveyed it more convincingly is quite debatable.

Ben Affleck’s appearance with Hillary was surprising to many Cornellians, who thought the duo was randomly matched. Nothing could be further from the truth. For decades, candidates and the glamorous personas of the red carpet have campaigned side by side. And as we’ve seen in the past year, the love affair between Washington and Hollywood is as passionate as ever.

A Liberal Hollywood

Since the days of Frank Sinatra’s performance at John F. Kennedy’s inaugural ball and breathy renditions of the “Happy Birthday” song resonating throughout the White House from Marilyn Monroe’s luscious lips, Hollywood has generally been associated with the Democrats. Democratic fund raising events tend to rival the Oscars in terms of numbers of A-listers on the scene. For nearly a decade, we’ve watched stars such as Steven Spielberg, Kate Capshaw, Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger, Billy Joel, Gwyneth Paltrow, and hundreds of others flock to eat $5000-per-head dinners with their golden boy, William Jefferson Clinton.

Unfortunately for his adoring Hollywood fans, Bill is scheduled to soon exit office, but that won’t stop stars from donating to the Clinton family — only this time, the recipient is Hillary. Recent events to honor Bill and raise money for Hillary’s New York Senate campaign have been attended by the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, Shirley MacLaine, Whoopi Goldberg, Jimmy Smits, Muhammad Ali, Jesse Jackson, Gregory Peck, Diana Ross, and Melissa Etheridge.

As sorry as they all are to see the Clintons leave 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Hollywood has not shown much reluctance in jumping on the Gore 2000 bandwagon. Perhaps symbolic of the party’s Hollywood ties, the Democratic National Convention was held in L.A. this year, and was surrounded by performance fundraisers featuring Barbra Streisand (an outspoken Democrat), Boyz II Men, and Babyface. Gore/ Lieberman fundraising events in early fall attracted entertainers like Bette Middler, Paul Simon, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts, Cher, and James Taylor. Other public supporters include Tom Hanks, Warren Beatty, Nicholas Cage, Kevin Costner, Jack Nicholson, and Oliver Stone. And of course, there’s the ever-present Tommy Lee Jones, Al’s old Harvard roomie.

It’s Not Only About Money

Actors, musicians, producers, and other famous personalities do not only use their fat purses to promote political candidates and goals. They use their starpower. Television and radio appearances often play into public opinion. For example, Rosie O’Donnell has used her talk show to promote gun control and to argue against school vouchers. And in an appearance at Radio City Music Hall, Julia Roberts chided about how she looked up “Republican” in the dictionary and found it between “reptile” and “repugnant”.

But an even more “subliminable” exertion of Hollywood influence takes place within the art itself. So many movies deal with leftist themes, and there are several movies that directly glorify a (questionably) fictional liberal candidate or president, such as The Candidate with Robert Redford, and the amusing Dave, starring Kevin Kline.

The most blatant example of Hollywood politics infused in its art is Rob Reiner’s The American President, a story of an endearing, liberal president whose personal life becomes the target of bitter conservative opponents. Critics and the public saw the film as an attempt to champion Bill Clinton, who is pretty evidently the basis for Michael Douglas’s character in the film. The American President just happens to be directed by prominent Democratic contributor Rob Reiner and was released (surprise, surprise) just months before the 1996 Presidential election.

The Few, and the Brave