It’s all but official. Hollywood actor Warren Beatty may have hedged his bets somewhat in a New York Times op-ed last Sunday, but he already has a presidential campaign website, which is this column’s fin de siècle measure of candidatehood, be it virtual or actual.
Leaving aside the question of why certain individuals with no electoral experience (Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, et al.) feel qualified to begin their political careers by vaulting to the highest office in the land, we thought we would take a quick look at Jay Billington Bulworth’s environmental record. If there is one.
Presumably, Beatty, who hopes to rekindle the surefooted liberalism of Robert F. Kennedy (whom he once advised), would be the greenest of greens, perhaps in the mold of another left-liberal screen icon famous for his tasty organic popcorn, pasta sauces, and stellar education (Paul Newman graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio, as did this columnist).
Clearly, if you view the movie Bulworth as a campaign manifesto (and you should), Beatty is most passionate about one thing: the corrosive influence of money in politics. (Shocking but true!) All campaigns should be 100 percent publicly funded, Beatty argues. This idea, should it be turned into actual policy, would have tremendous implications for every interest group, enviros high among them. Candidates and parties no longer dependent on industry money would be far more likely to pursue environmental policies that industries find abhorrent.
But leaving that larger issue aside, what, if anything, has Beatty done on specific green issues? The answer appears to be not much. His name is not associated with any particular enviro cause and a handful of activists and California political-media types interviewed were hard-pressed to come up with anything Beatty has done, other than work effectively as a behind-the-scenes operator for liberal, pro-environment Democrats like George McGovern.
Other green celebs come more easily to mind. Robert Redford on western land issues, Bette Midler on New York City community gardens, Ted Danson on oceans, Ed Begley Jr. on electric cars. Beatty? Most people draw a blank.
So one must look deeper into his film oeuvre. Specifically, to the 1978 film Heaven Can Wait, about a snafu at the pearly gates that sends a dead football player back to earth in the body of a slimy corporate executive, for which Beatty picked up Academy Award nominations for best actor, best director, and best adapted screen play. The reincarnated character, Leo Farnsworth, sets about sprucing up the executive’s mess of a life, including arguing against investing in an oil refinery that might threaten the local environment. Where Beatty’s Bulworth is a born-again liberal spouting gospel on campaign finance, Beatty’s Farnsworth is an avatar of the green investing craze of the late 1990s.
Let’s not stop there. What about some of Beatty’s other films? What do they say about what sort of president he would be?
Dick Tracy: Crime. Expect more yellow trenchcoated federal agents muttering into their watch-phones in a Beatty administration.
Shampoo: Values. Far from being a free-love ’70s celebration, Shampoo was actually a cautionary tale about sexual profligacy, much like Stanley Kubrick‘s paean to marital monogamy, Eyes Wide Shut.
Reds: Social policy. Communism isn’t as bad as you thought.
Ishtar: Foreign policy. Bankrolling corrupt dictators in Middle Eastern countries is a very bad idea.
All joking aside, a Beatty run could do to the Democrats what a Pat Buchanan independent bid could do to Republicans. That is, ensure their defeat.
The most likely outcome is that Beatty won’t run but will try to set himself up as kingmaker, able to confer the liberal legacy to the candidate of his choice, be it Al Gore, Bill Bradley, or some other third-party savior.
Still, there is one great reason Beatty should run and win: Annette Bening as first lady. Beatty’s wife actually has the stronger screen credit on the environment, points out Ruben Aronin, who helps Hollywood celebs do public service work on the environment. In The American President, Bening plays a crusading environmental lobbyist who helps a wavering president find his moral footing and do the right thing on a number of issues, including green ones.
Rest, Relaxation, and Radio Ads
Some vacation. Pres. Clinton retreated to Martha’s Vineyard this week only to find himself the subject of radio ads on local Massachusetts stations urging him to make permanent the moratorium on road-building on millions of acres in the National Forest system, courtesy of the Heritage Forests Campaign. The group also purchased ads in Cape Cod newspapers and plans to do the same thing in newspapers around Skaneateles, N.Y., where the Clintons will vacation later this month.
Last week, we mused about the possibility that the New Mexico Green Party will once again run a candidate in the state’s first congressional district, which could ensure the seat remains in Republican hands. Green Party officials assure us that they are seriously considering fielding a candidate but are also wondering whether their time and effort might be better spent working at the grassroots level and laying the groundwork for future campaigns. We’ll keep you posted. … The Sierra Club pointed out this week that Texas ranks “first in the nation in total toxic air emissions from industrial facilities.” Look for the media, once it gets done hyperventilating over the cocaine question, to take a long hard look at Texas Gov. George W. Bush‘s record, particularly on the environment.