It was a scene about as strange as they come in the perennially strange world of American millennial politics. Neoconservative uber-pundit Arianna Huffington speaking to the hardest of hard-core liberals, Americans for Democratic Action, introducing the strangest of strange celebrity presidential candidates, Warren Beatty.

Beatty as Bulworth.

Wednesday night, a packed house at the Beverly Hilton waited patiently (some journos had a hard time squeezing in, as we hear it) to listen to Beatty detail his plans for seeking the presidency as a liberal Democratic alternative to Vice Pres. Al Gore and former Sen. Bill Bradley. Previously, Beatty had written only elliptically of his presidential ambitions in a New York Times op-ed piece that raised more questions than it answered.

Was he more forthcoming this time? Not really.

Beatty again lambasted the Democratic Party for being a pale imitation of its former self, a party permanently estranged from its Great Society roots, beholden to big donors with little left to differentiate it from its Republican analog.

Okay then. So is he running? Maybe, maybe not. He wasn’t saying. But he did venture a bit into matters environmental when he said more should be done to stop logging in national forests (an issue the Clinton administration may have begun to address with its proposed new U.S. Forest Service rules, announced on Thursday).

While Beatty’s logging mention wasn’t much, it was more than he has said on environmental issues in some time, perhaps since his star turn in the 1978 classic Heaven Can Wait.

Speaking of Heaven Can Wait, we were, as is our usual custom, watching CNN’s Inside Politics on Thursday when we noticed analyst extraordinaire Bill Schneider launch into an examination of Beatty’s film oeuvre as a means to predict what sort of president he would make.

Sound familiar? It should.

We certainly don’t mean to insinuate that Schneider, or one of his producers, lifted Muckraker’s idea. In fact, if that were the case, we would be thrilled because it would mean they actually read this column. We simply wanted to calmly and politely point out that WE THOUGHT OF IT FIRST! Nah, nah, nah.

A Thousand Turning Points of Light?

What, exactly, is the Turning Point Project?

We’ve been wondering since the mysterious group started taking out huge full-page spreads in the New York Times on a series of environmental topics ranging from global warming to, most recently, forest clear-cutting.

Turning Point’s latest ad, bite-sized.

Turns out it is an amalgam of mostly left-leaning green groups joining forces to create and place weekly ads in the Times on topics the groups think are given short shrift in the national press.

“We are not getting our issues out there,” says Andrew Kimbrel, director of the International Center for Technology Assessment and the Center for Food Safety and the brains behind Turning Point. “While the press is embroiled in Lewinsky-gate and the minutiae of who smoked what or who sniffed what, these huge issues that are really going to determine what the world is going to look like in the next millennium are getting virtually no coverage.”

Turning Point is spending about $39,000 a pop for the Times ads and has the money banked to run at least 25 of them in total. After that, depending on its financial situation, the group may buy more ads in the Times or switch to a more targeted local strategy, placing ads in smaller daily papers.

Having already tackled such weighty topics as the global “extinction crisis” and “bio-invasion,” Turning Point in the coming weeks will address genetic engineering, economic globalization, technological dependence, and the impact of industrial agriculture. As the topics change, so will the sponsoring groups.

How tough is it to get all these groups together to agree on language for such massive, high-impact advertising? Kimbrel says it hasn’t been as hard as you might think.

“It took a few months to get everybody on board,” he says, “but we were expecting many more roadblocks. There was a lot of cooperation.”

Kimbrel also points out that the very fact that there are so many groups on board should help the environmental movement in general. “Sometimes there is the impression that all that these groups do is compete with one another for funding and attention.”

A quick aside: Don’t look for info on the Turning Point Project online at www.turningpoint.org, as we did. Unless of course you are interested in getting out of debt with the help of what appears to be a Christian evangelical outreach group. To learn more about the non-personal-debt-related Turning Point Project and what groups are aligned with it, go to www.turnpoint.org.

The spelling master.

Spelling Bee

Buried deep in the New York Times piece on Gore’s decision this week to yank his campaign out of Washington and move it to Tennessee was this recent, desperate sounding quote: “For the environmentalists here, the first word I learned to spell was green — G-R-E-E-N!”

As in: What’s the matter with you people? I’ve been with you from day one and now you are stabbing me in the back!

We tried several sources (including the Gore campaign itself) to find out where exactly the vice president made this remarkable statement and have thus far come up empty. Any enviros out there who may have been present during this spelling lesson? Let’s hear from you.

Any other words you would like to verify that the vice president knows how to spell? No potato(e) jokes please. All other humorous entries welcome — email to muckraker@gristmagazine.com. Best suggestions will appear in this space. We will get you started: Mr. Vice President, how do you spell heartburn? B-R-A-D-L-E-Y!

Political Potpourri

In other celebrity candidate news, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in an interview in Tina Brown‘s Talk magazine, says he might very well run for governor of California as a Republican in 2002 because, he says, “I feel it inside.” That’s good. But couldn’t it just be the inner-cyborg from The Terminator trying to get back out? Or maybe just indigestion. Whatever the case, we can’t wait to hear his views on issues of green concern. … Baldwin brother Alec, who may run for office in New York one day, weighed in on George W. Bush recently, saying the Texas governor “has the most horrific environmental record in the United States of America.” Don’t sugarcoat it, Alec, tell us what you really mean. … The Sierra Club next week will release a report ranking all 50 states on their ability to cope with sprawl in four categories: open space protection, community revitalization, land use planning, and transportation planning.