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CNN Today

Star Power and Power Politics

Aired August 15, 2000 - 2:54 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Back here in Los Angeles, a long, long time ago, Hollywood stars shone on the silver screen, not the political stage. That changed the course over the generations, particularly when American voters sent a moviestar to the White House in 1980.

Here's CNN's Anne McDermott now with star power and power politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNE MCDERMOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're used to stars in politics now, but there was a time when stars only publicized pictures, not policy.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Humphrey Bogart would not have gone on "Nightline" and debated nuclear strategy. It would not have occurred to him to do that.

MCDERMOTT: It's different now. Charlton Heston is on TV talking about issues like gun ownership. And plenty of stars like Clint Eastwood have run for office themselves, even learned to speak the lingo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never think in terms of polls.

MCDERMOTT: What happened? Well, the '60s -- Vietnam, Watergate. politicians lost prestige, even as a growing cult of celebrity gave stars license to speak, and speak they did, on everything from abortion to AIDS awareness to presidential campaigns.

BARBARA STREISAND, ACTRESS: It was time to speak out and use my voice to be heard.

MCDERMOTT: She, and others, of course, wanted to be heard by politicians, and some politicians listened, because celebrities are valuable. They can help create excitement about a campaign. Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack did that for John F. Kennedy. And they can lend support and offer endorsements.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: California deserves better -- Tom Bradley.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCDERMOTT: But Bradley didn't win that race. Celebrities can help and hurt.

DENNIS MILLER, COMEDIAN: I don't mind them coming out if they're humble about it and just say, hey, listen, I'm just another citizen, here's what I believe. But when they do this thing like they're tapped into some font of knowledge because they have a publicist and an agent, it's crap to me.

MCDERMOTT: But if celebrities can't always be counted on for votes. Well, as Chevy Chase observed a few years ago, they can usually be counted on to help raise money.

CHEVY CHASE, ACTOR: Pretty much that's it.

MCDERMOTT: Most activist stars play the money-raising role, but Warren Beatty briefly flirted with the idea of running for president.

WARREN BEATTY, ACTOR: We can't afford any longer to ignore that the life of the patient, American Democracy, is in mortal danger of expiring on the table.

MCDERMOTT: But eventually he backed away. Maybe he simply woke up one morning and said, hey, what do I need that for, I'm a movie star!

BROWNSTEIN: The fact is, the stars have a pretty good life.

MCDERMOTT: And maybe that explains why this politician had his own brief flirtation with showbiz.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to be a real actor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCDERMOTT: Anne McDermott, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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