Politics & Policy

Hollywood Fools

Robert Altman, Alec Baldwin and more.

I thought this election was important when Al Gore started talking about “outrageous profits.” I surmised that the stakes were high when George W. Bush promised to liberate poor children from inner city schools. In fact, this campaign has never been lacking for pressing issues: Social Security privatization, cleaning up the Justice Department, tax cuts, the internal-combustion engine, and the meaning of “is” have been in play for a long time. But only now is it becoming apparent how huge the stakes really are.

It all began with a trickle week or so ago. Robert Altman, the Hollywood director tolerated at the box office but loved in Hollywood screening rooms, announced, “If George W. Bush is elected president, I’m leaving for France.” He said that he normally did not comment on politics in the U.S., presumably because he respects the stability of the regime. But, Altman said, it will be a “catastrophe for the world if George Bush is elected.” He bases this prediction on the idea that — seriously — Gov. Bush would cut taxes and increase military spending, thus paving the path to global “catastrophe.”

Now, how many millions of votes Mr. Altman expected to swing with this threat is unclear. From preliminary data it appears that the most common responses from average voters (and moviegoers) were, in order: “Who’s Robert Altman?” (52%), “Okey dokey” (23%), “Huh? Why exactly would that former treasury guy move to France if Bush won?” (9%), “What an idiot” (7%), “Don’t let the door hit you in the Clymer on the way out” (6%), and “Other” (3%). Responses in this last category included: “No big loss, Short Cuts sucked,” “The TV version of M*A*S*H was better,” and, finally, “What a stunning loss for the arts in America.”

DARE TO DREAM

While Altman’s declaration surely explains some of the recent turmoil in international financial markets that are always sensitive to political events, it appears the best is yet to come.

Over the weekend Kim Bassinger was interviewed by Focus magazine. She said her husband “is the biggest moralist I know,” continuing the Baldwin family’s tendency to slightly misuse important-sounding words. Because he is a “moralist,” Ms. Bassinger explained, “he stands completely behind what he says.” Apparently, at some point in the past, Mr. Baldwin had said that he would leave the country if Gov. Bush were elected president. Alas, I can find no record of the original ultimatum, perhaps because no one cares. But when asked if she’d move with him, Bassinger said: “I can very well imagine that Alec makes good on his threat. And then I’d probably have to go too.”

Altman, Baldwin, Bassinger…could it be that we are witnessing the slow, steady, and alphabetical exodus of America’s most tiresome and self-absorbed left-wingers? Are Cher and John Cusack next? Even if the alphabetical trend doesn’t continue, there’s reason to be optimistic that this peregrination of people who wear glasses to look smart might continue.

Recently, Susan Sarandon appeared at the same French film festival at which Altman had thrown down the gauntlet. Expressing her anger with George W. Bush’s policy on the death penalty (he enforces it) and her outsized ignorance of American history, she told the Sunday Express, “We stand a chance of getting a president who has probably killed more people before he gets into office than any president in the history of the United States.” Presumably she has forgotten, to name just a few, Washington, Jackson, Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, the elder George Bush, and, if you believe conspiratorial right-wing e-mails, Bill Clinton (Alec Baldwin’s command of history is a bit better, but very competitive on the field of asininity, having once said that President Bush was “a CIA mass murderer…owned by oil companies”).

Anyway, Ms. Sarandon explained that if you are against the death penalty in America, “It means you are ‘tough on crime’, it means you are for ‘law and order’, it means that you are for ‘control.’” The reporter from the Express didn’t ask why Ms. Sarandon thinks such quotation marks around phrases like “tough on crime” or “law and order” are necessary, but it is pretty easy to imagine her using her manicured fingers to make the air quotes around each phrase.

Anyway, Ms. Sarandon says that it’s “politically incorrect” to be against the death penalty in America. One does wonder what American Legion Halls and Fraternal Order of Police parties she’s been to, that she feels she’s suffered so much from a PC climate. I would have assumed the only person in her orbit who favors the death penalty is her gardener. Still, Ms. Sarandon regrets that “The U.S. has slowly gone Right, Right, Right.”

Just to be clear: Not just Right. Or Right Right. But Right, Right, Right.

It seems a safe bet that we could expect her to be boarding the Concorde and complaining about the food if the election goes against her. And if she goes, can Tim Robbins be far behind? And if Tim goes, perchance might we develop a critical mass of people who are willing to endure sit-ins outside Rudy Giuliani’s office and beg police to arrest them, but can’t tolerate the idea of sitting in a Malibu hot tub with a Republican in the White House three thousand miles away?

WHY DO THEY DO IT

Which gets to the fascinating mental processes that force Hollywood people to make these sorts of “threats.” The first is cowardice — pure, sausage-spined, hysterical poltroonery. After all, we are told constantly — by Hollywood liberals themselves — about how much they care for the plight of the common man. We hear how committed they are to “the cause,” whatever the “cause du jour” might be, and how they will never give up. But, despite the fact that these people are millionaires several times over and have almost nothing in common with the people they care so passionately about, a change in administrations is enough to send them scurrying across the pond. Whatever happened to Hollywood’s eternal vigilance against the perils of McCarthyism?

The other possibility is that these people actually believe Americans care. No, seriously. Maybe they don’t realize that Alec Baldwin threatening to leave the country if people don’t vote the right way has less impact on average people than whether or not he makes a sequel to Thomas and the Magic Railroad.

Still, you can almost imagine Joe Six-pack at the polls, thinking to himself, “Well, Al Gore wants to phase out the internal-combustion engine and raise energy taxes and George Bush wants to give my kids a scholarship to a good school. Hmmm, I’m thinking Bush …” And then Alec Baldwin’s raspy voice intrudes, armed with entries from his word-a-day calendar he doesn’t quite understand but is determined to use anyway: “Attend to my asseveration, don’t permit your oracular cavity to inscribe securities your gluteus cannot redeem! I’m earnest, Mister! Pull that lever for Bush and I’m out of here! er I mean I am embarking for the egress!”

BALDWIN, UN-AMERICAN

Honestly, I am hoping this is about ego. It comes as no surprise to regular readers of this column that I think Alec Baldwin is, well, the sort of guy who couldn’t break quadruple digits on his SAT’s but liked to carry around copies of Balzac (I know, no need for potty mouth) to impress the ladies. I have had contempt for him since impeachment days when he insisted that — and I am not making this up — the insurance companies were behind the effort to get rid of Bill Clinton (If that’s so, one might wonder what Baldwin thinks of Joe Lieberman [D., Aetna]). He denounced Republicans constantly for not having more “homogeneity” in their thinking, presumably because “homogeneity” sounds brainier than “consistency,” despite the fact it’s not quite the right word.

But for as silly as he is, I’ve never thought him a moral coward. In fact, the only bit of respect I’ve had for him stemmed from his steadfast commitment to his ideas, despite their complete incoherence. But now his wife says he’s a “moralist” and therefor he has to keep his word. Well, I find it hard to see any head-past-the-sphincter sycophant of Bill Clinton as a “moralist.”

But put that aside. My dictionary says that a moralist is someone who is particularly concerned with teaching moral lessons. If Alec Baldwin leaves because George W. Bush wins he will be the furthest thing in the world from that. He will instead be teaching people that in a democracy, when your side loses, those who can afford to take their money and their passports and bug out in a hissy fit. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word un-American before with any seriousness. But, if he thinks that’s the moral lesson for Americans, Alec Baldwin isn’t just a fool. He’s an un-American fool.

DEAR READERS:

Sorry for not filing on Friday. I was sort of away on a mini-vacation, giving a speech at the Greenbrier in West Virginia. I was speaking to the nicest bunch of Maine Community Bankers you could ever want to meet. I could really get used to that sort of thing.

Anyway, I hope to file this Wednesday, but I am giving another speech, or rather I am “debating” the Yale Political Union on Wednesday night, up in Ivy-Land. My topic is how the Left has become the enemy of liberalism. Should be a hoot.

And since I’m announcing upcoming engagements, I will be debating ex-Senator Dale Bumpers at Williams College on October 2. I have no idea whether drooling barbarian G-File readers are permitted to attend such refined events, but as I see it, that shouldn’t stop anybody. Just don’t ask me for directions.

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