What Does Hollywood Have Against George W. Bush?
Aired March 23, 2001 - 7:30 p.m. ET
BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight, Julia Roberts says he's embarrassing. Martin Sheen says he's a moron. Cher says he's lazy. He's the president of the United States. Why are so many Hollywood stars bashing him?
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE.
On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Robert Novak.
In the CROSSFIRE: In Los Angeles, actor and producer, Whoopi Goldberg, and in Sacramento, California, actor, Robert Conrad.
PRESS: Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Sunday night, Hollywood's power elite gather to honor this year's best. But even if he were nominated, there'd be no Oscar for President Bush.
True, he does have a few lonely supporters in Tinseltown, like Charlton Heston, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and tonight's guest, Robert Conrad. But most big-screen stars don't even try to hide their dislike, quote, "George W. Bush is like a bad comic working the crowd. A moron if you'll pardon the expression," seethed Martin Sheen, who plays the president on television.
Hollywood misses Bill Clinton so much, they're even bringing him back on April 1st to get his own Oscar, the "highest honor of merit award" from tonight's other guest, Whoopi Goldberg. So, why the love affair for Bill Clinton? Why the cold shoulder for George Bush? Does either one deserve it?
Sitting in on the right tonight, as guest cohost, syndicated columnist and radio talk show host, Armstrong Williams.
Armstrong, good to have you back.
Mr. Conrad, welcome to CROSSFIRE, thanks for joining us. Let me start with you, if I may.
ROBERT CONRAD, ACTOR: Sure, Bill. Thank you. It's a pleasure.
PRESS: Good to see you.
CONRAD: Thank you.
PRESS: You know, actors, of course, are good at giving off good lines. I mean, that's kind of their job, so sometimes they say things in a colorful way, but it could also be the truth.
I'd like to play for you a little quote from Rob Reiner. It's a campaign rally last October in Chicago. Here's actor and producer Rob Reiner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROB REINER, ACTOR AND PRODUCER: We have the single most unqualified man running for president in our lifetime.
I'm not making this up! I'm not making this up! The man has no experience, and worse than that, he has no intellectual curiosity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PRESS: Now, Mr. Conrad, hurts, but true, isn't it?
CONRAD: Oh, no. Come on, Bill. Listen, even you know that isn't true. A staunch Democrat for all of your life, working here, out of Sacramento. First of all, the man is a graduate of Yale, bachelor's. He's got a master's degree from Harvard. He flies an F- 102. Now I didn't have the good fortune to go to either Yale or Harvard.
But I do have a what's called an IFR rating. That's an Instrument Flight Rating, and believe me, it has abut a 50 or 60 percent first-time failure rate. And if this man has his IFR ticket, and can fly an F-102, I think that's an unfortunate remark by Rob Reiner, I really do. I think it's unkind, and I know it was unnecessary, and more importantly, Bill, it's untrue.
PRESS: But when you look at his government experience, he was never in Congress, he was never in the Senate, he was never in the state legislature. He says, by his own admission, he wasted his first 40 years, and he was five-time, five years as a part-time governor of Texas. I mean, that doesn't really get you ready for the Oval Office, does it?
CONRAD: Hey, Bill, don't say part-time. You know, don't do that with me. Save that, you know, for other people. He was a full-time. He got 62 or 3 or 8 percent of the vote the second time he ran. I mean, don't go there with me, with that, please. His father was president of the United States. He certainly had some knowledge about how the government runs.
How much, how much, what was the political background of Dwight D. Eisenhower? You want to share that with me? He graduated from West Point, and he spent his life in the military, Bill, come on.
PRESS: I would call him a qualified and a proven leader, Mr. Conrad -- Armstrong.
CONRAD: Thank you.
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, GUEST CO-HOST: Mr. Conrad.
CONRAD: Yes, sir.
WILLIAMS: Why the demonization of conservatives? Are -- is Hollywood, many of them, are they afraid of morality, are they afraid of standards?
CONRAD: Well, you know, Armstrong, first of all, Press is senior to you on this show, and you have been sandbagged, because Whoopi Goldberg is one of the most charming women in film.
She supports children's -- AIDS, homeless. This is a perfect speaker to defend what is probably poor taste. Because you have no right to call a man a moron. Now I know Emilio Estevez. They lived, my daughter and Emilio were neighbors, he's a good kid.
Martin Sheen should look up in the dictionary what moron means. It means a person with a mental problem. You don't have the right to say that about the president of the United States -- any president. Whether it be -- let me finish, please -- whether it be Bill Clinton or George Bush or anyone. It's just an unkind remark.
WILLIAMS: Does it bother you, though, that Hollywood seems to embrace former President Bill Clinton without giving thought to the past eight years, the Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, every kind of "gate" you can think of -- let me just complete this -- but yet, they can take someone like a President Bush, who really has no track record, he's been in office for less than three months, and yet they can condemn him and banish him without any thought. Is there some kind of contradiction here?
CONRAD: No,I think there's a pendulum. I mean, John Wayne was a staunch Republican. Sinatra joined the Republican Party after he fell out with JFK, Sammy Davis, Jr. hugged President Nixon. Elvis Presley was a part of the -- supported President - it's a pendulum.
I think the problem that we're having is you don't need to call a president, any president, those kinds of names. Furthermore, you should read all of what Julia Roberts said, Bill, not just that small portion, and also, Whoopi, you are way too young to be called a legend. And my family loves you, and you were the best thing ever on the Academy awards.
PRESS: Whoopi is joining us very shortly. We know she's right, just about to sit down there in the studio. But while we're waiting for her, Mr. Conrad...
CONRAD: You're stuck with me.
PRESS: We're glad to be -- proud to be.
CONRAD: Thank you.
PRESS: One more question, though. I wonder whether what's behind some of the bashing of Republicans, including George W. Bush, by some people in Hollywood is because, so often, Republicans are bashing Hollywood. And we know Bob Dole did it in 1996. Last year, in the presidential campaign, here is just a quick quote from one of the candidates, Gary Bauer, in the Republican primary who said, last April, quote, "In the America I want, those Hollywood producers and directors, they won't be able to show their faces in public, because you and every other American would point to them and say: Shame! Shame! Shame!"
Aren't you getting tired of being lumped in with this Hollywood bashing, yourself?
CONRAD: No, I mean, I'm the kind of man who can take care of himself. I'm a producer-director, and also an actor. I'm in the Director's Guild, I'm in the Screen Actor's Guild, I'm in the American Federation, one I assume that you're in. And Gary doesn't speak for everyone. I mean, the fact that I'm a Republican doesn't mean I support all of the Republican platform.
I support the philosophy. I say, say our policy is moronic, that a man who's worked all his life, 50 years, I am a senior citizen on Social Security, should have his estate taxed when he dies. I've already paid the government 50 percent -- wait a minute, let me finish -- the state 10, the Fed's 40 and now you want to take 55 percent when I die. Say that's moronic, but don't call a person moronic.
PRESS: But in terms of the Hollywood bashing. This is what I was going to ask you quickly -- in fact, real quick, we're going to take a break and come back with you and Whoopi Goldberg here, in the CROSSFIRE.
And when we come back, more on Hollywood, and we'll even get the predictions of Whoopi Goldberg and Robert Conrad on best actor, best actress and best picture. We'll be right back.
WILLIAMS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. I'm Armstrong Williams, sitting in on the right.
Tonight's discussion: why does Hollywood have such a visceral attitude toward President Bush, when over the last eight years, Bill Clinton could seemingly do no wrong?
Joining us to talk about Hollywood and politics: in Los Angeles, actor and producer Whoopi Goldberg.
And in Sacramento, California, actor Robert Conrad.
Miss Goldberg, I'd like to read a quote to you.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, ACTOR/PRODUCER: Armstrong, could you just call me "Whoopi" first?
WILLIAMS: Yes, ma'am, I can.
GOLDBERG: Thank you.
Whoopi, this is a quote from Miss Julia Roberts.
"The man's embarrassing. He's not my president and never will be, either. Republicans come in the dictionary just after reptile, and just above repugnant." Julia Roberts.
What about that statement, Miss Goldberg, and the statement by Mr. Sheen, referring to the president at that time as a moron, and the statements by Cher and others? It seems as though -- that these actors and actresses are acting as though they're on the civil screen, and not the screen of civil society.
How are we, as Americans, to interpret this behavior?
GOLDBERG: Well, you know, as Americans, I believe people still have freedom of speech. And nobody is going to ever say that you're going to find everyone liking every president, you know? It's 110 days into Mr. Bush's "reign," if you will, and he's made some pretty rude moves as far as I'm concerned. But you know, I can't speak for Julia Roberts and can't speak for anybody else whose quotes you're going to read.
What I will tell you is I think he's on a track that I'm not comfortable with. And you know, actors have always been involved with politics. I mean, everyone talks about the Reagan era. Well, he was an actor first. So you shouldn't be surprised that there are some conversations to be had amongst people about their likes and dislikes.
WILLIAMS: What rude moves has this man made? What makes you uncomfortable?
GOLDBERG: Well, I don't like the fact that it's OK to raise the level of arsenic in my water. That makes me a little uncomfortable. I'm not sure I like the fact that the American Bar Association is no longer going to be part of the judicial process, in terms of choosing some of the judges. There is just some things that make me uncomfortable.
Should I call you "Mister" or could I call you "Armstrong"? What should I do?
WILLIAMS: Whatever makes you feel good.
GOLDBERG: OK, Arm.
WILLIAMS: OK, there are some things you don't like about...
WILLIAMS: ... say, this administration. There are some things that America is wondering about as a relation to Hollywood. Why should we take you serious? Many of the movies and the films that come out does not empower children, does not give them a deeper meaning to life. They do not help parents do a good job of raising their kids, they do not promote social redeeming value. Why should we, in the first place, even take Hollywood serious? GOLDBERG: Well, first of all, Armstrong, let me point something out too. "Sesame Street" is part of the Hollywood that you guys are always talking about. There are a lot of things that we do put out that are great, and there are some things that we need to work on.
But in terms of taking us seriously, as I said, you took President Reagan seriously, and I don't see the difference between his experience, in terms of how he saw the world, and any other actor. I mean, we're people before we're actors, and people who are moved by some of the things that going on in the world that make us want to speak out. And one of the reasons people want to hear from us is because people like you invite people like Bob and I to your show to talk about it.
PRESS: All right!
GOLDBERG: So you shouldn't be surprised...
GOLDBERG: ... that people are interested, because you help promote that. And there are a lot of good things, as I said, that we do do in Hollywood. And, you know, comic relief is something that lots of people got behind, and it had nothing to do with partisan politics. And there's a lot of things that we are working on.
PRESS: Hey, Robert Conrad, I want to pick up there with you, because...
CONRAD: Sure. Hi, Whoopi.
GOLDBERG: Hi, Robert.
CONRAD: I'm glad you showed up, girl.
GOLDBERG: Thank you, honey. You know, it's not easy getting around L.A. these days.
CONRAD: I know, I know.
Anyway, go ahead, Bill. What's up?
PRESS: All right, let me...
CONRAD: Armstrong, I didn't particularly -- let me -- I didn't particularly like that inquiry to Whoopi. Let's talk about civility. I mean, let's not play the blame game with Hollywood, now. Go ahead.
I don't need Hollywood to raise my kids. I've raised them by myself and with the help of a beautiful woman. Go ahead, sir.
PRESS: All right. I'd like to talk -- pick up on the civility, because it seems to me that -- and Whoopi just referred to it -- that, bottom line, you, Whoopi, I mean, all the big producers, Spielberg, all the rest, are Americans. And I think, like any Americans, they honor, they respect the president, no matter who he happens to be.
But I think the president also has to reach out. You know, George Bush had an economic summit down in Austin right after he was elected. He did not invite one member of the entertainment industry.
I guess my question to you is, don't you think that, if George Bush came out to Hollywood, he'd get a good reception, wouldn't he?
CONRAD: Well, Mrs. Bush was in Hollywood yesterday. and I understand Laura got a great reception. But let me...
PRESS: Yeah. He's got to reach out. is my point, right?
CONRAD: Well, I don't know. Let me just say this.
Whoopi and I are across the aisle, but when I'm talking about civility, what she said was her opinion politically, and I respect her for that. And what I'm trying to say is I know that she respects my opinion, not necessarily my politics.
But we're not talking about Whoopi and Robert Conrad. We're talking about a man being called a moron. Now, if he went down to Odessa or to Midland, Texas -- I did a rodeo down there -- you don't call men "morons." There's a lot of bad words that we don't use that people are sensitive to. And how dare anyone call anybody, particularly the president of the United States, a moron?
PRESS: Before we get back to Whoopi, we've got a break.
Let's just ask you one question, because there is this connection between Hollywood and politics, as Whoopi pointed out, that has always been there. We think, of course, about Ronald Reagan, and they made fun of him when they said an actor is going to run for governor, and look where he ended up.
There's a lot of talk now, Mr. Conrad, in California, about you. Republicans need a candidate for governor in the year 2002. Looks like Arnie Schwarzenegger is saying: Maybe I don't want to do it. And says I don't want to do it. And the rumors are the Republican party is turning to you. I want to ask you: Will you be a candidate for governor in the year 2002?
CONRAD: No. I would have been, Bill, but the energy crisis has pretty much sunk him anyway. So, you know, you could come back, and -- I don't think you could -- Armstrong, you could win.
WILLIAMS: Miss Goldberg.
GOLDBERG: Yes. We're back to Miss Goldberg, are we?
GOLDBERG: Armstrong, I don't know what to say to you, honey. What? WILLIAMS: Just help me. Help me.
WILLIAMS: Would you concede that Hollywood has a political -- an agenda that falls along political lines?
GOLDBERG: Would I concede that what? Say it again? I'm sorry.
WILLIAMS: That Hollywood has a political agenda that falls along political lines?
GOLDBERG: No, I don't think we're that organized, Armstrong.
GOLDBERG: I don't think we're that organized. I just think that one of the things that's's happened, because Bob brought this up, and I think it's very important. Civility is important, and one of the things that I've noticed is that there seems to be some nasty connotation to being a "Hollywood Liberal," or a "Hollywood Republican."
I just think there are ways that we can work together. There are a lot of things that I'm going to disagree with, a lot of things you're going to disagree with. And, Bill, I'm not sure that Mr. Bush coming to Hollywood is really going to do much. I think it really has to do with where he takes the country from now on.
Because the bottom line is: if we're not on a -- on some sort of even keel with the things that we like and the things that we don't like, it's not going to be pleasant. And you realize that all comics -- as you know, Mr. Clinton took a lot of heat from the comedy community.
GOLDBERG: I don't think Mr. Bush is going to get away any easier than Bill Clinton did.
WILLIAMS: I want to pick it back up on something that Mr. Conrad said earlier. He said he does not need Hollywood to raise his kids. That may be the case in his family, but Hollywood does have an impact on children and their lives in the larger society.
And I think you and I can find common ground that we both can agree that Hollywood does have an impact on this society, and they should be responsible and accountable for what they produce.
GOLDBERG: Well, as I said to you earlier, I will point to things like "Sesame Street", I will point to things like "Noggin," I will point to "Nick At Nite." There are a lot of good things out there for families to watch.
I also think accountability per family. As Mr. Conrad pointed out, it's about raising your children, and you have to put some of that accountability on families. But as I said earlier, there are things that Hollywood does have to work on. We do have some responsibility in this.
But, you know, you can't put it all on us. We're a weakened country from within, not from without. We're all sort of battling, trying to find that common ground.
PRESS: Robert Conrad, I hear you're saying loud and clear that you applaud those who are involved in -- who speak out on political issues, even those in the Hollywood community, as long as they do so with civil discourse, and not calling people names. If I understand you clearly?
CONRAD: You understand me perfectly. And I'm not of the personality where I'm going to be complimentary to Whoopi because it's appropriate. This is a woman who says exactly what she says, and I applaud it, and I applaud it. But what I don't applaud, Bill, is the nastiness. I don't understand it.
PRESS: Exactly. I hear you say that. So my follow-up, then, is: aren't we, in fact, in the media and in this country, maybe, paying too much attention to what Hollywood stars say? Because in the end, most Americans are not going to make their political decisions based on what Whoopi Goldberg or Robert Conrad say about George Bush or Bill Clinton or anybody else, are they?
CONRAD: No, they are. You're wrong, Bill. You're completely wrong,
GOLDBERG: Yeah, you are wrong, Bill.
CONRAD: There are 98,000 actors in the screen actor's guild. I was across the street from where I am now because I arrived early. I spoke to a woman -- she was African, not African-American. I was under the impression she was African. There was another woman who was Asian, and they were both in this restaurant. And as a query, I said, "I'm going to see Whoopi Goldberg, I'm a big fan of hers. It's going to be very difficult to be challenging what she has to say." And I said I was Republican, they didn't recognize me, and the one woman was almost vicious -- almost vicious.
And -- let me finish, please. And then she recognized me and we all hugged each other, and she said, "I love you so much! I love you and I loved 'Wild Wild West' and Will Smith will never be you."
And I went, "Whoa, where did it go?"
PRESS: All right, well, we love you both. Now, before -- I want to get you both up on the screen. But before we get away here, the big decision coming up Sunday night -- I know you're both members of the Academy, so we'd like to get your picks for Best Movie, Best Actor, and Best Actress.
Whoopi, start -- let's start with you, Whoopi.,
GOLDBERG: Everybody and everything. I cannot make those kind of predictions, Bill.
PRESS: Who's your pick?
GOLDBERG: I can't do it, and I'll tell you why. It would be, I think, disheartening to the other folks who are nominated. So I'd rather not.
PRESS: Robert Conrad, you want to stick your neck out?
CONRAD: My former neighbor, and I hope he wins, and I voted for him. His name's Clark Gable for "Gone With the Wind."
PRESS: We admire the courage of both of you, sticking your necks out on Sunday night.
But especially, we admire your courage for coming onto CROSSFIRE. We thank you, very, very much.
GOLDBERG: Thank you.
PRESS: Look forward to seeing you both many, many more times.
CONRAD: Love you, Whoopi.
GOLDBERG: Love you, too. See you soon.
CONRAD: Thank you, babe.
PRESS: Enough of the love affair.
The love affair between Armstrong Williams and Bill Press continues as we give our take on the movies and our closing comments, coming up.
WILLIAMS: Bill, isn't it just that liberals are more licentious and conservatives are more responsible and accountable for the messages they promote?
PRESS: No, most of the conservatives I know are pretty licentious people, to tell the truth. No, it's not that at all, Conrad.
WILLIAMS: Conrad? Am I Conrad now? Oh, you are really confused.
PRESS: Well, I'm not going to call you "honey," the way Whoopi did. WILLIAMS: I hope not.
PRESS: You know what this is? You know what you're hearing from the left?
What you're hearing is professional criticism. What they see in the White House is a B actor, a bad actor in a role he's not ready for. It's like taking a guy from summer stock and putting him on Broadway. He's not ready. That's why they criticize that.
WILLIAMS: You know, I don't know how you can even say that with a straight face. Call this man a B -- well, if he's a B actor, then what was Clinton? Minus F?
PRESS: Clinton was one of the best actors and one of the best...
WILLIAMS: And that's all he ever did was act, until he was out with Monica Lewinsky, and he could not get (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to come forward with the truth.
PRESS: You see a man who's just over his head, Armstrong.
WILLIAM: Let the truth be told. Yeah, defend him. That's all you can do, but you better give up that job. Give up job.
PRESS: I enjoy it too much. I'm not giving it up.
From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE. I'll see you later in THE SPIN ROOM.
WILLIAMS: From the right, I'm Armstrong Williams. Join us again Monday for another edition of CROSSFIRE.