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Celebrities and Politics: Bad Bedfellows

By Rachel Marsden


Here we go again. Yet another celebrity has gone and stuffed her Manolo Blahnik-clad foot into her perfectly painted mouth. And it just serves as one more example of why Hollywood and intelligent politics make poor bedfellows.

Academy Award-winning actress, Susan Sarandon, used a recent public appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the UK to offer up a few brain-droppings on the topic of the September 11th attacks on her country. She said that the upshot of the terrorist attacks is that the US now has something in common with other countries that have experienced terrorism. "We've joined the rest of the world now," she said. "You're so lucky in Ireland, England and Spain. Everyone there already knows what it's like to have inexplicable terrorist violence."

If Sarandon really feels she's missing out on some good terrorist hits, maybe she'd like to take a trip to the Middle East? Not a chance. Speaking out of the other side of her mouth, Sarandon says, "I do work for UNICEF, but I don't know if I want to go to the Middle East. It's so violent, and I've got a family."

To be fair, Sarandon isn't the only celebrity to have made a fool of herself by launching herself into the political ring. Last year, singer/actor/director Barbra Streisand--a longtime Clinton friend and renowned Democratic backer--fired off a scathing letter to leading Democrats inside the Beltway, calling on them to start fighting the "destructive" Bush administration. "Look at his ratings," she ranted. "How could such a destructive man be so popular with the American people?" She went on to write, "We have a president who stole the presidency through family ties, arrogance and intimidation."

No, Babs, what we have is actually a very competent, level-headed, respected president who won the election fair and square--no matter how many ways you try to tally up the Florida votes. And surely it must kill her to see Bush's ratings continue to soar. In fact, the phenomenon seems to have rattled Streisand so much that she is set to come out of retirement next month, at the request of Dick Gephardt, Democratic minority leader of the House of Representatives. She's slated to give a $500-a-ticket concert to raise funds in support of the Democrats' bid to win the House in the November mid-term elections. Sounds like Babs really wants her bedroom back.

Politically-driven celebrity tantrums are fairly commonplace. Even before George W. Bush took office, Director Robert Altman announced that he would move to France if Bush was elected president. The perpetually whining Alec Baldwin threatened to leave the US as well. Unfortunately, he's still here--and still whining as much as ever. In fact, he was back at it again in Tallahassee, Florida, in March: "You can tell Governor [Jeb] Bush to rest assured that I'm not going to leave the country because we have to get him out of office," Baldwin bellowed, "and we have to get his brother out of office in 2004. We're not resting until we get that done." Well then, unfortunately, Alec, I guess none of us will be resting either with all your incessant complaining.

How can these Hollywood types not realize how foolish they appear when they step miles out of their league and start delving into issues they clearly don't know much about? For a group of people who are supposedly highly adept at gauging "audience reaction", they seem to be immune to the "cringe factor" that kicks in when an actress like The Practice's Camryn Manheim, upon accepting her Golden Globe Award, yells, "I want to share this with every single senator who votes to dismiss the case tomorrow." She was, of course, referring to Independent Counsel Ken Starr's case against Bill Clinton. An award show to honor excellence in acting? Yes. An appropriate venue for spewing partisan political venom to a captive worldwide audience? No.

Singer Mariah Carrey's inadvertent attempt at socio-political commentary engages the same kind of gag reflex: "Whenever I watch TV and see those poor, starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean, I would love to be that skinny, but not with all those flies and death and stuff."

Having seen the newly-released list of "sleepover guests" at the Bush White House for the period of January to May, 2002, it appears that the current President has the right idea. The list is a veritable snorefest, with no high-powered celebrities to speak of. Judging from recent comments and actions, these Hollywood types should be the last people any politician with honor and integrity should be cozying up to.

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