If there’s one thing Americans want Hollywood stars to provide, it’s insight into current events and public policy. That’s why Los Angeles is the moral and intellectual capital of the country. And that’s also why this new column will be devoted to finding out answers to pressing questions such as: What does Miley Cyrus think about public sector unions? What’s Shia Lebeouf’s take on corn subsidies? Does the popular young cast of “Glee” think unemployment benefits should be extended beyond 99 weeks?
In my nonpartisan quest to find out what Hollywood is saying about matters that concern Washington, I’ll comb through Twitter, the late night talk shows, and the world’s number one source of ill-informed opinions, the Huffington Post. When the star of “Must Love Dogs” takes to the internet to opine about an attorney general’s most agonizing decisions, I’ll be there. When a “Friends” cast member promoting his new sitcom slams Fox News, I’ll be there. And when a 16-year-old pop star muses about the legal right to abortion, I’ll be there, too.
Let’s get started.
This week, prominent American historians Kevin Spacey, Ben Stiller, and Mary Steenburgen weighed in on one of the greatest questions of our time: Is Bill Clinton awesome, very awesome, or super-triple totally awesome with a cherry on top?
The venue for their ponderings was “President of the World,” a star-studded MSNBC President’s Day special hosted by Chris Matthews. The position of this “documentary” on President Bill Clinton was something akin to the position Monica Lewinsky used on Clinton back in the mid-1990s. (Ba-dum ching!) Matthews’s narration fawned over the “movie stars” who gather at the Clinton Global Initiative, including lingering footage of Demi Moore and Geena Davis. He included photographs of Clinton posing with Bono, Matt Damon, James Earl Jones, Michael Jordan, John McEnroe, Jon Bon Jovi, and other celebrities. In a short segment about the opening of Clinton’s presidential library in Arkansas, Matthews gushed, “In the crowd are such friends as Barbra Streisand and Robin Williams!” Psst, Chris: Being a former president of the United States is a lot more impressive than getting Robin Williams to show up for an event. You don’t have to prove to us that Clinton is popular. Also, Robin Williams is the worst.
The highlight for celebrity-watchers will be the on-camera interviews, however. The special opened with Ben Stiller speaking about Clinton: “He’s taken whatever capital he had as an ex-president and has really put it towards trying to do real good in the world,” Stiller told the camera. That’s the kind of insight that could only come someone who knows what it means to do great things with great integrity: the star of “Madagascar,” “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” “Merry Madagascar,” and, coming in 2012, “Madagascar 3.”
Later, we heard from actor Kevin Spacey: “He listens,” Spacey said of Clinton. “He understands. I think he innately has an affection for and an understanding of people who have gone through difficult times and are struggling, and I think that that has been a huge part of what drives him.” Spacey came to this earth-shattering insight by traveling with Clinton through Africa back in 2002. (Fun fact: Spacey and Clinton were flown there on a private jet by billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who spent a bit of time in jail just a few years later for soliciting prostitutes.)
The person who received the most screen time in “President of the World,” aside from Clinton himself, was probably former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe. Unfortunately I have no idea what McAuliffe said, because his face, his suit, and, incredibly, the actual words coming out of his mouth all blended together to become a kind of beige clump emitting only a low, muffled murmur.
Luckily, the person with the second amount of screen time was actress Mary Steenburgen, who is very pretty and has a voice that makes words. When she came on screen, which was often, my mind drifted pleasantly to her role in the hilarious yet underrated Martin Short movie “Clifford.” That made it easy to not think too much about these searing observations she provided about President Clinton:
- He has “an enormous intellectual capacity combined with an enormous heart.”
- “This is a person who has led a very purpose-driven life, so he had to find his purpose again.”
- “There’s one phrase that people have said to me, and that’s that he’s president to [sic] the world.”
Um, Mary, is it possible that those “people” were actually just one person, and that person was Chris Matthews?