Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hillary Vs. Hollywood

By Chuck Browder

If anyone cares to notice, outside of the beltway there is a media blackout on the presidential primary. Due to the ongoing writers’ strike, programs like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, Saturday Night Live and the three late-night staples – Leno, Letterman and Conan O’Brian - are all in reruns. Real Time With Bill Maher, after canceling the season finale due to the strike, is on a planned break. Whether production of any of these shows resumes soon, depends on the strike’s outcome. The dead air left behind has created a vacuum which even cable news cannot hope to fill. It seems their programming is tuned in only to the political junkie demographic, so the majority of the electorate outside of New Hampshire and Iowa isn’t paying attention to a race now coming into its final stretch. And no one is drawing their attention to it, while time just ticks by and the primaries get closer. With all of this said, who benefits? Hillary Clinton is the assumed front-runner right now, and so Hillary is the last candidate who should benefit from losing media coverage. But she does. Big time.

Let’s reflect back to several months ago, when DreamWorks Pictures executive David Geffen held a multi-million dollar fundraiser for Senator Barack Obama. On the surface it may have seemed innocuous, except for the fact Geffen historically had done fundraising only for ex-President Bill Clinton. Geffen reportedly told NY Times author Maureen Dowd,

“Not since the Vietnam War has there been this level of disappointment in the behavior of America throughout the world, and I don't think that another incredibly polarizing figure, no matter how smart she is and no matter how ambitious she is -- and God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton? -- can bring the country together.”

In regards to the Republicans and Bill Clinton as a liability, Geffen commented,

“I don't think anybody believes that in the last six years, all of a sudden Bill Clinton has become a different person, I think they believe she's the easiest to defeat."

This was the first of several rejections Hillary has received from Hollywood over the past several months.

More recently, Obama received a key endorsement from Oprah Winfrey, who has now announced she will actively campaign with him. So with Oprah throwing the Obama card, this could potentially create a gender gap for Hillary with women, compounding the gap that already exists for her with men. To combat the Oprah endorsement, Hillary pulled out the big guns and garnered the endorsement of long-time Clinton compatriot, and on-again-off-again retiree, Barbra Streisand. Admittedly, Babs has a limited demographic appeal. She’s just preaching to Hillary’s choir.

So Hollywood isn’t for Hillary. Right wing pundits would tell you this is because Hollywood is so radically left and anti-war and out of touch. The truth is, who could blame Hollywood for not supporting her? For starters, she has not had much to say on the subject of the writers’ strike. This is in stark contrast to her opponent, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, who Hillary all but accused of being a Republican shill in the last debate. And to Edwards’s credit, he was on the picket lines recently with the striking writers, addressing their interests in person, bullhorn and all.

But the animosity towards Hillary from Hollywood travels deeper than the current strike. She has made a career of turning marginal and insignificant issues into red meat for her soccer mom demographic, who she is counting on to nominate her. First case in point, Hillary, along with Senator Joe Lieberman, introduced the Media Marketing Accountability Act of 2001, which mandated the Federal Trade Commission to go after record companies for selling rock and rap records to kids under 17 years old. They insisted they just wanted to put "ratings" on CD covers, but what was really at work behind the scenes was a plan to make it a criminal act to sell Eminem and "the vile, hateful and nihilistic" Marilyn Manson to kids. As a result Warner Brothers dropped Eminem as an artist from their label, and Hillary was handed a hollow victory.

Second, the federal investigation Hillary sought against the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which she referred to as “a silent epidemic”. She asked for the FTC to probe how users of the game can access "graphic pornographic and violent content" for the [mature rated] game from the Internet, what was known as the ‘Hot Coffee’ mod. As for proof of the red meat for soccer moms, you only have to read Hillary’s open letter to FTC chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras where she said it’s time the federal government steps in: "There is no doubting the fact that the widespread availability of sexually explicit and graphically violent video games makes the challenge of parenting much harder." As a result of this political tripe, Rockstar Games, the studio that released GTA: San Andreas, pulled the remaining product from the shelves and re-released the game several months later without the controversial content.

So why is it, you may ask, that Hollywood is no friend to Hillary Clinton? For a “liberal,” she sure likes that censorship stuff. But there are more ways Hillary can alienate Hollywood. Look at her treatment IN media compared to the above treatment OF media. During the recent debate on CNN (which, of course, we all know stands for Clinton News Network), moderators Wolf Blitzer and Campbell Brown lobbed softball question after softball question at Hillary, allowing her to answer in vague generalities with little or no follow up on specifics. But this was far from the worst in the CNN debate. The audience in Nevada clearly was stacked with Clinton supporters. Senators Barack Obama and Dennis Kucinich were interrupted several times by boos and shouts. As soon as Senator Edwards began to raise legitimate questions about Hillary’s baggage as a candidate, he was also shouted down with boos. This happened to Edwards several more times throughout the debate. He finally backed down after Hillary responded to his criticisms, accusing Edwards of “mud-slinging” and using talking points right out of the Republicans’ playbook. (Maybe Edwards should have accused her of taking a play out of Tipper Gore’s PMRC [Parents Music Recording Center] playbook, or asked her about other valid serious issues regarding her record and some pre-White House business dealings no one dares to press. But throwing Webb Hubble in her face would have been dirty, and Edwards wasn’t playing that game.)

Does this sound familiar? Harkens back to the days of her accusations of a “vast right wing conspiracy” against her and her husband during his administration. This woman is more paranoid than Richard Nixon and twice as calculating. To make this whole futile exercise in discourse extra special, former President Clinton advisor David Gergen and current Hillary Clinton advisor James Carville were on CNN after the debate to provide post-debate analysis - calling it in her favor, of course - making this debate one of the all-time lows in American political discourse.

And what recourse is there when Jon Stewart couldn’t say a word? How do we put it in perspective without Jay Leno’s line dancers lambasting Wolf Blitzer and Amy Poehler’s Holiday Hillary impressions to bring her back down to size? Seriously. Geffen is right, the Republicans want to run against Hillary. CNN is doing its best to help her and the other networks have all but declared her the winner. Without late-night comedy, there is no voice of reason left.

So what should Hollywood take from all of this? Quite simply, get back to work. I don’t believe for a minute that Hollywood will treat Hillary any better than Dubya. Do you honestly believe that Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, or the writers at Saturday Night Live will give Hillary a free pass? I don’t. Did her husband get a pass when it came to busting the president’s chops? Hardly. So unless you want her as your nominee, you need to get back to work and fill the void in the media’s coverage of this primary you left when this strike occurred. Unless you want all of your content regulated through the FTC, or to go through a Congressional sub-committee for a new content and ratings system, go work it out and get back to work. If you do nothing, cable news will elect her, and you will have no one to blame but yourselves.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fred Thompson’s Song and Dance

by Chuck Browder

The thought occurred to me shortly after watching Brit Hume lead off with a question about former Senator Fred Thompson at the top of the last Fox News debate. All of this fervor on the right concerning Thompson’s late to the game campaign feels a little like déjà vu. Remember about this time four years ago, during another campaign and within another party? Yes I’m speaking of former General Wesley Clark’s late entry into the 2004 Democratic primary. For months Clark was coy about his ambition to run for the Democratic nomination, while party-surrogate 527’s launched advertising in an attempt to promote him.

Clark, who currently is rumored to be on Hillary Clinton’s short list for VP, fed red meat to Democrats with lines regarding the war like "Are we safer after all of this?" and "When ought the United States use force?” andI was either going to be the loneliest Republican in America, or I was going to be a happy Democrat." Yet Clark’s late entry into the race never caught fire and his presence in the race only served to detract from the more established candidates. Four years later, Redux: former Senator Fred Thompson’s Campaign.

To Thompson’s credit, he was candid early on with interviewers about his intentions to run for the Republican nomination. Yet, when it came time to file papers with the Federal Election Commission to officially enter the race, he held off on until after the September 5th New Hampshire Fox News Debate. One might surmise from this maneuver that Thompson’s camp realized he would not live up to expectations in the debate. Rather than disappoint Republicans, he could continue to garner free exposure from the syndicated airings of Law and Order, since the episodes in which he appears would be pulled as soon as he filed with the FEC. By the end of the fundraising quarter, Thompson had only reported 3.5 million in campaign contributions, which is roughly the same amount his opponent, fellow Republican Congressman Ron Paul, raised in the same period of time.

Despite his ‘Freddy come lately’ approach to the primary (which is sure to alienate the early New Hampshire and Iowa voters) and his lack luster fundraising, Thompson is still riding high in the polls nationally. Most polls have him competing well with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. However, Thompson does not poll highly in early primary states where former Governor Mitt Romney has a sizeable lead, nor does he do well against top tier Democrats nationally and in the South, which could hamper further fundraising. These money concerns, coupled with his disregard of prepared speeches, his wife’s meddling with his campaign staff, and the lack of a real platform should hurt his campaign. It has not, yet. This is due to the immense amount of red meat he throws to the base of the Republican right on issues like same-sex marriage, immigration, gun rights, right to life, and intelligent design. These are issues, which as the basis of a campaign like Representative Tom Tancredo’s, can turn an outspoken candidate into a lightning rod - marginalized and therefore ineligible to be on the ticket in 2008.

Thompson is arguably the least substantive of the top tier candidates and he snubbed the N.H. Fox News debate, but these current troubles may not compare to his history of problems when all things are said and done. He has a long and sordid past, dating back to his position as co-chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee in its investigation of President Nixon. He admits he leaked information to the Nixon White House during the height of the investigation, tipping off Nixon's attorney that the committee was aware of the president's secret tapping device, and would be making the information public.

Thompson’s ‘Fred Heads’ may be appropriately named for a ‘lazy like a fox’ candidate who spent eight years in the senate, failing to author or sponsor a single piece of legislation. He served this odd eight-year term as a U.S. senator by filling the last of Al Gore's term and then one of his own, but he left to pursue his career as a supporting actor because he thought the political realm was too dirty. Since then, the right has accused Thompson of pro-choice lobbying and using his own political action committee to benefit his son. He also married Republican consultant Jeri Kehn, of whom much has been written regarding her being twenty-five years his junior. Just because he calls himself a consistent conservative does not make it true. Ronald Reagan, he is not.

Two factors concerning Fred Thompson and his presidential aspirations that are rarely covered are his health and his involvement leading up to the Iraq war in 2003. Thompson has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and while it is considered indolent, or the lowest grade of the chronic disease, this is a topic worthy of consideration for someone seeking the presidency. In the latter case it would be an understatement to say that there has been a lack of recall concerning the advertisement Thompson did for the Citizens United Foundation. In the ad, Thompson performed a 30-second sales job on the Iraq war for the Bush administration, speaking of a Saddam with nuclear weapons and making an analogy between Hussein and Al-Qaeda, subtly insinuating a connection between the two. This ad is largely responsible for the public misconception that still prevails today: Saddam Hussein had something to do with the attacks on September 11, 2001. In the ad, Thompson says

“. . . And when people ask What has Saddam done to us? I ask

What had the 9/11 hijackers done to us – before 9/11? ”

The answer to Fred’s question is simple: the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the simultaneous bombs in 1998 at the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the Cole bombing in 2000. The ad’s premise and reasoning are faulty, as Hussein violated the no-fly zone continually for 12 years, with no American casualties. Thompson’s intellectual dishonesty and mediocre acting skills helped the Bush administration push a hasty authorization through Congress and convince the American people that a pre-emptive war was the only route.

Thompson, who is known best for his role as D.A. Arthur Branch on Law and Order, has made himself an image of a down-home, southern conservative who campaigns out of the bed of his red pickup truck. He may not be the next Ronald Reagan, but he still may be competitive. Even if he blew off Brit Hume to schmooze it up in southern California with Jay Leno, even if he was late to the game and not ready for primetime, and even if he is just another do-nothing legislator, he may still have a chance in this field. When you’re running against a Baptist preacher, a cross-dresser, a Mormon, an OB/Gyn, a P.O.W. and a couple of xenophobes, anything can happen. Remember the Gray Davis recall and California gubernatorial race in ‘03, or has everyone already forgotten?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

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