Redistricting has created new oppportunities for Democrats in California, but also headaches. One that Hollywood politicos are watching closely is the likely matchup of Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) against Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) for a West San Fernando Valley congressional seat.
Several weeks ago, Sherman unveiled a long list of supporters and endorsers, including former President Bill Clinton, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), as well as Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and dozens of Valley leaders.
Today, Berman announced his own list of endorsements, including Governor Jerry Brown, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) as honorary campaign co-chairs.
The prospect of two incumbent Democrats in a bitter primary battle pitted against each other has some wondering if the situation can somehow be resolved. In other words, can one of the two be convinced to run elsewhere, as candidates are not required to live in the district to which they seek office? With both sides lining up big names and fundraising events, that seems less likely.
- ABC News: The Note
- Andrew Sullivan
- Big Hollywood
- Broadcasting & Cable
- David Corn
- Drudge Report
- Huffington Post
- LA Observed
- Los Angeles Times
- Lynn Sweet
- Marc Ambinder
- Michael Calderone
- National Review Online
- Politico Click
- Politics Daily
- Rough & Tumble
- Slate Magazine
- Television Week
- The Caucus - New York Times
- The Hill
- The Nation
- The Page
- The Politicker | The New York Observer
- Top of the Ticket
- Washington Post
This week --- the last week before Labor Day --- I am moving. Posting will be a little lighter than usual today and tomorrow as I get settled.
A federal court judge will hear arguments Monday on whether to make public the tapes of last year's Prop 8 trial, which up to now has been accessible to the public mainly via transcripts and staged readings.
In fact, at the hearing, Ted Boutrous, a member of the legal team challenging Prop 8, plans to use video some of the reenactments to make the point that it's time to release the real thing.
The New York Times, which is part of a media coalition urging their release, posted an editorial today saying, "The demand to keep the videotapes secret is as flimsy as the arguments for denying gay people the fundamental right to marry. The proposition’s backers will not be hurt in any way if the footage is released. The American public, on the other hand, stands to lose something very valuable if it is denied the chance to see and hear what happened in a critically important case on marriage equality."
Karen Ocamb of the LGBT POV blog says that U.S. District Court Judge James Ware's decision could be a "game-changer" and reports on a pre-hearing call by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, in which Ted Olson said, “The hearing is whether or not the American public will be able to see with their own eyes and listen with their own ears to the testimony that happened in a trial that effects the constitutional rights of hundreds of thousands of Californians and millions of Americans and people throughout the world."
He added that proponents of Prop 8 still do not want the tapes released. "They did not want—and they do not want—the public to see a trial that took place a year and a half ago. They want to keep that in the dark. They want to influence public opinion about these issues through their advertising.”
Proponents of Prop 8 successfully blocked the January, 2010, trial from being broadcast, taking their objections all the way to the Supreme Court. But Judge Vaughn Walker still had the proceedings videotaped so he could reference testimony in reaching his decision declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional.
More than likely, if Ware decides to release the tapes, the decision will be appealed, although there's some question as to whether the Supreme Court would take it up again.
Meanwhile, Ware has informed the media that the hearing to decide whether to release the tapes will not be televised.
My backstory on the tapes --- and how some clips came to be shown by Walker himself on C-SPAN --- is here.
Celebrity focused, materialistic, entitled and coddled are all terms that have been ascribed to millennials, the generation born in the two decades or so before 2000. In fact the generation is diverse, community focused, tolerant and group oriented, according to Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, authors of the new book "Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation is Remaking America." On the next Wilshire & Washington on the Radio, they talk about the influence this pool of voters may have on the 2012 election. Despite recent polls showing a slip in support for President Obama, Winograd and Hais say that the characteristics of majorities in this generation make them much more in line with policies that look to effective government for solutions.
As the 2012 race heats up, Variety's Wilshire & Washington is going to feature more outside voices from the entertainment industry weighing in on the candidates and the issues. This is a commentary from Norman Lear, founder of People for the American Way, on Mitt Romney:
By Norman Lear
I don't have to explain that line to Americans who grew up watching one of our production company's sitcoms, "Diff'rent Strokes", which ran for eight seasons between 1978 and 1986 and for years after in syndication. Any one who knows the show will recall this signature phrase repeated by the young Gary Coleman to his older brother when stupefied and maddened by something his brother just said, "What you talkin' bout, Willis?"
I know some people think Willard Mitt Romney is the only responsible adult i n that implausible field of presidential hopefuls, but often he will say something so surprising and disingenuous in this seemingly endless campaign, I find myself thinking, 'What you talkin' bout, Willard?
Absent a profanity, I don't know a better reaction to Romney's declaration that "corporations are people." Of course he'd be correct if the people he's referring to are the billionaire Koch brothers. Or if they are the people who are setting up phony corporations for the purpose of supporting Willard Mitt Romney's candidacy with million dollar gifts, and they could of course include the Kochs.
"What you talkin' bout, Willard?" leaps to mind at the thought of the natty Harvard-educated Wall Street executive and former Massachusetts governor railing against "eastern elites" at the last Republican National Convention. And it aches to be shouted out when I am reminded that Willard Mitt Romney, seeking someone to head his legal team, chose a man whose reactionary views about the U.S. Constitution led to a bi-partisan Senate vote to keep him off the Supreme Court, Robert Bork.
Willard's embrace of Bork, despite his angry rants since then, such as those calling for active government censorship of popular culture, is clearly meant to signal far-right activists that they can count on more Supreme Court Justices in the mold of Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito, who are all energetically working to make Romney's assertion that "corporations are people" a legal reality.
What are you talkin' bout, Willard?
One Tweet has created a tizzy. Last night, Alec Baldwin sent a Tweet, "Do you think Bin Laden was behind 9-11?" and it immediately drew attention that the star of "30 Rock" may give credence to 9/11 "truthers" --- and may also be diminishing his prospects for a long-rumored bid for mayor of New York. Remember, even though he denied that he held belief in conspiracy theories, Van Jones resigned his White House post after Glenn Beck and others connected him to a "truther" group. Jones' name appeared on a petition in 2004 called 911truth.org.
Baldwin was responding to a question, "What lie do you keep telling yourself is true." This morning, he issued followup Tweets:
"I got a call from a writer at New York Magazine (not the NYer) wanting to know why I was "casting doubt" on Bin Laden's involvement in 9-11..."
"My question last night was in no way meant to cast doubt on anything related to 9-11.
"As the 10th anniversary of the attacks approaches, I am keenly interested in what public opinion is re the aftermath of 9-11.
"Also, I am moderating an event in NY on Thursday, September 8th that will discuss this very issue.
"September 11th is the great unhealed wound in our country's history, other than the Civil War, in my opinion."
Sharpton's Show: Al Sharpton's new MSNBC show will be called "PoliticsNation" and will be shown in the 6 p.m. hour. He calls it a "natural extension of my life work and growth."
Rubio in the Golden State: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is in Los Angeles today for a series of fund-raisers, including a dinner in Beverly Hills. He spoke at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library last night. (Politico). Rubio addressed the industry conservative fellowship Friends of Abe earlier on Tuesday.
An earthquake shook parts of Washington D.C. and New York early Tuesday afternoon. Preliminary reports said that it measured 5.9 on the Richter scale --- which is actually significant, even for L.A. --- and was centered just outside D.C. in Virginia.
The immediate reaction was in the form of ironic Tweets.
@daveweigel You see? You see? You people legalize gay marriage, then this happens. #earthquake
@pareene I think Chris Christie just jumped into the race.
@nathandaschle here coems the west coast earthquake snobbery.
@NPRbergman Ok, east coast the earthquake is over...now get ready for the hurricane! #Apocalypse
@ezraklein And this is why the president shouldn't take vacations. #seewhathappens?
Letterman Levity: David Letterman, the source of a death threat from a Muslim militant, joked about it on his show on Monday night. "You people are more than an audience tonight, really. You're more like a human shield." (Los Angeles Times).
The Fairness Doctrine is now officially dead.
The FCC regulations, which required that the holders of broadcast licenses present controversial issues in a balanced way, was officially wiped off the agency’s books on Monday as part of a housecleaning of 83 obsolete, media-related rules.
Although the FCC voted to eliminate the policy in 1987, it meant that it was not enforced but still on the books. In the years since, it has been a flashpoint of conservative talk radio hosts that somehow it would be reinstated as a liberal way to stifle their voices.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, who has previously said that he opposed the Fairness Doctrine, said that their action “will remove an unnecessary distraction.”
“As I have said, striking this from our books ensures there can be no mistake that what has long been a dead letter remains dead,” he said in a statement. “The Fairness Doctrine holds the potential to chill free speech and the free flow of ideas and was properly abandoned over two decades ago.”
The doctrine dated to 1949 and to concerns over broadcasters’ ability to meet public interest obligations. But by the 1980s, as cable TV took hold, critics said that there was ample media to capture many different points of view.
Nevertheless, some Democratic lawmakers since then have revived the idea of reinstating the doctrine, citing the state of discourse over the airwaves. But that has been met by strident opposition from conservatives, including Reagan administration veterans who originally pushed for the FCC to abandon it because of its First Amendment implications.
The FCC also eliminated the obsolete “broadcast flag” rule and another having to do with cable programming service tier rates.
Back in 2003, CBS was all prepared to air the telepic "The Reagans," with James Brolin and Judy Davis in the lead roles, when, following an outcry from conservatives, the network banished the project to Showtime. Michael Reagan complained that matters were made worse because his father, then suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was still alive.
Now brewing is opposition to the feature "The Iron Lady," starring Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher. The Daily Mail reports that unnamed friends who have seen an early screening "expressed their revulsion" at the movie, which they say contains inaccuracies and portrays her as a "granny going mad" and features her husband as a ghost in a pink turban. Big Hollywood obtained a copy of the script last year and concluded that it trashed the former British prime minister, who is in frail health.
A few caveats: I haven't seen the film. A script and a finished product can differ quite substantially, and in the case of public figures they often do as researchers shore up details. And I'm skeptical of a Daily Mail report that quotes unnamed viewers of the pic. Why wouldn't they go on the record?
But I suspect that this movie will become a flashpoint, no matter what, as an attempt to rewrite history. We're still arguing over the Kennedys, after all. The difference is that "Iron Lady" is a feature, and controversy tends to help box office prospects while it just makes TV advertisers skittish.
President Obama is taking heat from the right for a summer vacation in Martha's Vineyard, and last night he visited the sprawling home of Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. The argument is that with the economy stumbling and a rebel victory apparently imminent in Libya, Obama shouldn't be kicking back.
Yes he should, says David Frum, a former adviser to President George W. Bush. He sees parallels to criticism of Bush when he trekked to Crawford, Texas, as well as many other presidents.
He writes, "Almost nothing in American politics drives more people to say more ridiculous things than the subject of presidential summer vacations.
"Let's dial back and introduce some reality to this partisan point-scoring.
"The president of the United States never gets a vacation, not really. The nuclear football follows wherever the president goes. He receives the daily intelligence briefing every morning, including Christmas. The decisions never stop, the cares of state never lighten, the burden of responsibility is never lifted."
Colbert Comedy: David Carr takes a look at Stephen Colbert's PAC and says that "it's as though Jonathan Swift took his satircal suggestion about Irash babies one step further and actually cooked one."
He writes, "While most of the rest of the news media continue to cover the coming election with long-running tropes — whose horse is ahead and who has the most loot? — Mr. Colbert has taken the equivalent of a political homework assignment and sprinkled a little silly sauce on top, and people seem happy to dig in."
Redistricting has put the homes of Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) in the same west San Fernando Valley district, and the two lawmakers could very well face a bitter primary fight over the seat.
With more than $3.5 million million in the bank, Sherman has been lining up endorsements, but Berman today is getting some high profile help from the DreamWorks trio of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.
They sent out an e-mail today in which they urge support for Berman as he "faces an extremely difficult fight for reelection next year. As a result of redistricting, Howard has been pushed into a newly formed district and will therefore confront a strong challenge in the Democratic primary (this spring)."
They add, "Howard has been a champion of the entertainment industry since he was first elected to Congress in 1983. As a lead member of the Judiciary Committee, he plays a key role in shaping the copyright, trademark and patent laws that are so vital to our industry. And as the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, he has fought to strengthen aid to Israel, continue U.S. foreign assistance on global HIV/AIDS programs, and improve America’s diplomatic standing in the world."
They also call for their friends to give the maximum allowable contribution of $5,000, or to attend at dinner at the Beverly Hilton for him on Nov. 10. Tickets start at $1,000 per person.
What if Ron Paul had won the Iowa Straw Poll? The focus might have been on the inanity of the poll itself, not the momentum of his campaign. A recent Pew study showed that Paul's media mentions have been minimal when stacked up against other candidates, even though he has a consistent base of supporters who turn out to debates and other events. On the next Wilshire & Washington on the Radio, we look at why Paul isn't being considered a serious contender for the GOP nomination and whether it also speaks to the difficulty of third parties to make a mark in the political process.
Jon Huntsman has had trouble getting oxygen so far in this race, so on Thursday he did the political pop equivalent of a Hail Mary pass: He noted his love for experimental, progressive and avant garde music figure Captain Beefheart, who died last year. "I wonder if a tweet where I admit how much I like Captain Beefheart will make the followers skyrocket even more!" said an ironically drawn Huntsman message on Twitter. Included was a link to a Beefheart video "Electricity." Huntsman continued his interactive efforts on Friday, with a message to Rainn Wilson of "The Office." "@RainnWilson I'm proud to be Republican, party of Lincoln, Teddy, Reagan. My q for you. Any relation to Brian Wilson?" And he got in a snarky reference to Christine O'Donnell: "@PiersMorgan Looking forward to being on Monday's show. Will try and have as much fun as @ChristineOD did." The hope is that a hip quotient will at least bring him attention in a field where candidates are hard pressed to know when Elvis died.
O'Donnell's Reasons: Christine O'Donnell says that Piers Morgan was engaging in "borderline sexual harassment" in their Wednesday interview in which she walked out after being perturbed by his line of questioning.
Clinton's Event: Former President Bill Clinton will mark the 10th anniversary of his foundation at a benefit gala concert at the Hollywood Bowl on Oct. 15, per Politico.
West Memphis Three: Filmmaker Joe Berlinger rushed to Jonesboro, Arkansas to shoot additional footage for his documentary "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory." The film, to premiere in Toronto, tracks the case of the West Memphis Three, three men convicted of killing three eight-year-old boys in 1993. A potential deal could allow the three men to go free after DNA evidence showed that none of their traces were found at the scene. Berlinger's original documentary, "Paradise Lost," helped bring national attention to the case and raise doubts about their guilt. Update: They were freed this morning.
Edie Wasserman was a key adviser to her husband and a prominent figure in showbiz fund-raising for politicians and philanthropies.
Dennis McDougal wrote in his 1998 book, "The Last Mogul," that Lew "never ignored (Edie's) advice. Lew's clients as well as his employees began privately referring to Edie as 'the general.'"
It's hard to overestimate the extent to which the Wassermans were at the center of Hollywood's political influence in the 1960s and 70s, as friends of President Lyndon Johnson and later Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. They regularly hosted Democratic fundraisers and were close enough to the Carters and the Clintons to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom.
Variety's obituary is here.
Chris Dodd, the chairman of the MPAA, released this statement: "I was deeply saddened to learn that Edie Wasserman had passed away earlier today. Both Edie and Lew were friends of mine for many years and always very helpful to me during my years in public life. Lew was also a great supporter of the MPAA and particularly of my predecessor, Jack Valenti. While many came to know Edie by titles ranging from the 'First Lady' of Hollywood, or the 'General' or even 'Mrs. Hollywood,' to her husband's 'Mr. Hollywood,' Edie will especially be remembered as a great philanthropist and patron of the arts and education whose generosity was legendary, especially when it came to the Motion Picture & Television Fund's home for retired industry workers. Her commitment and dedication to these causes knew no bounds and serves as a model to us all."
What's all but lost in the theatrics of Christine O'Donnell's walk off of "Piers Morgan Tonight," and the post-straw poll triumphal appearance of Michele Bachmann on "Meet the Press," is that in both encounters each candidate is reluctant to speak of past statements in opposition to same-sex marriage or even LGBT rights in general. They are not renouncing their past positions, but they aren't talking about them either.
Bachmann, of course, has said during the recent GOP debate and elsewhere that she would back a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. But particularly in the mainstream media, she is on the defensive when it comes to some of her past rhetoric, which is a testament to how far opinion has shifted. Likewise, the stories that Bachmann's husband Marcus operates an "ex-gay" clinic also put the candidate on the defensive.
The reluctance of conservative candidates to approach these issues in major news outlets may not qualify as a sign of "progress" for LGBT equality. Almost all of the GOP candidates favor a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, even a number of prominent Republicans have come out in support of it and one org, the hard-right GOProud, is organizaing gay conservatives. Bachmann isn't avoiding talking about opposition to same sex marriage as much as she is to previously comparing gay life to "bondage." But in contrast to the early 1990s peak of Pat Buchanan, Bachmann's unwillingness to trumpet anti-gay rights stances in the national media at least shows that such rhetoric is not the sure bet that it once was, even in a Republican primary and certainly in a general election. The threshold isn't so much equality as it is tolerance or the appearance of it.
Did Christine O'Donnell plan to walk off of Piers Morgan?
Her departure from the set, when he was asking her questions about gay marriage, certainly did not rise to the level of Howard Stern-like rudeness, but she seemed perturbed enough to bolt. Morgan protested that he was only asking her questions about topics covered in her book, "Troublemaker," which she was out promoting. But even if not, she's got enough experience as a media pundit, PR consultant and talk show guest to know that celebrities on book tours are fair game. They reap the promotional value that comes from the visibility. If they don't like getting asked questions, then don't do the tour.
O'Donnell, continuing her book tour today, says no hard feelings.
Perry Loves Colbert: Stephen Colbert says the fact that his PAC's treasurer just bolted to the Rick Perry campaign is one sign that the Texas governor "likes me back." "Perry is taking sloppy seconds on my treasurer," Colbert said.
Pelosi Power: On the calendar in September is a reception for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, to be held on the rooftop of J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot Prods. in Santa Monica. With tickets starting at $1,000 per person, the Sept. 27 event (co-hosted by Abrams and wife Katie McGrath) is a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. A long list of chairs and cohosts include Steven Spielberg, Ari Emanuel, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Barbra Streisand.
While we are on the subject of Piers Morgan, Harvey Weinstein was on his show last night, talking about his support for President Obama and the fund-raiser he held for him at his home last week. Weinstein echoed Warren Buffett's call for the wealthy in the country to be taxed more --- and said that he considers it an investment in the country, not an unfair burden. He also praised Obama, and said that his main worry isn't the President's performance but the relentlessness of the Republican opposition.
The video is below.
Better for the both of them: Christine O'Donnell apparently walked off the set of CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight" in disgust at the host's "rudeness," Morgan says in a Tweet. Morgan had been asking about witchcraft and sex. That gives more time for Starbucks' Howard Schultz, talking about his effort to boycott politician's fundraisers.
Update: The video is below. Morgan was asking O'Donnell about her views on gay marriage and Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but O'Donnell said he was being "rude" for asking about topics that were not ones she wanted to talk about. But Morgan said that he was simply asking about things that were in the book she is promoting, "Troublemaker."
After a fusillade of criticism from media commentators and George W. Bush supporters of Rick Perry's comments about Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, the newest entrant into the GOP field became a target of late night. The field so far is like low-hanging fruit. Conan O'Brien said that Perry "distanced himself from George W. Bush" by saying that he’d gone to Texas A&M, while Bush went to Yale. "In other words, Rick Perry’s idea of instilling confidence is to say 'don’t worry, I’m not as smart as George W. Bush.'"
Jon Stewart went further, mocking the Texas governor's rhetoric on the trial as so oprone to tough talk that he'd say, "I am Rick Perry and, unlike Barack Obama, I will fuck the shit out of America."
"You're already at Yosemite Sam levels," Stewart said. "You gotta dial it back to Walker Texas Ranger or Coach Taylor territory."
You Can't Make It Up: The treasurer of Stephen Colbert's PAC, which has been producing spots mocking Perry's over-the-top pronouncements, is joining the campaign of Rick Perry. Salvatore Purpura left last week and was listed on Perry campaign finance documents on Monday. “We’re not surprised. Sal is the best in the business. That’s why we went with him,” Colbert tells Politico. “We’re happy for Sal and we are even happier that Governor Parry has sent the clear signal of which super PAC he trusts to receive all that unlimited money waiting to pour in on his behalf. Loud and clear, sir. Unofficially, loud and clear.”
The Colbert SuperPAC has been spelling Perry's name with an "A" --- for "America."
Hubbard to Bachmann: Stanley Hubbard, the Twin Cities media mogul, is switching his support to Michele Bachmann after initially backing Tim Pawlenty. "We’ve known Michele for a long time," Hubbard, who lives in Bachmann’s district, told Politico. "She’s a very decent person who is full of integrity. She means what she says." Hubbard owns a station group and the Reelz Channel, most famous for picking up "The Kennedys" project after it was dropped by History channel. Update: A Reelz spokesman says that the contribution came from Stanley S. Hubbard, the father of Stanley E. Hubbard who is the CEO of Reelz Channel. The elder Hubbard is chairman and CEO of Hubbard Broadcasting, owner of Reelz.
More for "8": Among those who will be participating in the reading of Dustin Lance Black's play "8" are Morgan Freeman, Rob Reiner, Anthony Edwards, Marisa Tomei, Cheyenne Jackson, Christine Lahti and Yeardley Smith. The reading, which chronicles the Prop 8 trial, will be performed on Sept. 19 and is a benefit for the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
Tonight: Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich screens "A City Upon a Hill," one of his documentaries, at the Nixon Library.
Much is being made of another Michele Bachmann gaffe on the trail today: She asked supporters to wish Elvis Presley a "Happy Birthday." In fact, this is the 34th anniversary of his death. He was born on Jan. 8, 1935.
This, along with confusing John Wayne with John Wayne Gacy, probably doesn't hurt her at all with primary voters. In fact, the media's seizing upon such gaffes only reinforces her supporters' point that the liberal media elite is unfairly singling her out when Joe Biden, etc. are prone to such embarrassing errors.
More mystifying is, who, if anyone, is doing her fact checking?
On "Conan" on Monday, Kathy Griffin again recounted her meeting with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) while Griffin was in Washington campaigning for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
Griffin says she asked Bachmann whether she would support the repeal, and when she said no, the comic asked her, "Congresswoman Bachmann, were you born a bigot or did you, like, grow into it?"
"That's a good question. I'm gonna have to get back to ya," Bachmann responded.
The meeting was recorded on a Flip cam by a Bachmann aide --- which would undoubtedly be a viral video hit if ever posted to YouTube.
If Bachmann has gained some of the support that would have gone to Sarah Palin had she entered the race, she's also taking on the role of Hollywood target. When Palin was picked as John McCain's running mate in 2008, what followed was a string of attacks from show biz figures, including Matt Damon, who called her candidacy "like a really bad Disney movie."
Bachmann for some time has been a target of late night comics, and Griffin admitted as much in her appearance on "Conan." After the Republican debate last week, Cher sent a tweet, again raising the subject of Bachmann's husband's sexuality. "On cover of Newsweek under M. Bachman's picture it said "Queen of Rage",but there's only"One Raging Queen"In her house ! Not mine !" She also cited the number of teen suicides in Bachmann's district.
Adam Lambert took issue with Bachmann's appearance on "Meet the Press," in which she insisted that she doesn't "judge gays" despite previously comparing homosexuality to "bondage." Despite repeated questioning from David Gregory, Bachmann simply smiled and repeated that she was not judging.
In contrast to Palin, who often railed against the media elite, Bachmann's response has been relatively restrained. Plenty of surrogates are out there to do that for her, but it's also still early in the process. Her focus has been on Iowa, not Hollywood, and certainly she's trying to avoid dredging up past cultural warfare while not renouncing what she has said in the past.
Tea Party Crashers: After President Obama's Iowa townhall last night, a Tea Party activist confronted him with reports that Vice President Joseph Biden called them "terrorists." Obama tries to explain.
In the Spotlight: The Creative Coalition has announced the winners of its Spotlight Awards, to be given during the Toronto Film Festival. Ashley Greene, Anna Kendrick, David Paymer, Morgan Spurlock and Roland Emmerich will be honored on Sept. 10. The honors were created to support "independent films with messages that make a positive difference in the world."
Running and Raising: On Sunday, Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) held a conversation on politics and policy at the home of Nancy Stephens and Rick Rosenthal (although it was not a fundraiser). Also on Sunday, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) raised money at the home of Joyce Rey. On Wednesday, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) riases at the home of Stephens and Rosenthal.
My Latest Column: The case of Pierce O'Donnell, a famous Los Angeles litigator, highlights the dramatic change in campaign fund-raising.
I'm getting back in the swing of things after a few days off in Minneapolis. I had some hours until my flight today and headed down to Cannon Falls, Minn., where President Obama held the first of his town halls with "ordinary" folk, as he put it.
What's apparent is that Republicans in Congress are seeking to link Obama as beholden not to "ordinary" folk but to Hollywood, which is certainly not a new line of attack. Late last week, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas) said she will introduce the Stop Subsidizing Hollywood Act, which will prohibit the White House from cooperating with any filmmaker making a movie about the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. It also will require studios to reimburse the Department of Defense for any aid they give to filmmakers.
In her press release, she notes that Sony, which is releasing Kathryn Bigelow's bin Laden project, is "the only studio to hold a political fundraiser for the President this cycle." Technically, the studio did not hold the fundraiser, but the CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Michael Lynton, is an Obama bundler. But the event was on a Sony soundstage --- and Obama even joked about the next "Spider-Man."
I've been in Minneapolis all weekend, for a great family event, but am heading back to Los Angeles today. Posting should then return to normal.
This weekend's Iowa Straw Poll may very well winnow the field of GOP contenders --- in a process that is much entertainment as it is enlightenment. With that in mind, Robert John Ford is prepping "Caucus! The Musical," a Des Moines production that will debut later this year. Just as he did in the last cycle, Ford is incorporating the quirky and unexpectedly funny moments from the campaigns that can define candidates, in a process that Iowans not only expect but demand.
None of the candidates have much of a passionate following. No candidate seized the moment. And the Fox News Iowa Presidential Debate tonight wasn't so much about relevant policy as it was Washington game playing.
That's not my opinion, but the words from a panel of political consultants who sized up the GOP event in a Fox News post-debate webcast.
"The country is near revolt against the political class and we have a political class debate," said Pat Caddell, before trashing the format even more.
At least it was entertaining.
Actually, I found Fox News' questions pointed and provocative, challenging almost all of the contenders with queries that pointed to their faults. At the top of the list was Byron York's question to Michele Bachmann about her vow to be "submissive" to her husband. The audience even booed, before Bachmann bailed herself out by clarifying that submission means respect.
Sure, this has nothing much to do about jobs, but this debate isn't really about national appeal. It's about the Iowa Straw Poll, a curious media-activist ritual that takes place Saturday that has a checkered history of predicting the winner of the state's caucus and a better record at winnowing the field.
So going in to the debate, the dynamic was all about Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann. Pawlenty is struggling for cash and support, we've been told for weeks now, and needs to finish first or second in the Straw Poll to remain in the race. The expectations are now high for Bachmann, the candidate who is getting a dose of passion and with it a lot of press profiles, that if she's not in the top two, there will be doubts about her viability. So it couldn't have been much surprise that the two sparred at several points, with Pawlenty casting her as a do-nothing legislator and Bachmann casting him as an Obama-lite lightweight.
The most unexpected remark may have come from Rick Santorum, perhaps the candidate most opposed to gay and lesbian rights. While sparring with Ron Paul over Iran, Santorum noted that the country "tramples the rights of gays."
This was Jon Huntsman's first appearance in a debate, but it was hard to see where he made his mark. One Fox commentator compared him to Tanner, the faux-candidate played by Michael Murphy in HBO's 1988 "Tanner '88." He tried to differentiate himself on issues like his support of the debt ceiling, but like many Democrats in the past, offered confusing support for civil unions, equality for gays but not for marriage itself.
The message to take away is that these candidates really, really do not like President Obama. Some got a bit carried away in coming up with ways to say it. "I'm not going to eat Barack Obama's dog food," said Mitt Romney, the candidate who is regarded as the front runner. With a comment like that, you can also guarantee he'll be in for it on the next "Daily Show."
Stephen Colbert's latest spot riffs on Iowa traditions, and again makes a pitch for Rick Parry (with an "A" for America).
President Obama tonight raised money at the home of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, at a star studded event in New York's West Village.
Weinstein, who co-hosted the high-dollar fund-raiser with Anna Wintour, a campaign bundler, said that last year while Obama visited Martha's Vineyard he asked whether he had any good movies and he gave him a rough cut of "The King's Speech." "It was pretty good," Obama quipped.
Then Weinstein, ever mindful of the looming Oscar season, said he'd send "Iron Lady," which stars Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, this year.
Among the 50 or so guests were Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, Jimmy Fallon, Vera Wang, Alicia Keys and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Obama talked about his trip to Michigan and how he had "jump started" an entire industry of electric batteries.
Out in the heartland, "what was remarkable to see outside of Washington, the enthusiasm, the energy, the hopefulness, the decency, of the American people. What I said to them is you deserve better than you have been getting out of Washington over the last two and a half months, for that matter for the last two and a half years," Obama said, per the pool report.
He said that Washington had reached a "low-water point."
"The public suddenly realized...we are going to have to get engaged."
"If that energy is harnessed and tapped I am absolutely convinced this country is going to be on the upswing in the next couple of years."
He also noted te irony of the stock market reaction to the debt deal and the S&P downgrade: "What did everybody buy after the downgrade? U.S. Treasuries."
"The market voted with its feet."
Donors paid $35,800 each at the event, with money going to the Obama Victory Fund. Of that sum, $5,000 is going to the Obama re-election campaign and $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee.
Earlier Obama had an even smaller fund-raiser with donors at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
There was apparently no mention at either event at what was going on in Iowa: A presidential debate between GOP contenders.
Stephen Colbert's SuperPAC debuted its first ad today, urging Iowa voters to write in Rick Perry's name in Saturday's Straw Poll, but to write it as "Parry." "That is Parry with an 'A' for America," the narrator of the spot says.
In a statement, Colbert said, “I called dibs on Rick Parry a long time ago. I recognized that he’s got the tough talk, the cowboy boots, and the history-of-shooting-coyotes-during-morning-jogs that our country needs. So if anybody is going to be taking unlimited donations and then not be coordinating with his campaign, it’s going to be not us. So to prove we’re truly uncoordinated, we’re asking voters to write in Parry with an A – as in America, IowA, or PresidAnt. You can feel confident he’s not asking us to do that.”
The spot is below:
Ever since a Maureen Dowd column over the weekend, which reported that the Obama administration was cooperating Kathryn Bigelow's upcoming project on the Special Forces mission to kill Osama bin Laden, there has been rumblings from the right that the movie is being used for political ends. Plans are for a release in October, 2012, just weeks from the presidential election.
Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) sent a letter to the Department of Defense and the CIA's inspectors general, calling for an investigation of the matter.
King wrote, "I write to express concern regarding ongoing leaks of classified information regarding sensitive military operations. As reported in a New York Times column on August 6, 2011, Administration officials may have provided filmmakers with details of the raid that successfully killed Usama bin Laden (UBL). According to that report, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc. and movie director Kathryn Bigelow received “top-level access to the most classified mission in history” to produce a movie about the raid, due for release in October 2012. Reportedly, a Hollywood filmmaker also attended a CIA ceremony in honor of the team that carried out the raid."
"The Administration’s first duty in declassifying material is to provide full reporting to Congress and the American people, in an effort to build public trust through transparency of government. In contrast, this alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history."
King is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
The implication is that Hollywood is giving Obama a break by releasing a pic that will highlighting one of its biggest successes so close to when voters will be going to the polls for re-election. The movie will be distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Per Variety's Justin Kroll, the filmmakers have said that have had help from not only the Obama adminstration but also the Bush and Clinton adminstration and have released a statement on the current scrutiny the film has under gone. The film is directed by Bigelow and is written by Mark Boal, the same team that made the Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker."
“Our upcoming film project about the decade long pursuit of Bin Laden has been in the works for many years and integrates the collective efforts of three administrations, including those of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, as well as the cooperative strategies and implementation by the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency. Indeed, the dangerous work of finding the world’s most wanted man was carried out by individuals in the military and intelligence communities who put their lives at risk for the greater good without regard for political affiliation. This was an American triumph, both heroic, and non-partisan and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise.”
The pic is set to go into production sometime this winter with a release dated slated for Oct. 12, 2012.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, at the daily briefing on Wednesday, called the claims "ridiculous."
"When people, including you, in this room are working on articles, books, documentaries or movies that involve the President, ask to speak to administration officials, we do our best to accommodate them to make sure the facts are correct. That is hardly a novel approach to the media.
"We do not discuss classified information. And I would hope that as we face a continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie.
"The information that this White House has provided about that mission has been focused on the President’s role in -- there is no difference in the information that we’ve given to anybody who is working on this topic from what we gave to those of you in this room who worked on it in the days and weeks after the raid itself. In fact, the most specific information we’ve given from this White House about the actual raid I read to you from this podium. So it’s simply false."
There is a petition floating around that calls for Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie to tie the knot. Clearly bolstered by the recent passage of same-sex marriage in New York, and a California law that puts contributions of LGBT Americans into social studies classes, the move would basically confirm what many adults have long speculated: That Ernie and Bert are more than just roommates.
Don't bet on it happening, what with opponents of public broadcasting funding already complaining of the outsized influence of the "Muppet lobby." But shouldn't we know whether Big Bird is a boy or a girl first?
Green Mean: Speaking of controversial children's characters, last night Stephen Colbert riffed on notions that Spongebob Squarepants is pushing a green agenda on our kids. "Yeah, this is even worse than when they pushed alternative lifestyles with 'Dora the Explorer,'" Colbert said. "This is how it works, folks. The liberal media brainwashes our kids by sneaking propaganda into their cartoons in a code only kids can understand."
Ratigan Rant: MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan and the latest Howard Beale-to-be explains his outburst on Tuesday. In a Huffington Post piece titled, "I'm Mad as Hell, How About You?," he writes, "We are taking our collective passion and focus and turning it toward manipulating power for the self-preservation of a few instead of working together towards shared goals with shared values knowing our ideas and mechanics will change as long as we try to get there." Maybe he'll strike a chord: President Obama did watch "Network" during the midst of the debt negotiations.
Stephen Colbert announced last night that his Super PAC will start running ads in support of Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday night in Iowa, just three days before Perry is expected to announce his presidential bid. Is he serious? On his show on Monday, he teased a very short clip of the spot --- a shot of a cornfield and a narrator saying, "A storm is gathering over Iowa" --- but said viewers would have to wait for the rest.
Of course the whole thing is a joke, but Colbert has insisted that his plans to run spots in caucus and primary states are real. "Brace yourself, folks," Colbert said.
The whole point of the Colbert SuperPAC has been to satirize political discourse and campaign spending, but it actually could have real influence in the race, in the same way that Tina Fey's impersonation of Sarah Palin only reinforced voter doubts about her in the 2008 campaign.
Colbert's PAC, officially called Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, received a favorable ruling from the Federal Election Commission last month. But it reported no contributions or expenditures in its first filing as of June 30.
Romney React: A report in Politico today quotes an unnamed senior campaign adviser to President Obama as saying that they are preparing to launch a ferocious political and personal assault on Mitt Romney, going negative in 2012 in contrast to a 2008 campaign that professed "hope." The story was somewhat vague as it said that the adviser was "aligned" with the campaign. Nevertheless, Romney's campaign reacted swiftly to the possibility that he'd be Swift Boated from the left.
"It is disgraceful that President Obama's campaign has launched his re-election with the stated goal to 'kill' his opponent with an onslaught of negative and personal attacks," Romney said in a statement. "President Obama will say and do desperate things to hold onto power because he knows he has failed. Neither despicable threats, nor President Obama's billion dollar negative campaign, will put Americans back to work, save their homes, or restore their hopes. On November 6, 2012, this will change."
Today: Cenk Uygur and Janeane Garofalo are among the personalities joining an online forum on News Corp. and Fox News, as BraveNewFilms marks the anniversary of its documentary "Outfoxed." The event starts at 5 p.m. PT.
With the S&P downgrade and plunging markets, Donald Trump appeared on CNN today to declare "everything bad, nothing good" and raise the prospect that he'll wage an independent bid for president.
After announcing in May that he would not run for the GOP nomination, he said he'd "seriously consider running as an independent" if the economy is tanking and Republicans "pick the wrong candidate."
"It's a terrible time," he said.
CNN got some flak just for having him on, particularly if he's about to begin a whole new media tease of running/not running. His flirtation with a GOP bid drew charges that it was all a publicity ploy, and when he decided not to run he confirmed many suspicions.
Here's where he's going to have some trouble: Timing. The media, and even the public, isn't that forgiving when it comes to doing an about face on presidential runs. They have an air of seizing the wrong moment. Gary Hart dropped out in 1987, then got back into the race later that year but went nowhere. Ross Perot had considerable momentum for an independent presidential bid in 1992, then gave somewhat bizarre explanations when he announced he wasn't running, then he got back in the race. He made an impression during the debates, but he was never able to recapture the momentum he originally had.
But the bigger obstacle is running as an independent. We think Trump has a personal fortune to put into a race, but that's af ar cry from actually making the decision to do it.
Cary Sherman has been named chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Assn. of America, succeeding Mitch Bainwol.
Bainwol is headed to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers to serve as their CEO, starting Sept. 1.
Sherman is currently president of the RIAA, and most recently was instrumental in working with Internet providers on a landmark voluntary agreement in which users downloading infringing material will be sent "copyright alerts."
Also moving up in the org will be Mitch Glazier, who will be the No. 2 as senior executive vice president. He had served as executive vice president, public policy and industry relations.
Sherman has been president of the RIAA since 2001, after joining the org as general counsel in 1997.
Glazier has been with the RIAA for the past 11 years, having started his career as copyright counsel to then-House Judicary Committee chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.).
Bainwol joined the RIAA eight years ago, and led the org through a period of upheaval in which labels struggled with ongoing migration to downloading and file sharing.
All of the major Hollywood lobbying orgs have seen upheaval in the past two years. Gordon Smith took the reins at the National Assn. of Broadcasters in 2009, Chris Dodd became CEO of the MPAA in March and Michael Powell became head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. in April.
In a statement, Bainwol said, "I leave content that we've set the table for a prosperous future for music. Our landscape is radically changed from the one we faced when I joined the RIAA eight years ago. The Internet is the new foundation of a new music economy. We've helped to create an environment where new business models can thrive --- with an extensive number of licensed services that allow consumers to experience and consume music in exciting new ways."
Bainwol sent out a farewell e-mail today to the record industry CEOs that outlined his accomplishments and where things stand in the business.
More evidence that Current TV is pursuing the cable news model.
David Bohrman, who resigned from CNN on Friday, is headed to Current TV, where he will serve as president.
Bohrman had been the longtime senior VP of programming and DC bureau chief at CNN before he left that post in March to become chief innovation officer.
He'll bring a great deal of crediblity as Current, especially in newsgathering operations and coverage of political events.
Bohrman will report to Current founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt.
The S&P downgrade was really only the latest fodder that Republicans seized upon to cast President Obama as Jimmy Carter II, and there's ample polling on the national mood, right direction/wrong direction and voter anger to make their pronouncements more than merely spin. But a Gallup poll today shows that Obama has seen some improvement in swing states, even as his overall approval is still below 50%. TPM has more here, but the big caveat is that the data is taken before the debt deal and before the S&P downgrade.
Obama will appear this morning to try to offer some reassurance on the economy in the wake of the downgrade.
More on Murdoch: David Carr of the New York Times examines why a 1990s federal investigation of a News Corp. marketing division never went anywhere, and how some of the government players back then, including Joel Klein, are now allies of Rupert Murdoch.
Life of the Party: White House Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard was feted on Saturday evening at a reception at the Hollywood home of Courage Campaign's Rick Jacobs and his partner Shawn Kadlec. Bernard, who was California finance consultant on Barack Obama's 2008 campaign, joked that he was “thrilled to be at something with his name on it where I’m not asking for money.” He also called the Obamas "the greatest and best bosses one could work for." Jacobs noted that he had been planning a reception for Bernard shortly after he moved to Washington to become White House liaison to the National Endowment for the Humanities, but Bernard soon left to become chief of staff to the U.S. Ambassador to France, Charles Rivkin. Then the Obamas tapped him as social secretary. Among those attending: Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon, Southern California finance co-chair of Obama's re-election campaign; Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.); City Controller Wendy Gruel; Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti; Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yarovslavsky; and Kermin Maddox. Karen Ocamb of LGBT POV has a roundup and photos from the event here. Photo of Jacobs and Bernard via Karen Ocamb.
For some reason, the S&P downgrade, the debt deal and the overall feeling of anxiousness reminded me that Hollywood has tried to make light of national malaise before. It was in 1979 and the movie was "Americathon," a satire in which the federal government is near bankruptcy, the dollar is devalued and the whole government is housed in a luxury condo in Marina del Rey. To get the U.S. out of dire straits, the president (John Ritter) decides to stage a telethon to raise $400 billion. (That's it?!) The movie was pretty awful and forgettable, but it it certainly didn't help Jimmy Carter's standing. The trailer is below.
Michelle Malkin is the latest conservative voice to slam Matt Damon after his defense of teachers, highlighted in a video interview he gave to Reason magazine that has passed more than 1.5 million views.
Malkin writes, "Tinseltown stars can afford to put emotion over logic, progressive fantasy over practical reality. The rest of us are stuck with the bill. And those whom bleeding-heart celebrities purport to care most about -- the children -- suffer the consequences of bad ideas."
As Paul Bond writes at The Hollywood Reporter, Damon is "suddenly the Hollywood liberal conservatives love to hate." He's rounded up quotes from the past week from Larry Elder, Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart, and even a comment from Rush Limbaugh that hit Hollywood figures for their propensity to go on diets. (Who knew weight loss was a partisan issue?)
When it comes to celebrities speaking out, here's how it works: Radio talk show hosts, especially on the right, can't praise Hollywood figures enough when they are supporting their views; they go nuts when an actor say something that they dislike.
The latter generates much more attention than the former, which is why Damon's remarks are helping teachers much more than hurting. If he wasn't at the rally in D.C. over the weekend, or said something non controversial with Reason, or didn't swear to a cameraman, would there even be this discussion this week about the merits of teacher tenure. In an environment where the kind of reform advocated in "Waiting for Superman" is supported not just by conservatives but the Obama administration, he's at least helped given a voice to teachers at a time when they are bearing the brunt of the blame for the failures in public education.
On Thursday Mitt Romney became the latest Republican presidential hopeful to sign a pledge supporting a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. But doesn't this run counter to where public opinion is shifting? With a number of conservative figures now helping to lead the way for equal rights among gays and lesbians, we talk with Margaret Hoover, author of the book "American Individualism," of whether this will become an issue of increasing friction within the GOP. Join Maegan Carberry, Kristen Soltis and myself for the latest Wilshire & Washington on the Radio, which you can listen to here or on the link below.
No, that is not a birther headline. After a pre-birthday bash in Chicago, President Obama celebrated on the actual date Thursday at a White House celebration featuring music from Ledisi, Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock.
The mix of about 200 guests included Jay-Z, Chris Rock, Hill Harper, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg and Charles Barkley, per the Huffington Post, as well as an array of friends, administration figures and campaign vets. Coming from California were Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti and political consultant Andy Spahn.
The event wasn't on the official press schedule, but details were leaked to Politico, which reported that dinner was in the Rose Garden followed by an East Room mini-concert. "Stevie Wonder came up at the end and sang a medley ending in “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.” DJ Cassidy played Motown, hip hop, and ’70s and ’80s R&B."
Rock Tweeted, "Just left the Presidents birthday party at the White House. Herbie Hancock played, Stevie Wonder sang and yes they did the electric slide. A great night."
Obama Food-O-Rama reports on the event and the cuisine: "Dinner was grilled chicken and steak, and Chicago-style hot dogs, with salad made with fresh greens plucked from Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden, as well as vegetable sides, accompanied by American wines. Tables were covered with simple gray cloths, and anchored by sprays of yellow flowers and greens. There was birthday cake, of course, and pie."
Update: Fox Nation's characterization of the event as a "Hip-Hop Barbecue" was an "odd" editorial decision, writes Dave Weigel of Slate. "Fox Nation could have gone with the "Jazz BBQ Doesn't Create Jobs" hed, I guess, but why not cut to the chase with something like: "Uppity Blacks Eat Soul Food and Laugh While You Hunt for A Job You Can't Get Because of Welfare Queens, Affirmative Action, and Carjackers.""
Kal Penn Speaks: Mike Fleming of Deadline talks to Kal Penn, returning to TV after spending two years in the White House working in the Office of Public Engagement (and at a very reduced salary).
Vid of the Day: Making the rounds is this video from an episode of "I've Got a Secret" in 1956. The panel game show, hosted by Garry Moore, featured guests who had done extraordinary things in their lives, i.e. their "secret." The guest on this show was a man who witnessed the Lincoln assassination.
Star litigator Pierce O'Donnell pled guilty today to making illegal contributions to the 2004 campaign of John Edwards.
O'Donnell has agreed to a six month prison sentence and a $20,000 fine. He's charged with reimbursing employees of his law firm after they made "straw" donations to his campaign. In 2006 O'Donnell pled no contest to using a false name while making contributions to then-Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn's campaign.
His sentencing will bring to a resolution a long legal saga, made all the more ironic given what happened to Edwards (facing his charges of misusing campaign funds) and campaign finance laws (which now allow for unlimited, undisclosed donations to groups that can advocate for or against candidates).
O'Donnell was perhaps most famous for representing Art Buchwald in his suit against Paramount, which exposed the studio's use of accounting procedures to disguise profitability.
Josh Howard recently unveiled his trailer for the documentary "The Lavender Scare," which will be a reminder that in the 1950s, in addition to communists, the Red Scare hysteria extended to homosexuals in the government. Thousands lost their jobs. The documentary, which I wrote about here, is based on the book by David K. Johnson.
Matt Damon's video in which he challenges a Reason TV reporter and a cameraman over tenure for teachers in public education has become a viral sensation. The vid has passed more than 1.1 million views on YouTube, with an array of comments for an against Damon's defense of teachers, from those calling him a liberal hero to others casting him a misguided celebrity (of course, with more vitriol). What seems to have helped draw attention to the exchange is when the Reason cameraman said that "10% of teachers are bad," Damon said, "Well, OK, maybe you're a shitty cameraman, I don't know."
Even if Damon has become a lightning bolt for the right and libertarians, he's at least succeeded in focusing attention on the issue of teachers, which is exactly what the purpose of his appearance in Washington was over the weekend. He challenged the notion that it's educators and teachers unions that are to blame for failing schools, as well as the reliance on testing in the solution to education reform. He appeared at a rally called Save Our Schools, and also expressed disgust for the debt deal.
Dana Goldstein writes at the Nation, "Teachers (and parents, and Matt Damon) are right to be skeptical of the administration’s testing push. While “standards-based-assessment” doesn’t have to mean that students are sitting for dozens of new bubble tests—there are other ways to “test,” including portfolio-based systems, performance tasks and presentations—the fact of the matter is that some states and school districts will respond to the incentives of Obama’s Race to the Top program in ways that over-rationalize learning."
In the Boston Herald, Michael Graham challenges Damon's assertions as "wrong on a theory and fact."
Garcetti to DC: Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti headlined a satellite fund-raiser in Hollywood for President Obama's birthday, with David Axelrod among the guests. Today Garcetti is headed to D.C., along with State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), to attend a celebration at the White House (today is the actual day of Obama's 50th). Garcetti was an early supporter of Obama's in the last cycle, and is widely expected to run for mayor of Los Angeles in 2013.
Colbert's Campaign: Trevor Potter, the campaign finance attorney who represented Stephen Colbert in his successful effort to form a super PAC, tells OpenSecrets.org that he thinks that the process "worked just fine."
He says, "First of all, I don’t think Mr. Colbert sees having a PAC as a joke; he sees it as a way to demonstrate how the process works and to play a role in the process through his television show. That gives people an idea of what actually happens, what's permitted and how PACs work.
Jennifer Hudson led a crowd of more than 2,000 in a rendition of "Happy Birthday" as President Obama marked his 50th birthday in a fundraiser at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom.
A video of the evening is below, but Obama got some of his biggest laughs with this line: "It's true that I turn 50 tomorrow, which means that by the time I wake up, I'll have an e-mail from AARP, asking me to call President Obama and tell him to protect Medicare."
View more videos at: http://nbcchicago.com.
I took most of the day off yesterday, but here goes what's happening...
President Obama heads to Chicago for a birthday celebration at the Aragon ballroom, and will address a series of satellite parties/fund raisers across the country. Jennifer Hudson, OK Go and Herbie Hancock will be among the performers at the Windy City event, with contributions ranging from $250-per-person to $35,800.
With unhappiness over the debt ceiling deal, the prospect of another recession and the markets dropping, this may not be the ideal time for celebration, but at least it will keep the president from lamenting turning 50. Mitt Romney has his own gift for Obama: A new Internet video that hits the president on the economy, and once again features heavy imagery reflecting Romney's "ruins" tours.
Damon vs. Reason: At Saturday's Save Our Teachers rally, Matt Damon challenged a Reason TV reporter's notion that lack of job security is an incentive for hard work, not teacher tenure.
Damon said, "So you think job insecurity is what makes me work hard? I want to be an actor. That’s not an incentive. That’s the thing. See, you take this MBA-style thinking, right? It’s the problem with ed policy right now, this intrinsically paternalistic view of problems that are much more complex than that. It’s like saying a teacher is going to get lazy when they have tenure. A teacher wants to teach. I mean, why else would you take a shitty salary and really long hours and do that job unless you really love to do it?"
The full interview, via Huffington Post, is here, as well as Damon's quick wit against a Reason cameraman.
The Other Palin Doc: Nick Broomfield's documentary on Sarah Palin, "Sarah Palin -- You Betcha!," will gets its premiere at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival. Meanwhile, the reverential documentary on Palin, "The Undefeated," grossed just $5,080 over the weekend as theaters pulled it from screens.
Cher once again has taken to Twitter to rail against Michele Bachmann.
Via Greg in Hollywood is this Tweet she sent last night: “Just got spam letter from M. Bachman! My reply ! Woman go bake 2 school take history ! & if I was on my deathbed & your best friend was JESUS!!! I WOULDNT VOTE 4 YOUR GAY HATING, BULLY LOVING , POSER CHRISTIAN ASS ! Got One From The TEA PARTY 2.l ! Head STILL SPINNING !Not HAPPY With Leaders.of DEMS & PRES. EIither wtf!” (sic)
Cher last month sent out a series of Tweets calling into question the sexuality of Bachmann's husband, Marcus, after reports that he had once referred to gays as "barbarians."
All of this plays right into the hands of the right. Back in 2008, a parade of Hollywood stars railed against Sarah Palin, but she has since used it as fodder to show how vicious the entertainment elite can be. The Palin documentary "The Undefeated" opens with one star after another blasting her, setting up the movie's theme of an underdog against the system.
The same may be happening for Bachmann, who has been a tad less likely to acknowledge her Hollywood critics but, certainly in a primary campaign, could benefit from the attention.
A week ago, Gordon Smith of the National Assn. of Broadcasters expressed fears that a deal to raise the nation's debt revenue would include a plan to auction off broadcaster's spectrum, or the airwave space they get from a government license.
But the plan unveiled last night does not include the incentive auctions, in which stations would voluntarily give up their spectrum in exchange for a share in the proceeds of their sale to wireless firms.
Smith said in a statement this morning, "We are pleased that the negotiated debt ceiling bill, to be considered by Congress, does not threaten free and local broadcasting. NAB will continue working with lawmakers on incentive auction legislation that is truly voluntary. Our goal is to ensure that TV stations choosing not to go out of business will be held harmless, and that tens of millions of Americans who enjoy local news, entertainment, sports and lifesaving weather warnings from broadcasters will not be penalized."
Broadcasters have criticized the auction plan over fears that it would disrupt the channel lineup, as stations would have to change their spots as broadcast spectrum is cleared away.
Winner, Blog of the Year 2008, Southern California Journalism Awards.