Hollywood and Politics
Aired October 30, 2003 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
In the CROSSFIRE: political star power. Sure, he's a heavyweight, but can Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston really make a difference in the Middle East? When should actors just stick to acting and when should they get involved?
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR-ELECT: I will be back many times. I didn't want to say exactly the line, "I'll be back," but, I mean -- but I will be back many more times, believe me.
ANNOUNCER: Today on CROSSFIRE.
ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hi, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE, where we proudly exercise the right to free speech and let our opinions be heard.
But does the right really want to censor celebrities or just liberal celebrities?
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Of course, not. There's no censorship here. But is the right to public self-expression accompanied by the obligation to at least know something about what you're talking about? Do celebrities talk too much?
That's our debate, right after the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."
Well, for Democrats, it's been a week of discouraging news. Not only did Ashton Kutcher not show up at an Edwards-for-president's fund-raiser last night, but the economy seems to be getting better. The Commerce Department has released figures that show gross domestic product surging at a faster rate than it has in almost 20 years. Consumer spending is growing at it fastest clip since 1988. Well, leave aside the question of whether President Bush's tax cuts are responsible for the recovery. And there's some evidence they may be. Good economic numbers of any kind are disaster for the Democratic Party. Each of the nine Democratic candidates is running on "The Bush is evil, America is a mess" platform. All will be left without any message at all if voters are content and secure.
So, first the economy improves. Next, Iraq evolves into a stable democracy. For the Democrats running for president, that's a terrifying scenario.
BEGALA: Oh, so everything is great.
CARLSON: I'm not saying that.
BEGALA: If people believe everything is great, they should vote for George W. Bush. But if they're part of the three million people who have lost their jobs under President Bush or the 2,500 people who got laid off today at EDS or the people at Mitsubishi in Illinois, who are not going to get new jobs
CARLSON: Let me just ask you one question. GDP climbed at the fastest rate it has in 20 years. Will you at least admit that's good news or are you so tied to this malaise picture?
BEGALA: It is great news.
CARLSON: OK, good.
BEGALA: Particularly if you're not one of the three million people who George W. Bush drove out of their job.
BEGALA: Well, Arnold Schwarzenegger met with Vice President Cheney today at the White House. But the governor-elect's pleas for a federal bailout for California's deficits have turned into a cry for emergency aid to deal with that state's wildfires.
Now, I hope California gets every penny of emergency aid. It needs it. My heart, of course, goes out to the people who have lost their homes and especially to the families of those who lost loved ones, most especially the family of firefighter Steve Rucker, who died battling the blaze in San Diego County. Now, this is governor-elect Schwarzenegger's first real test of leadership. If he proceeds with his plan to repeal the car tax, then firefighters and cops will lose $4.2 billion in funding. Now, California already has fewer firefighters per capita than it had 20 years ago, when tax cut fever first took hold in the Golden State. So here's hoping Arnold will face reality and admit that his case for tax cut has literally gone up in smoke.
CARLSON: Well, this is -- I'm not saying this has actually arrived at Paul Krugman, but I'm saying it's getting dangerously close.
BEGALA: He's brilliant.
CARLSON: Nobody has ever alleged -- and I can tell you, where I grew up is like in flames right now -- that a lack of firemen is the problem. That is not the problem.
Moreover, the idea that the car tax, which is a regressive tax -- I think you'd be against them -- I'm surprised you're for it -- is at the root of this, actually, there are many places where firemen and policemen can get funding.
BEGALA: They can't get it from property taxes, because the right-wingers capped them in that state.
CARLSON: A car tax, I thought liberals were against it.
BEGALA: I'm generally against it, but I'm more pro-firefighter.
CARLSON: OK. Right.
BEGALA: So, just, if you don't want more taxes, then watch your house burn. What the hell.
CARLSON: That's ludicrous.
BEGALA: You need taxes if you want firefighters.
CARLSON: There are 48 Democrats in the U.S. Senate. When one of them decides that his own party is so irresponsible, juvenile, stupid, and out of touch with ordinary Americans that he cannot even support its candidate for president, well, that's news. And that's exactly what happened yesterday, when Senator Zell Miller endorsed George W. Bush for president.
That's right. The Republican president has been endorsed by a Democratic United States senator, and not just any Democratic U.S. senator, but one of the smartest and most respected in Washington, a successful governor, and lifelong member of his party. These days, Miller says, he doesn't -- quote -- "trust" members of that very same party to protect American from terrorism -- quote -- "This Democrat will vote for President Bush in 2004," he said.
Ouch. It won't easy to cast Zell Miller as a wild-eyed, wacko member of the right-wing conspiracy, but the left will try. Just you watch.
BEGALA: No, they won't.
CARLSON: Yes, they did will.
CARLSON: So how do you explain this, seriously?
BEGALA: This is terrific news for George W. Bush. He is a very lucky man to have an ally like Zell Miller. And I say that because I have a personal interest here.
BEGALA: Zell Miller has probably been better to me in my career and in my life than any other politician I've ever worked
BEGALA: I love him dearly.
BEGALA: Because he is wrong. He's still a lovely man. I adore him, but he is wrong. So..
BEGALA: Well, banner-gate has entered day three. Here's what president "Pass the Buck" said about who was behind that "Mission Accomplished" banner at his news conference the other day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know it was attributed to some ingenious advance man from my staff. They weren't that ingenious, by the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BEGALA: Now we know it was a Bush aide, not a sailor, who made that banner. But the White House still persists in the fiction that the slogan itself came from sailors, not from professional White House sloganeers.
Well, not so fast, Mr. President. Thanks to the fine folks at MediaWhoresOnline.com, we are reminded that, right after the event, Bush aides bragged to "The Washington Post" that -- quote -- "The slogan was chosen in part to mark a presidential turn toward domestic affairs as his campaign for reelection approaches" -- unquote.
Another day, another presidential fib. I can't wait for tomorrow.
CARLSON: You know, Paul, as you know, we went to war because Democrats voted for the war in Iraq. There was never a substantial case against the war from Democrats. It's over. They're mad about it. And so they're whining about some banner on a ship. I don't think the president was wise to go descend into the stupid debate about who put the banner up. Who cares? If you're mad about the war, argue the real case directly.
BEGALA: We impeached President Clinton for lying about a girlfriend, which is lot less than important than a war.
CARLSON: I think it's time to get over the Clinton thing.
BEGALA: I'm not getting over the war. We've got 300 Americans dead and the president won't tell us the truth about anything.
CARLSON: About the banner? Come on. Who cares? Please.
BEGALA: Yes, well...
CARLSON: Well, can star power solve the world's problems? That's the idea. Actor Brad Pitt and actress Jennifer Aniston have decided to bring peace to the Middle East. In other words, they will succeed where every American administration's since Harry Truman's has failed. Well, apparently, Colin Powell just has not been reading from the right script.
Stars and their impact, or the lack of it, right after this.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. You know, if there's one thing Republicans love, it's rich people, love, love, love them rich people. But today, President Bush in fact is showing he loves them so much, he's taking time out from his important duties as commander in chief to suck up to rich people at a Republican fund-raiser in Ohio.
But there's one class of rich people, and only one, that the right loves to hate, entertainers. From Barbra Streisand, to Sean Penn, to Ben Affleck, Hollywood liberals are under attack as never before, which raises the question, isn't it just a tad hypocritical for the anti-Hollywood right to be welcoming governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger to Washington as a conquering hero?
Well, in the CROSSFIRE to debate political star power are former Screen Actors Guild president Richard Masur. He joins us from our bureau in New York City. And also with here us in our studio is Blanquita Cullum, syndicated radio talk show host.
BEGALA: Blanquita, thanks a lot.
Richard, thank you.
CARLSON: Richard, thanks for joining us.
Let me just say, at the outset, I don't say entertainers at all. I'm friends with a number of them. And it's because, I think, of my affection for them, that I hate to see them embarrass themselves.
RICHARD MASUR, FORMER PRESIDENT, SCREEN ACTORS GUILD: I couldn't agree more.
CARLSON: That's right. Here's example No. 1. You could -- obviously, as you know many. Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Danny DeVito, as you know, all actors, have decided that the Middle East, they can't take it anymore. They're going to bring peace there. They're headed over on a peace mission. They're going to fix it after 100 years.
I want you to read -- listen to a quote from an Israeli sociologist about this -- and I'm quoting now -- "From time to time, some celebrities think that they might help, and the media amplifies their mission. But this is an incredibly complex situation and I am afraid they are naive. Many Palestinians do not even have television sets. For the past three years, no one here has listened to anyone, so what makes these people think they will listen to Danny DeVito?"
It's a great question, isn't it, from an actual Israeli? Isn't it embarrassing?
MASUR: I don't necessarily think it's embarrassing. Look, people in my business, people who act for a living are citizens of this country and they're citizens of the world. And they have a right, an absolute right, to express themselves and, if it turns out this way, to embarrass themselves.
MASUR: Now, I don't like to see anybody embarrass themselves.
CARLSON: Isn't that a bit of a straw man? Nobody is questioning their right to make fools of themselves. That's not even on the table. Of course they have a right to do it. The question is, should they?
MASUR: Well, should they? I don't know. Should you? Should any of us? I do. I certainly do. You certainly have.
CARLSON: Well, I'm not talking about bringing peace to the Middle East.
MASUR: Should any of us? Of course not.
BEGALA: Well, isn't the problem really that -- or the hypocrisy that many conservatives, that you all don't really hate entertainers? Tucker was candid enough, said he likes a lot of them. It's that you don't want anybody espousing a liberal point of view.
Case in point, my friend Tucker Carlson, a groundbreaking interview, really I think the stuff of Edward R. Murrow, recently interviewed one of the most important thinkers on foreign policy. We played part of it on CROSSFIRE when he conducted the interview. But let me play another part right now.
BLANQUITA CULLUM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Great.
BEGALA: There's Tucker's interview with a foreign policy expert.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRITNEY SPEARS, SINGER: Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.
CARLSON: Do you trust this president?
SPEARS: Yes, I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BEGALA: Well, there you go. That was actually not Dr. Henry Kissinger. That was in fact Britney Spears.
BEGALA: I didn't hear the right -- I certainly didn't hear Tucker saying, she's clearly a talented pop star. She's also clearly an idiot on foreign policy. I didn't hear Tucker say that when he interviewed her.
CULLUM: Well, you obviously have a bias. Look...
BEGALA: Oh, yes, like the president? Come on. That's like...
CULLUM: Do I get to speak?
BEGALA: Yes. Please do.
CULLUM: And I listened to Richard.
Let me tell you something. I dent think most people really care what the politicians are doing. And I don't think they really care so much what the point of view of the actors are. I think the thing with Hollywood is, they don't get that the ticket-buying public may or may not agree with what they're saying. And, frankly, they would like to be able to go see a movie and not have to think about their political point of view.
What do you think has happened with Sean Penn. Sean Penn went to Iraq. And now, is he surprised that, even though he's got a good movie, that his tickets have got -- his whole program has gone in the toilet?
BEGALA: Shouldn't that be in his favor? In other words, I think it takes remarkable courage, for example
CULLUM: No. It doesn't take remarkable courage to go to Iraq at a time when our military is there.
BEGALA: Excuse me for talking while you're interrupting.
Charlton Heston was the president of the Screen Actors Guild. Charlton Heston was the president of the National Rifle Association. He knew, in taking a principled positions for his politics -- many of us disagree with it -- that he would lose some fans. Isn't that gusty? And isn't it gutsy for Sean Penn or Ben Affleck or anybody on the left to do the same thing?
CULLUM: Let me tell you about the hypocrisy. The hypocrisy is, if Sean Penn goes to Iraq, the Hollywood left loves him. If Brad and Jen go out there to Iraq, they love them. If the Dixie Chicks go crazy, the left loves them.
But if Arnold Schwarzenegger has the audacity to take up his political right to return for governor of California, they're the first ones that are spitting on him.
MASUR: That's not true.
MASUR: Excuse me. Not true. Hold on. Hold on.
CULLUM: That is true. That is true. That is true.
MASUR: First of all, Charlton Heston -- when I was president of the Screen Actors Guild, Charlton Heston and I, whose politics were as diametrically opposed as any could possibly be, had a very, very good working relationship, because I approached him with respect and he approached me with respect.
We agreed to disagree on things that we couldn't work on together. And the things that we could, we did very good work together on. I have defended him to everyone who will listen in terms of his politics.
CULLUM: You are one person.
MASUR: Wait a second. Wait a second. Let me just finish this.
In terms of Arnold Schwarzenegger, I hate what happened in the state of California because of the process, not because of Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming the governor of the state.
MASUR: Arnold Schwarzenegger has every bit as much -- every bit as much right to be the governor of that state as anyone else who put his hat in the ring and went through the process. And I applaud him for doing it.
CULLUM: And I've got to tell you, I'm proud of you for saying that, because, I will tell you, there are many of your contemporaries that didn't do that. And shame on them for not allowing him to have that ability. And good for you for standing up and saying he had the right to do it.
MASUR: But I think what you misunderstand is people objecting to the process of the recall, which, in my opinion, was one rich white guy buying the recall for another rich white guy to be able to buy the governorship.
CARLSON: I'm not sure what the race of the people involved has to do with anything. But let me ask you this.
CULLUM: That's really racist.
CARLSON: But let me ask you this question. I don't have a problem with people with different political views. I am annoyed, though, by the persistent strain of anti-Americanism one hears from certain members of the Hollywood left, not all, not even most, but some.
I'll give you two examples, quickly. Johnny Depp, Reuters, September 3, quoted: "America is dumb," said Johnny Depp. "It's like a dumb puppy that has big teeth that can bite and hurt you, aggressive. My daughter is 4, my boy 1. I'd like them to see America as a toy, a broken toy. Investigate it a bit, check it out, get this feeling, then get out."
Tom Cruise, June 27 -- quote -- "I think the U.S. is terrifying and it saddens me."
It does seem to me, those cross a line from just sort of political discourse you disagree with to something nasty and anti- American. You wouldn't defend that, would you?
MASUR: I absolutely defend them expressing their feelings about what's wrong with this country.
MASUR: Look, if there is something wrong with your car, if you want to get your car running right, you don't ask, what's right with my car? You say, what's wrong with my car?
MASUR: People who want to improve this country say, what's wrong with this country, not, oh, what's right with it?
CARLSON: Wait. Hold on. That's exactly the point. You're making my point for me. If there were specific points about what was wrong with America, I think we could discuss those, debate those. That's not these.
CARLSON: Hold on. These are blanket statements: I think America is terrifying. America is stupid.
That becomes anti-American.
MASUR: Tucker, you know how this works. That's what got printed. That's what got printed. That's not necessarily all either of them said.
MASUR: You know how this works better than I do. Little bits and pieces are lifted. And those are what are used. You cannot take those comments out of context. If we were talking about the president's comments, you would be screaming context, context, context.
CULLUM: Listen, I would tell you that I really think that Hollywood doesn't get it. I think that many people around this country
MASUR: OK, there's a blanket statement.
CULLUM: Excuse me. Well, thank you. Let me finish, because I let you say a lot.
I really think that Hollywood doesn't get. I think that they think that people haven't noticed for years that the military was always portrayed as kind of crazy, that they had always bad movies about military people.
BEGALA: Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan," which is
BEGALA: ... was made by a Hollywood liberals, Blanquita. Shame on you. No, ma'am. I'm calling baloney on that.
CULLUM: No, no, no. The last movie that Robert Redford made about the American castle, or whatever that was called, about the only good guys who were in the military were the ones in the prison.
CARLSON: I'm sorry. I'm going to have to cut this off and go to our commercial endorsements.
We're not quite ready to roll the closing credits on this debate. Ahead on "Rapid Fire," just what do presidential candidate John Edwards and actor Ashton Kutcher have in common?
And right after the break, Wolf Blitzer has the latest on whether the weather is going to will help California firefighters in their battle against the devastating wildfires.
We'll be right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
It's time for "Rapid Fire," the political question-and-answer session that goes by even faster than the Jennifer Aniston-Brad Pitt Mideast peace initiative. And that's fast.
We're debating political star power with former Screen Actors Guild president Richard Masur in New York and radio talk show host Blanquita Cullum here in California.
CULLUM: Thank you.
BEGALA: Blanquita, five words: Schwarzenegger policy adviser Rob Lowe?
CULLUM: Probably smarter than some of the guys that worked for your former president.
BEGALA: Name one.
CULLUM: Oh, OK. I don't think I should do that. You'll get mad.
CARLSON: That's right. This is "Rapid Fire." That could take a while.
Richard, Senator John Edwards, running a doomed campaign for president, had a fund-raiser the other day. Ashton Kutcher did not show up. Here's what Jennifer Palmieri, his spokesman said. The two have in common, they have best hair in their respective fields.
Do you think that Senator Edwards has the best hair of all candidates running for president?
BEGALA: OK. Dennis Miller failed on "Saturday Night Live," failed in the movies, failed on HBO, failed on "Monday Night Football." Good candidate for the Republicans for the Senate in California?
Because he won the hearts and minds of people, because he wasn't afraid to go out there and say what he thought, even though that a lot of left-wing comics were taking aim at him. He did it. And people like Dennis Miller. I like Dennis Miller. I think a lot of people out there like him.
CARLSON: Richard, I'll admit it. I like Jerry Springer, pretty nice guy, pretty smart, was thinking about running for Senate from Ohio. Democrats said nothing. Shouldn't they rise up and say: No, come on. We've got to have some standards. Jerry Springer, no, that's the threshold. No way?
MASUR: I think it's a little scary myself, yes.
CARLSON: Yes. Good. Thank you.
BEGALA: Blanquita, on this program, you've defended Arnold Schwarzenegger. You've defended Rob Lowe. You've defended Dennis Miller. Doesn't that prove my point that you really just hate liberal celebrities, not conservative celebrities?
CULLUM: Actually, I have defended you in periods of times, too.
CULLUM: I have. He was actually very nice to a group of kids that we brought to this studio.
BEGALA: Well, thank you.
CULLUM: So we don't have to always agree to not like each other.
CARLSON: Richard, quickly, you know a ton of actors, obviously. Who is the smartest, best-informed actor you know?
MASUR: The smartest, best-informed actor. CARLSON: Yes.
MASUR: You won't like my answer. Mike Farrell.
BEGALA: Amen. That's a great answer. I agree with that.
Thank you very much, Blanquita Cullum, syndicated radio talk show host, based here in our nation's capital.
BEGALA: And Richard Masur, up in New York City, former president of the Screen Actors Guild and big-time movie star.
Thank you very much, both.
BEGALA: Now, a lot of actors have gotten their start politically as president of the Screen Actors Guild, the way Richard was. We want to know, from our audience, which of these actors did not serve as the president of SAG? Was it Charlton Heston, Paul Newman or Ronald Reagan? We'll have the answer for you right after the break.
And then, in "Fireback," one of our viewers turns critic regarding the performances of one politically active entertainer. Stay with us.
CARLSON: Welcome back to have CROSSFIRE.
Time for "Fireback" and results of our audience quiz. But first, a clarification. Earlier in the show, we said that Senator John Edwards of North Carolina had the best hair in the Democratic field. That, of course, is not true. Al Sharpton does.
CARLSON: The question that we asked earlier, who was once president of the Screen Actors Guild? Was it Charlton Heston? Yes, said 14 percent -- who was never president. Charlton Heston, said 14 percent; 60 percent guessed Paul Newman. Ronald Reagan, said 26 percent; 60 percent were right. The majority rules, Paul Newman, never president.
BEGALA: Paul Newman, never president of SAG. There you go.
BEGALA: Time now to open the e-mail bag. And a lot of comments on celebrities going into politics. Here's one. I mentioned this guy before. Jan Mathers in Fort Worth, Texas, my home state: "Didn't like Dennis Miller on HBO. Didn't like Dennis Miller on 'Monday Night Football.' Don't like prospect of Dennis Miller in any political office."
CARLSON: Can't write a complete sentence.
BEGALA: Dennis Miller, he's not only a loser. He's sort of a cranky loser.
CARLSON: I think he's actually quite witty.
Barrie Richardson of Apsley, Canada, writes: "Can celebrities cure the world's ills? Oh, yes. Take 60 percent of them away from their shrinks and they become the world's ills. Let's bring in O.J. and Robert Blake and turn our law and order problems over to them. Or perhaps we could get Liza Minelli to address family values."
CARLSON: You know what? Because that letter is from Canada, he may be serious.
CARLSON: You know what I mean? You can never tell.
BEGALA: Well, listen, I do think we've shown that there's plenty of celebrities on the right who don't get any grief from the right. And to be a Republican truly is to be a hypocrite.
CARLSON: Well, they do from me. They do from me. I mean, I don't know.
BEGALA: Well, from the left, I'm Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.
CARLSON: Well, and from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.
Join us again tomorrow, Friday, for another edition of CROSSFIRE.
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