The Nation asked six politically active members of the entertainment community to comment on recent developments in the realms of politics and popular culture. Most of the participants agree that President Clinton has badly let down the liberals who supported him, although none think he should have been impeached. Most agree that there is little difference between the two parties, and all decry the influence of money on American politics, and on films as well. The participants are: Warren Beatty, Danny Glover, Norman Lear, Oliver Stone, Tim Robbins and Alec Baldwin. (We regret that Susan Sarandon, who was scheduled to participate, could not do so because of illness.) Thanks to Carl Bromley and Jon Wiener for conducting the interviews.
Q: Has Clinton done damage to the liberal agenda?
He never really had a liberal agenda. He caved on military issues, tax issues. He could at least pardon Leonard Peltier before he leaves office. But I doubt it. He’s the ultimate pragmatic man–Republican or Democrat; although I do think the impeachment humiliation may finally crack through his desire to please all and let loose the JFK-like man inside. Perhaps the last year and a half of his presidency will be surprising.
I wouldn’t say we should entirely blame Clinton. He wasn’t there alone. The Democrats aided and abetted him.
I’ve never been a Clinton supporter. Never appeared at anything for him, never went to the White House–have been invited, turned it down. My film Bob Roberts is about the subversion of a culture for one’s own gain. Both parties are guilty of that. But Clinton, as time goes on, is becoming closer to Bob Roberts than Bush ever was.
I don’t think I’ve ever really supported Clinton’s presidency. He’s just someone who has taken his personality and used it in a way to seduce people into believing that he is something that he’s not, that he’s someone who really fights for issues. When it came to really difficult decisions, he certainly didn’t step to the plate.
I think it’s an oversimplification to say that a lot of support for Clinton is based on a lesser-of-two-evils foundation. I don’t consider Clinton a progressive, but I think some credit should be given to the fact that when he came into the White House, he did try a relatively progressive agenda in the work he was doing on healthcare and gays in the military, and he got smacked down pretty quickly for it. A lot of people are saying he then ran off and co-opted the Republicans’ agenda. I don’t think that’s wholly true. Clinton is somebody who said, Listen, if I can’t accomplish what I want to do, let’s go and accomplish those things they want to do that I think are worthwhile.
And then, every once in a while, Clinton will step up and do something that reminds you that he does have some liberal stripes, that he’s not been completely co-opted by their agenda. He’ll give Orrin Hatch a heart attack by setting aside the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and wiping out all the mining and tourism. Or, the EPA made an announcement the other day about air quality emissions standards, which always gives Detroit a little bit of a chest pain. But it’s certainly not enough for people on my side.
What did you think of the impeachment?
I’ve not looked at a stitch of television in reference to it, and part of that is just a reflection of just how absurd I think the mess is.