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STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING
Aired May 17, 2009 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HOWARD KURTZ, CNN ANCHOR: I'm here in Los Angeles, John. And the "L.A. Times" has been filled with stories about Arnold Schwarzenegger proposing such things as selling the coliseum, laying off 5,000 state employees, cutting schools pretty badly unless some fiscal initiatives he's pushing are approved this week.
You know, what's interesting, John, is that he came in as the glamorous movie star outsider. Now, according to the "Los Angeles Times," he's seen as just another Sacramento politician.
KING: No question, Howie. I was out there just a week ago, and I did a diner segment, as we always do, and I asked people -- look, California is the 12th largest economy in the world, just that state. I asked them what they think of their governor. All three people, many of whom said -- all three who said they supported him at the beginning said time for Arnold to go. They're ready to move on.
KURTZ: It's a tough road out here for state and local officials.
Thanks, John. We'll talk to you in a few moments.
Ahead, we'll take advantage of our Hollywood locale. A special interview with Mariel Hemingway, the actress who now communicates with a few thousand of her closest friends on Twitter.
And Peter Bart, longtime editor of "Variety," will be here to talk about coverage of the movie business.
But first, for eight long years, Dick Cheney was an elusive figure for journalists, a behind-the-scenes powerhouse who rarely ventured in front of the television cameras. Now the former vice president is practically inescapable.
He has been ripping the new president at every opportunity, beginning a few weeks back when he told John King that Barack Obama has made America less safe. Cheney stepped up his media blitz this week, appearing with CBS' Bob Schieffer and Fox's Neil Cavuto, ratcheting up his rhetoric and emerging, whether his party likes it or not, as the GOP's spokesman in chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: Rush Limbaugh said the other day that the party would probably be better off if Colin Powell left and just became a Democrat. RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I'd go with Rush Limbaugh, I think. I think my take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn't know he was still a Republican.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KURTZ: Cheney's high profile has prompted the pundits to debate not just his arguments on torture and national security, but this confrontational question: Why doesn't he just zip it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: He has a duty to speak out, but a lot of Republicans are wondering why one of their least popular leaders is out there up front so often, when they should be looking to the future.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: He's now driving the news cycle. He's everywhere.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC: Dick Cheney does it again, frustrating Republicans and thrilling Democrats. Just whose side is he on?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN: Why not just tell Cheney to shut up and let Obama collapse under his own weight...
BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, no, no.
GRIFFIN: ... and the Republicans will just swoop into power?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So, are the media being hostile to the ex-veep and being as tough on Nancy Pelosi as she's gotten involved in the torture debate?
Joining me now here in Los Angeles to talk about that and some other issues, Stephanie Miller, host of the nationally syndicated "Stephanie Miller Radio Show." In New York, Michael Medved, host of "The Michael Medved Show" on the Salem Radio Network. And in Washington, Roger Simon, chief political columnist for "Politico."
Stephanie Miller, where do all these pundits get off saying Dick Cheney should stay off TV? Do you want him to stay off TV?
STEPHANIE MILLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No. I want him to be on more and more.
Dick, Dick, Dick -- I love him. I cannot get enough. And he's bringing his daughter out now to defend him.
I hope they do a remake of the "Dick Van Dyke Show." I do. I think that we could see them every single night on TV. And the Republican Party's ratings will go down and down, and they'll have more evidence for the war crimes trial.
KURTZ: The war crimes trial?
Michael Medved, is it fair for journalists to argue or even insinuate that it's unseemly for Cheney to be out there criticizing President Obama so soon after leaving office? MICHAEL MEDVED, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No, it's not unfair. It's a real question, because I remember when Al Gore came out against the Iraq War and, very stridently, a lot of us were very critical of the former vice president for criticizing his successor in such intemperate terms.
No, I don't think Dick Cheney has been intemperate about this at all, but I certainly would agree that, look, right now, the most visible Republican voices are Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and Miss California. And I'm not sure those are the party spokesmen who are going to be most effective for us.
KURTZ: We'll get to Miss California a little later.
Roger Simon, are media organizations secretly thrilled to have Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh as leading GOP spokesmen, as opposed to, say, oh, I don't know, Mitch McConnell?
ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Yes. And I don't think it's a secret.
I mean, Dick Cheney is 68, white and bitter. He is the face of the Republican Party today. He's the perfect spokesman.
And, you know, even -- on a more serious note, we divorce what he's saying, if one can do that, and just look at how he says it, Dick Cheney is very, very good on TV. He proved that during the first Gulf War when he was defense secretary, and he shocked the media and everyone else by going on TV during a shooting war to talk about what the administration was doing.
Dick Cheney is calm, he's articulate, he's even courageous in what he says. And even if you don't agree with what he's saying, he is a better spokesman than anybody in the Republican Party today.
KURTZ: Here's the counter-argument, Stephanie, and that is that, you know, there's a lot of problems facing this country -- economy, health care, you name it -- and people like you want to spend -- you spent the last eight years kicking Bush and Cheney around and you want to spend a few more.
MILLER: Well, first of all, Michael Medved's point of order, Al Gore was right about the Iraq War, so there's that.
KURTZ: It was a year and a half into the Bush presidency.
MILLER: Yes, but, look, you know, Howard, this is serious. I mean, we kid, but this is serious.
My dad was a prosecutor at Nuremberg, and I'm not kidding when I say, you know, look at the Senate Intelligence Committee and what Colin Powell's aide is saying. They were using illegal techniques to get us into an illegal war. They were trying to look for the connection between al Qaeda and Saddam. That's the big story.
KURTZ: But the question, Michael Medved, is to what degree the media -- and I think Cheney's visibility has spurred this on -- want to increasingly use their precious air time and ink on paper to focus on the abuses or alleged abuses of the past.
MEDVED: Well, it's become such a juicy story, especially with the involvement of Speaker Pelosi. And I've got to tell you, this is a disaster for the Obama administration because, seriously, the torture debate, as it's called, or the harsh interrogation debate, does nothing to win new Democrats.
It does nothing to advance health care reform. It does nothing to advance dealing with the economy. It does nothing to advance energy reform. None of that.
And I happen to believe that President Obama wishes that -- and this is the sense in which Dick Cheney is effective. Look, you've got to question, why is Dick Cheney doing this? Is he running for president? Obviously not. Does he want a personal leadership role? Obviously not.
He's doing it out of patriotic motive. And I think trying to remind people...
KURTZ: Well, ,you say patriotic motive, but isn't it also a case where he's trying to defend the policies with which he was closely associated and trying to vindicate his record, of which I'm not criticizing, but that's a different kind of motive?
MEDVED: It is. But I think that if you listen to what he's saying, what he's saying is, hey, hold on, the United States of America, the war on terror isn't over, the danger is still out there. And there are a lot of people who resent being reminded of that, and it seems to me that that's the aspect of the story that deserves more attention.
KURTZ: And Roger Simon, the White House boosted the so-called torture debate into the news very prominently this week, when the president, who had decided some weeks ago to allow the release of photos, we're told, fairly gruesome photos about the way detainees were treated, he decided to do something else instead.
Let's look at the way television coverage framed that decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: Tonight, sudden switch. The president changes his mind about releasing photos of detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan.
KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS: But today, three weeks later, he's changed his mind.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN: We begin tonight with President Obama's stunning reversal or, some say, flip-flop. SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: The Obama administration has done a 180 on an important issue of national security. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And Roger, this was a 180, that's the right number, but it seemed like news organizations were as interested in the shift of position than in the substance of what he decided on these photos.
SIMON: Oh, I think that's true, and part of it is because presidential candidates are so swiftly and completely packaged these days, that by the time they get elected, we think we really know who they are and what they believe in. Four and a half years ago, Barack Obama was a state legislator in Springfield, Illinois. Hardly anyone in Illinois even knew who he was.
Now we are learning just a little more than 100 days into his presidency that there are things about President Obama that we knew nothing about, including how he feels about the serious subject of torture and how much to listen to his generals on whether torture pictures should be released. And there is a feeling, I think, of shock on the media's part and betrayal on the part of some people on the left who elected him. And the question being asked is, who is this guy and how come we didn't know all this stuff beforehand?
KURTZ: And Stephanie, presidents get into office and they have new information, and they make decisions that don't always match the campaign rhetoric, but there is an interesting role reversal here. Conservatives like what Obama did in withholding the photos, and people on your side of the aisle not happy.
MILLER: Well, Howard, I agree, but I also think that, you know, like we've been saying, this is not the issue. I mean, we all know these pictures are going to get out anyway, and the issue is not the pictures, the issue is not what Nancy Pelosi knew or when she knew it. It's who ordered the torture? And torture is illegal.
KURTZ: All right.
Michael Medved, you mentioned earlier Nancy Pelosi. Now, she -- the House speaker found herself in the middle of this whole thing by accusing the CIA of misleading Congress about the use of torture techniques back in 2002, 2003. Her account of what she was told and when she was told it certainly has some gaps and inconsistencies.
Do you see the media now holding her accountable? Is she being -- is the press being as tough on Pelosi as is being on former Bush officials?
MEDVED: Surprisingly, ,I think they're being pretty tough. And I think it's appropriate.
The big story here that I don't think people are picking up is the splintering of this unified Democratic Party. That has been going on very dramatically.
President Obama does not want Congress or the nation obsessed with the interrogation issue. I mean, it does him no good at all. It hurts him. He also, all of a sudden, has a big split on the left wing of his party over health care reform. A lot of people, they interrupted a finance committee hearing under Chairman Baucus the other day demanding single payer coverage.
And the truth is that one of the big stories has been the divisions in the Republican Party. Right now, Republicans seem more united than they have been in the last couple of weeks, and Democrats suddenly are discovering all of these divisions.
Blue Dog Democrats, 40 of them, protested that they weren't being consulted in Henry Waxman's drafting of the health care bill. That's a big story.
KURTZ: Let me turn to Roger Simon so I can bring it back to the media coverage.
It does seem to me, Roger, that a lot of reporters got tougher on or, some might even say, turned against Nancy Pelosi this week as she tried to explain her way out of this controversy.
SIMON: Well, just look at her performance at that press conference. I mean, if she had hung a sign around her neck saying "I am lying," she could not have done worse.
I can't remember a worse press conference, I think, except when Al Gore went to a briefing and had to talk about his contributions to the Buddhist temple. And that was a long time ago.
I mean, she was terrible. It's not that she couldn't -- she didn't know what she said. She couldn't decide on what she didn't know what she said. And I think the media, this time, was just neutral filters for what she was standing up in front of the camera and saying or trying to say.
KURTZ: All right.
Now, Medved has given me a perfect excuse to end on Miss California since he mentioned her as a Republican spokesman. Certainly, she's gotten a lot of media attention since giving that gay marriage answer at the beauty pageant. And the question was, would she lose her crown? Which led to all the cable new networks going to Donald Trump.
Let's roll that tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, MISS USA PAGEANT OWNER: So, we've made a determination that the pictures taken were acceptable, they were fine. In many cases, they were actually lovely pictures.
CARRIE PREJEAN, MISS CALIFORNIA: On April 19th on that stage, I exercised my freedom of speech, and I was punished for doing so. This should not happen in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KURTZ: Stephanie, Donald Trump says those seminude and topless photos of Carrie Prejean were lovely. MILLER: And who would have seen that coming? You know, Howard, I was hoping for the same kind of press that Miss California got. I was going to bring a wind machine so I could say the wind blew my top up today on your show.
MILLER: Do you think we're all talking about this so that television networks can run those pictures again and again? How many times have we seen those pictures?
MILLER: I think so.
SIMON: You think?
MILLER: And by the way, I just want to say she looked lovely, and I think it's probably because gay people did her hair and makeup.
KURTZ: And Michael Medved, though, Carrie Prejean has been given a hard time by those who don't agree with her opposition to gay marriage. True?
MEDVED: She has. But I think one of the important things to remember is, this entire thing, who had heard of Carrie Prejean a couple of weeks ago? She has become a national celebrity.
There's another cable network out there where she's going to be doing some guest hosting. And I'm sure she has a great future.
She seems like a lovely young lady and a very serious person and very sincere. But again, to make this an issue of freedom of speech, actually, I wonder if there's a conspiracy here with Perez Hilton, because it was really his attack on her that made her a national figure.
KURTZ: That's right. And he's gotten some attention too. In fact, we had him on RELIABLE SOURCES a few weeks ago.
All right. We're going to have to hold it there.
Roger Simon, Michael Medved, Stephanie Miller, here in L.A., thanks very much for joining us.
Later, we talk Twitter with Mariel Hemingway. But first, hurray for "PoliWood." Director Barry Levinson's new movie looks at the increasingly blurry line between the worlds of journalism, politics and celebrity.
KURTZ: Barry Levinson doesn't just make successful movies, he make iconic films that are remembered long after they vanish from the big screen.
"Rain Man" with Dustin Hoffman...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "RAIN MAN") DUSTIN HOFFMAN, ACTOR: Should (ph) read the telephone book last night. Dibbs (ph), Sally, 461-0192.
(END VIDEO CLIP, "RAIN MAN")
KURTZ: "The Natural" with Robert Redford...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE NATURAL")
ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR: I'm Roy Hobbs, your new right fielder.
(END VIDEO CLIP, "THE NATURAL")
KURTZ: "Good Morning, Vietnam" with Robin Williams...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GOOD MORNING VIETNAM")
ROBIN WILLIAMS, ACTOR: Good morning, Vietnam!
(END VIDEO CLIP, "GOOD MORNING VIETNAM")
KURTZ: And a movie whose title entered the political lexicon when Bill Clinton got into trouble with Monica Lewinsky, "Wag the Dog," with Hoffman and Robert DeNiro.
Now, Levinson has made a very different kind of film. "PoliWood," which has opened in selected markets, explores the nexus between politics, the media and Hollywood celebrities. This time he's got a cast that includes Susan Sarandon, Anne Hathaway and singer David Crosby, but playing themselves. A behind-the-scenes look at the nature of fame and influence.
I spoke to him earlier back in Washington.
KURTZ: Barry Levinson, welcome.
BARRY LEVINSON, FILMMAKER: Thank you.
KURTZ: It's almost become obligatory for celebrities to have a cause that they can champion. Are we suckers? Do we lavish too much attention on that?
LEVINSON: No, I think maybe in the real sense, maybe not enough, because those are the people who do it, they don't get any -- you know, there's no profit, there's no gain from it other than they are concerned citizens. So they just speak up periodically about certain things that they think could be helpful in terms of the life we lead.
KURTZ: Let's take a look from your movie at Anne Hathaway talking about this very subject.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "POLIWOOD")
ANNE HATHAWAY, ACTRESS: A lot of people think that celebrity advocacy is just another way of getting your name in the papers, and that's actually the last thing in the world that I'm here for. I'm wondering if I'm actually being irresponsible when I'm asked a question about something regarding this and I don't know how to answer it because I just don't have enough information.
(END VIDEO CLIP, "POLIWOOD")
KURTZ: You say there is no profit for celebrities to do this, but doesn't it help transform their image?
LEVINSON: No, in most cases it would be negative because what happens is, at best, it's a 50-50 split. Fifty percent of the people are not going to like what you have to say. So that's not -- there's no upside to it. You're much better off...
KURTZ: But what if you're Angelina Jolie and you have a kind of a slutty image as Billy Bob Thornton's girlfriend, and now people think of you as this U.N. refugee volunteer?
LEVINSON: But it doesn't translate into box office. In other words, none of that kind of public appearances in terms of political views help any actor, writer, director in terms of the work they do.
KURTZ: I want to show the audience something from two different movies, kind of make the connection here. "Wag the Dog," as I mentioned earlier, here is White House aide Robert DeNiro going to Dustin Hoffman. The president has a little problem, he's caught fooling around with a teenage girl.
Let's roll that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "WAG THE DOG")
HOFFMAN: You want me to do what?
ROBERT DENIRO, ACTOR: We want you to produce.
HOFFMAN: You want me to produce your war?
DENIRO: Not a way, it's a pageant. We need a theme, a song, some visuals. You know,, it's a pageant. It's like the Oscars. That's why we came to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP, "WAG THE DOG")
KURTZ: And now from PoliWood, you put together a montage of television news clips, real ones. Let's take a look at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "POLIWOOD")
BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS: The Hillary Clinton campaign is putting out the following pictures...
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He was educated in a madrassa.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Barack Obama is a practicing Christian, but Obama's half brother is not so sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His middle name, Hussein.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Presidential candidate Barack Obama is trying to change political fashion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody wears them from a mayor to county commissioner to members of Congress to the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not wearing a lapel pin, are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will wear one and I have worn one. I'm not making a statement about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But do you see my point?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: What were you trying to say there by putting those television...
LEVINSON: I mean, because so much of the day is filled with things that really aren't significant. I mean, Hussein, what does it mean? You know, what does it mean if you wear a lapel pin or you don't wear it? What does it all mean?
KURTZ: But if politicians are whipping that up as a controversy, should journalists not cover it?
LEVINSON: Well, in many cases it becomes -- it's both. I mean, it feeds itself. "PoliWood" doesn't say there's any real enemy. It's just a collision between celebrity, politics and the media, and this is the time that we live in.
KURTZ: Sometimes there's real reporting. For example, there was a mention of a madrassa. CNN actually sent a correspondent to Indonesia who knocked that story down. Barack Obama did not attend a religious madrassa when he was a child.
But are you saying that there is too much repeating and using these images as wallpaper in a way that maybe is disconnected from the reality of the news?
LEVINSON: I mean, for me, personally, I believe there is too much -- you know, just flashing of things that just keep our eyes busy and it just gets into the air. So there is this constant misinformation that goes on. At the same time, there is very credible information. But they are existing simultaneously.
KURTZ: They bump into each other.
LEVINSON: And they bump into one another.
KURTZ: And you're sitting at home and you're watching this on this little box, and it can be hard to sort it all out?
LEVINSON: Well, it just -- we give equal space. In other words, you can have somebody who is an expert in terms of the Holocaust, and then you can have somebody who says it never happened. And they're both -- there they are.
They are equal in size. It's not like the expert gets a big one and he gets a little space.
KURTZ: That denier is not coming on my program.
You say that television news, like Tinseltown, has to have its own celebrities, its own way of providing entertainment. Why is that?
LEVINSON: Right, because -- I mean, look, unfortunately, everyone's beholden to ratings. I mean, that's a given.
LEVINSON: So you have to be able to create a celebrity journalist, or whatever, that ultimately dominates that people will tune in to watch.
KURTZ: Are Katie Couric, Brian Williams, Wolf Blitzer, are they celebrities?
LEVINSON: At the same time they're news people.
KURTZ: Are they entertainers?
LEVINSON: We blur them together. Well, they are entertainers as well because they are on the television.
They have to entertain at the same time they have to inform. That's the -- once you step over from it being a public service, which is the way it all began, to now, news has to get ratings. So having a very good news show isn't enough in itself. It has to attract the ratings, that's the obligation of it all.
KURTZ: Didn't news always have to get ratings? The sainted Edward R. Murrow, he interviewed Marilyn Monroe on a program called "Person to Person."
LEVINSON: Yes, but that wasn't a news show.
LEVINSON: Right? I mean, that was his other kind of show that he did.
But in the very beginning we would just provide information, going way back. Once you go down that road -- and I'm not saying it is -- there is the upside, downside to all of it. You can't just paint it as a negative brush, but the ratings become just as important to a news show as it does to any variety show, or a sitcom or a drama.
KURTZ: You've got to get people inside the tent.
LEVINSON: Yes, get them in.
KURTZ: Once they're there, you might be able to give them a nutritious meal, you might give them empty calories.
What do you think of the political news show on cable -- O'Reilly, Olbermann, Lou Dobbs, Anderson Cooper?
LEVINSON: Well, look, some are better than others. And some of them are very good. Others of them become frivolous. There is a mixed bag out there.
KURTZ: Do you worry at all, that this news business, at least the electronic version, is becoming more of a circus, more of a -- there is more pressure to serve up the cotton candy? LEVINSON: Yes, that I do believe is a problem. And some of the really big issues that we have, because there isn't a visual component to it, go unnoticed.
KURTZ: The financial crisis, banking stress tests, how do you show that on TV? But it's probably the most important issue out there right now.
LEVINSON: Yes, so how do you do that? How do you cover the idea of certain things, like you take the Chesapeake Bay, which is 40 percent dead? You know, dead. It's being polluted. In 20 years it will be gone.
But how do you show it on television? People will suddenly go, oh, so it's a non-story because there is no visual thing to get excited about because it's about adrenaline.
KURTZ: "PoliWood" is not a big budget, big studio film, right?
LEVINSON: No, no, no. We did it for very few dollars and it's -- I call it a film essay because it's not like I can get to the ultimate truth. I'm just showing various things, and people can make up their own minds. But it's a very inexpensive documentary.
KURTZ: Did you draw on your experience at all? You started out here in Washington for a couple of local stations...
KURTZ: ... working as a floor director, working in producing. Did that play into your view in making this film?
LEVINSON: Yes, but not consciously to begin with. I started to do it, and then I'm thinking, oh, wait a minute, I was working in this. I did a movie, "Avalon," and I was dealing with the effects of television, and so I began to bring those things into it because, in some ways, I'm fascinated by media.
I grew up with it. I worked in it. I've been around it my whole life, and of course my feelings are going to be part of "PoliWood." KURTZ: All right.
Barry Levinson, thanks very much for stopping by.
KURTZ: Coming up in the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, we pay a visit to Mariel Hemingway's home, as the actress talks about balancing her privacy with her fervent desire to talk to her fans and followers on Twitter.
And Variety's Peter Bar on how the rise of Hollywood blogs are changing the way the film industry is covered and not, in his view, for the better.
Then at noon Eastern, you'll see John King's interviews with White House Budget Director Peter Orszag and House Minority Leader John Boehner.
KING: I'm John King, and this is STATE OF THE UNION." Here are stories breaking this Sunday morning.
Two astronauts from Shuttle Atlantis are hard at work right now upgrading the Hubble Space Telescope. They will replace a science instrument, and it's more tedious than it sounds. The astronauts have to replace 117 tiny screws, a task that's been compared to brain surgery.
Republican Leader John Boehner says he wants House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to come clean on allegations she was misled by the CIA about the use of waterboarding. Earlier this morning on STATE OF THE UNION, Leader Boehner said Pelosi should come forward with evidence to support her allegation, or she should apologize to the intelligence community.
President Obama faces protests when he delivers the commencement speech at Notre Dame later today. The visit has divided the Roman Catholic university. Nineteen protesters, all non-students, were arrested yesterday. They disagree with the president's support for abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research.
The graduation ceremony starts at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, and of course we'll have live coverage of the president's address.
That and more, ahead on STATE OF THE UNION.
And as we turn things back over to Howie Kurtz and his RELIABLE SOURCES -- you know, Howie, the president couldn't watch today because he's getting ready for that big speech, but did you see in "Newsweek" where he says he doesn't watch cable news at all?
KURTZ: He has mentioned that several times, and told me that during the campaign, as well, John. He has a kind of dismissive view of cable news as a place of sound and fury, and not necessary a lot of enlightenment.
KURTZ: But, you know, it's also not an accident that he's on the cover of this new "Newsweek." This is a revamped and redesigned magazine that apparently persuaded the president that it would be a very good cover subject for this relaunch.
Thank you, John. We'll talk to you a little later on the program.
Mariel Hemingway has a lot of friends these days. More than 6,000, in fact, as we'll explain in a second. Now, obviously, she has a big following from her film career, ranging from her debut at 16 in Woody Allen's "Manhattan," to a famous televised kiss with a sitcom star.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MANHATTAN")
WOODY ALLEN, ACTOR: ... that wore (ph) off a lot.
MARIEL HEMINGWAY, ACTRESS: Jesus. You pop up, you don't call me, and then you suddenly appear. I mean, what happened to that woman you met?
(END VIDEO CLIP, "MANHATTAN")
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ROSEANNE")
HEMINGWAY: You read my mind.
ROSEANNE BARR, ACTRESS: Huh?
(END VIDEO CLIP, "ROSEANNE") KURTZ: But the actress has a new gang of friends from the online world. Mariel has become a different kind of star on the Web site Twitter, filing 2,000 updates in a few short months about her television work, her cooking, and her life. Oh, yes, and her newly released book, ,"Mariel's Kitchen: Simple Ingredients for a Simple and Satisfying Life."
Why does she reveal so much of herself to virtual strangers?
I spoke to her this weekend at her home, high up in the Santa Monica mountains.
HOWARD KURTZ: You and I met on Twitter.
HEMINGWAY: Yes, we did.
KURTZ: How did you get hooked?
I mean if you were so addicted at one point.
(LAUGHTER) HEMINGWAY: I know.
KURTZ: You were checking in the middle of the night.
HEMINGWAY: I know. I was awful. It was very, very scary.
And I have to admit that I've calmed down a little bit. But somebody said today -- they Tweeted and they were like, "Always Twittering." And I said, "Busted." And they were like, "You are so busted."
HEMINGWAY: So I am definitely a Twitter addict.
KURTZ: But here's...
HEMINGWAY: But I've gotten better. I've calmed down. But I was. I was, like, worried in the middle of the night that, you know, like who was following or what did they have to say about what I had to say, you know?
KURTZ: Here's the reaction people have when they find you on Twitter. One is, is this the real Mariel Hemingway?
KURTZ: I've investigated it. She's the real deal.
And secondly, what is a hot-shot celebrity doing hanging out with all these people she doesn't know?
HEMINGWAY: You know what? It's really interesting, because I'm a very private person. I mean, you can see, I sort of live in the land of the jungles and, you know, and I'm always Tweeting about hiking...
KURTZ: You live with the birds.
HEMINGWAY: ... and the birds and my Disneyland -- my Disney sort of backdrop.
But I find it wonderfully comforting to know that there's just people out there to connect with that, you know, yes, they don't know me, but it's strange, because I've never been a techno kind of person. I was never the computer, like, literate...
HEMINGWAY: Yes, I wasn't a geek. I wasn't -- like, my Facebook kind of was failing miserably. Like, every month I'd go oh, right, yes, maybe I should check that out.
But for some reason, I find Twitter to be kind of...
KURTZ: Is it like a community for you? HEMINGWAY: It is. It is. It's like a collective. I fee like, you know what? I've got these people that follow me, but I follow them. You know, and I'm totally interested in what people are doing. I mean I'm surprised at myself, to be quite honest.
KURTZ: Well, here's what's interesting. I mean, we -- those of us on the outside, we experience celebrities. It seems like everything about their image is carefully calibrated and airbrushed and manufacturing -- and manufactured. And yet, I follow you -- I mean, I know what time you go to sleep now.
KURTZ: You're a real...
HEMINGWAY: It's so boring.
KURTZ: You're a real person typing out your little messages and making typos and all of that.
HEMINGWAY: Yes, exactly.
KURTZ: Isn't there something refreshing about that?
HEMINGWAY: Well, I hope it's refreshing.
HEMINGWAY: Because otherwise it's going to be completely boring. I mean, I think after two months, they're going to be like, oh, she's so dull. And no, she's gone for another hike. She went to bed at 10:00. You know, she watches...
KURTZ: Do you feel pressure to spice it up?
HEMINGWAY: Yes, I do. I'm like, there are some times where I think, well, maybe I should just like add a little juice (ph), you know?
But, you know, I do get to go to New York now and again, so I have that awesome opportunity to say, oh, I'm in the high life. But I get very scared there, too. I'm like, I need to go back to the woods.
KURTZ: But here's what you've written, for people who just think of you as a movie star. HEMINGWAY: Oh, God.
KURTZ: "I am not a high-rolling, super-fabulous, party-going celebrity. I keep to myself" And you do write a lot about yoga and hiking and so forth..
HEMINGWAY: Yes, I do. I do.
KURTZ: So you're not living in the fast lane...
HEMINGWAY: Did I write that?
KURTZ: I've got it right here.
HEMINGWAY: Hopefully I didn't -- I spelled it correctly.
KURTZ: You are very candid on Twitter and also on your blog.
KURTZ: I mean you have written about difficulties growing up, your sister Margo's suicide...
KURTZ: ... your divorce.
KURTZ: What makes you feel comfortable sharing this in the digital world?
HEMINGWAY: You know why I do? Is because, actually, I believe that there's not -- that there's not a problem that anybody hasn't had. I mean, I believe that we all have the same problems, we just -- they just have different wrapping paper.
So for me, it's saying, you know what? I know I'm in the public eye. Guess what? This is what I come from, this is what I deal with.
And I think it gives a -- gives people a sense of like, oh, she's one of -- I come from that, too. Because we all come from the same stuff. You know, maybe I -- you know, my addictions happen to be healthy addictions -- you know, with food and health and yoga and going outside. They're addictions, nonetheless, because that's what I come from.
And I just believe that if you're honest about who you are, it enables people to relax with you, you know?
KURTZ: As you know, there are people out there who make fun of Twitter. Maureen Dowd and others -- "I think it's a refuge for the utterly self-absorbed." People writing about what they had for lunch, when they brush their teeth.
But it's really more than that, isn't it?
HEMINGWAY: Oh, I think it's far more than that. I mean, yes, you can make fun of it.
I mean, I have a friend who's a producer at "Oprah," and she's like, I don't get it. It's not funny. It might be fun for you, you're a celebrity. She said, "I'm utterly bored with myself." I said, well, don't you -- I said, "It's not really about you, it's about checking out what other people are doing, it's..." There's something about sharing and also, you know, like seeing that you've written something. And it's like, I re-Tweet it because I find it interesting.
I don't know...
KURTZ: That means you send it out to all of your followers?
HEMINGWAY: Yes, exactly.
KURTZ: Yes, right.
HEMINGWAY: Yes, exactly. And, you know, two months ago, I wouldn't have known what that meant. Actually, you were one of the first people that helped me understand the rules regarding like, what do I do?
KURTZ: You were a novice.
HEMINGWAY: Yes. And somebody said, I can't believe Howard Kurtz is helping Mariel Hemingway with her Tweets.
KURTZ: It's just part of my many job responsibilities.
HEMINGWAY: Yes. Exactly.
KURTZ: So there is a sense of community that develops?
HEMINGWAY: Absolutely. I think you feel a closeness with people, and it's a great way to kind of get what your message is out there. So I do a lot of Tweets that are just dull. You know, "I just picked strawberries in my garden," blah, blah, blah.
But then I do -- you know, I'll push the book. I shame -- but I say, "I'm shamelessly pushing my book right now. Please..." You know , "Please check it out." And people have. You know? And it's a great way to kind of do your business but also, you know...
KURTZ: Speaking of shamelessly pushing your book...
KURTZ: ... it's "Mariel's Kitchen," and it's about eating healthy and locally grown food.
KURTZ: You have promoted it on Twitter. You also were on "The Today Show" this week.
HEMINGWAY: I was -- yes, I was.
KURTZ: And then you did a lot of local TV interviews.
HEMINGWAY: I did.
KURTZ: And you had to do a lot of cooking for that.
HEMINGWAY: I did. I did 20...
KURTZ: How many interviews did you do?
HEMINGWAY: I did 28 interviews in, like, four hours or something. It was, like, one every five minutes. And I was just, you know, sitting there (INAUDIBLE) pouring stuff into the blender and, like, "This is a smoothie," and, you know, "Wow, I love to start my day with them."
And if you're going to start your day -- you know, if you want to change your health, change one thing, change your breakfast. I mean, it was becoming -- it became, like, very sad. By the end I was like a computer woman.
KURTZ: Now you know about politicians staying on message.
HEMINGWAY: Yes, exactly. Exactly. Maybe I could be a -- no.
KURTZ: But what happens to the local TV news budgets (ph)? You had to make all the food yourself?
HEMINGWAY: No, I did have to make all the food, because they want -- you know what? Here's what they want to do -- they want to prove that you're not an idiot. They want to prove that you actually wrote the book. I think the best...
KURTZ: That you didn't just put your name on this thing.
HEMINGWAY: Yes, exactly.
HEMINGWAY: Because at "The Today Show," they initially told me they wanted me to make a souffle, which I did end up making. But I was terrified. I said it's a souffle. Why not -- you know, we could do a salad, we could do this, we could do that. They were like, "We want to see if she's the real deal."
But those souffles came out magnificently.
KURTZ: Boy, talk about pressure. I don't know if most people could deal with it.
HEMINGWAY: There's a lot of it.
KURTZ: Now, you're also -- you're not going to be able to complain that your life is boring because you're going to be in this Bravo series, "Life of Supermodels."
KURTZ: You're now a certified supermodel?
HEMINGWAY: Well, I guess now I am. I didn't really tell them that I really wasn't a supermodel, it was really my sister. So, you know, they take -- I think it takes covers of her. It's really sad. But, yes, apparently...
KURTZ: Well, we won't tell anybody.
HEMINGWAY: Yes. "The Secret Lives of Supermodels," which is -- yes. I'm a little worried about it, a reality show. It could be hell. You know?
But all the girls -- we're all really interested in not having it be like, you know, the desperate lives of somebody. I mean, whatever. I don't know what those shows are, but I think I would kill myself if it came out that way.
KURTZ: Well, coming back to how much you choose to reveal of yourself on Twitter and online, you know, you were famous at a very young age. I mean, you were 16 when you made the movie...
KURTZ: ... with Woody Allen.
Did that experience and all the media attention you got cause you, maybe, to retreat a little bit and not want to be so in the public eye, so exposed?
HEMINGWAY: You know, I -- initially, I didn't know what was happening. I was 17 years old when "Manhattan" came out. I think I was 18.
It was an amazing experience. But, you know, I went to the Academy Awards not knowing what the Academy Awards was. I'd never even watched it.
I was, like, there going wow, you know, woo-hoo. And I'm up against Meryl Streep, so, you know, the fact that I didn't win, I don't feel so bad. But I think that what it did for me is, very early on in my life -- you know, I got married at 23. And I really quit working. I mean, I worked a bit, but I really -- I was a mom. I was a...
KURTZ: You became a mom.
HEMINGWAY: Yes, I was a mom. I was a housewife. I was like -- so that became the very -- very important to me. So now, in my middle age, I've kind of come out -- it's like -- it's like starting my life again.
KURTZ: And so, one last question on Twitter. Does it enable you to reveal as much of yourself as you would like when you want to...
KURTZ: ... but not have paparazzi lined up outside...
KURTZ: ... the gate of this beautiful home?
HEMINGWAY: Exactly. Well, you don't say the location of your home. And I think that you -- there is the element of making it seem as though you're revealing all, when you're not really revealing all -- although I do reveal that I go to bed very early.
HEMINGWAY: It's really sad. And my hikes are real. You know?
KURTZ: So that part is all real?
HEMINGWAY: Yes, exactly.
KURTZ: All right. Well, maybe you'll reveal more when we finish this interview.
KURTZ: Mariel Hemingway, thanks very much for letting us visit you here in the mountains.
HEMINGWAY: Oh, thank you so much. Oh, it's so good. Well, you can keep supporting me on my Twitter journey.
KURTZ: We'll see you online.
HEMINGWAY: Thank you. Perfect.
KURTZ: After the break, the longtime editor of "Variety" on covering Hollywood after working for some of the big studios. Peter Bart is next.
KURTZ: There is, of course, one major industry here in Hollywood, and for the longest time, if you wanted to go what was going on in the movie business, you read "Variety." For the last 20 years, the man running the trade paper who knew the film industry inside, out because he had worked at major studios has been Peter Bart. Now he has given up the editorship just as the Hollywood media landscape is changing and "Variety" has more competition than other. And Peter Bart joins me now on his home turf.
Thanks for coming in.
"Variety," for so long, was considered Hollywood's bible or in a kind of a dogfight with a Hollywood reporter.
Why did that change?
PETER BART, "VARIETY": I don't think it has changed. I think Hollywood, more than ever, regards "Variety" as the bible, and, you know, just reduced to crass terms of numbers. About 77 percent of the advertising market in the business goes to "Variety," so I think it's more predominant than ever.
KURTZ: You worked for Paramount, you worked for MGM, you worked for Lorimar, and then you went to "Variety" for your two-decade run as editor. And you have, obviously, friends in the business, and you have hosted a TV show (INAUDIBLE). So, sometimes people say, oh, Peter Bart, is he a little too cozy with the industry?
BART: Well, absolutely. But, you know, I found that having worked at "The New York Times" for a considerable period of time, then going inside the business, actually taught me a lot. For one thing, it taught me some empathy, because I got to realize the hard way, how hard it is to make a movie.
That's good news. But it also gave me insights into the people and the processes. So it helped me break a lot of stories that I normally would not have done.
KURTZ: So it's the equivalent in Washington of going into politics for a while and then coming out and being back on TV. You know how the sausage is made.
BART: But, you know, as a reporter, you do find your curiosity overwhelms you. You really want to know what it's like inside the curtain (ph). You know? And that began to get to me.
And come 1967, it finally did get to me. I decided I'm going the find out what really goes on there. Is it as bad as I think it is? It's worse.
KURTZ: Now, you've either been kicked upstairs or kind of kicked yourself upstairs to an executive position?
BART: No, I do everything that I used to do, except that I -- after 20 years, my deal is that I don't have to do budget meetings. I don't have to decide who's going to get hired or laid off and whose expense account is excessive. Other than that, I do pretty much the same as I used to do.
KURTZ: Now, when you gave up the editor's job, you got some publicity, obviously. And in the "Los Angeles Times," Patrick Goldstein wrote the following. I want to read this and give you a chance to respond. "Until recently..." -- and this addressing "Variety" rhetorically -- "... your core showbiz audience was happy to read Variety's cozy reportage about the industry, with its sunny take on box office returns and a front page filled with fanciful renderings of movie projects that would almost surely never end up being made. Variety made the industry feel good about itself. Variety ignored the dark side of showbiz, the endless paranoia, envy, desperation and jealousy that fuels so many people's drive to success."
Ignoring the dark side? BART: Well, you see, that's illustrative of the sort of nastiness that's creeping in to blogdom, because Patrick Goldstein is irritated because not only does he have to write a column once a week, but he also has to do a blog. And all the reporters in town have to work harder and have to suddenly vent a great deal of blogdom.
KURTZ: But what about his point about "Variety" showing the sunny side of the business?
BART: It's just absolutely ridiculous. I mean, why would we show this? We show over and over again -- we review pictures, often usually tougher than the media do, the other media. We give the stories about who's getting laid off and which company's going under. And most of our coverage in the past year has been dark.
Here's the difference. We actually do the unthinkable. We check facts before we run them. I mean, the habit of blogdom, the conceit of blogdom, is to run a story and, if it's wrong, you just pull it off the Web.
KURTZ: I want to come back to blogs, but let me ask you this first.
The whole explosion of blogs and gossip sites and gossip magazines and gossip shows, has that helped Hollywood or has it, in some way, utterly demystified it?
BART: I think it's hurt in a lot of ways. For one thing, the stars have all gone underground. I mean, you have basically them and us.
I remember when I was on "The New York Times," my beat wasn't Hollywood, but when I was in The Times, I'd do a celebrity story, so I'd call a Paul Newman or a Steve McQueen and say, you know, let's hang, I would like to do a story about you. And you'd get a dinner, you'd get a weekend.
KURTZ: Yes. Now it's hard to hang.
BART: Everybody has gone underground. I mean, there's total -- you get 90 seconds of Q&A with a group. So, there's no access to the so-called celebrities.
KURTZ: Not no mention the layers of publicists, handlers and others who you have to fight your way through.
Let me get a break here. We'll have more with Peter Bart here in L.A. in just a moment.
KURTZ: More now here in L.A. with Variety's Peter Bart.
We were talking before the break about the role of bloggers. One of the most prominent Hollywood bloggers now is Nikki Finke. She says "Variety" approached her about buying her "Deadline Hollywood" site. That didn't pan out. That you then ordered up several articles about her and she wasn't called for comment.
I want you to respond to that.
BART: Actually, I don't like to comment about who is bought and who is not bought. The bottom line is, Nikki Finke does her own thing, she's got a blog. And, you know, bless her, she's doing some good reporting now and then.
But once again, she doesn't check her facts. I think that's a nice practice throughout the journalistic world, whether it's blogs or print, to actually call -- you know, particularly today, when you have a degree of chaos in Hollywood, you have two of the biggest talent agencies in town merging, so there are going to be maybe more than 100, maybe 200 agents who will be fired. Now, we believe we're going to print who is getting canned when we find out they're really canned.
KURTZ: Well, mainstream media makes mistakes, too. But your point is that they call people for comment, they're more cautious than in -- sometimes. And, you know, a lot of bloggers I think are very careful, but sometimes in the fast-moving blog world, things get thrown out there and they get pulled back.
As we mentioned earlier, you worked -- you spent about 17 years working for studios, and now you're back on the journalism side. So did that give you more sympathy for companies that spend hundreds of millions of dollars making these blockbuster films that turn out to be real stinkers? Nobody sets out to make a bad movie; right?
BART: The irony is, of course, when you start working for a studio, you realize the contrary is true. Studios really do set out to make bad movies, to make horror movies, to make movies that will seduce the audience into coming. And there are meetings where people sit around and say, how can we really mess this thing up so it will be easier to market?
KURTZ: You're saying artistically the movies might be bad, but, ,of course, Hollywood wants movies that will sell, they can sell the DVD rights and all that.
BART: Here's the problem. Today -- and this is what's different from Hollywood of the '70s-- Hollywood in the '70s, executives would really sit around and discuss, how can we make a good movie?
I mean, people say, I love the script. Let's make it. Or this director is really extraordinary director. Let's make his picture. Let's let him realize his vision. Whereas today, there are tests, there are committees, there's a whole corporate think going on.
KURTZ: I've got 20 seconds. So you don't think that the reviewers and media organizations are too hard on the Hollywood studios when they make what we might say are pretty bad movies?
BART: I think the critics are often on the nose. Sometimes they're a little elitist, they don't appreciate commercial movies, but that's life.
KURTZ: All right.
Peter Bart, thanks very much for getting up early to sit with us and explain how Hollywood ticks. We appreciate it.
Still to come, those TV interviews with Elizabeth Edwards came with a catch. Did some journalists go too far to land the big get?
KURTZ: As Elizabeth Edwards has made the television rounds, she's talked openly and painfully about her husband's affair. You know, the one she helped cover up during the campaign. But the woman's name, Rielle Hunter, has not come up. That's because the hosts -- Larry Ling, Matt lauer, Oprah Winfrey -- all agreed to a demand by Elizabeth's team that Rielle's name not be mentioned anywhere in the program. A number of newspapers have refused to abide by this and haven't gotten interviews with Edwards as she promotes her new book.
Now, it's fine to be sensitive to a woman who's suffered a great deal in life, but journalists shouldn't agree to preconditions, period, no matter how prominent the guest.
And John King, you certainly wouldn't agree to have Peter Orszag or John Boehner on today with the understanding that you wouldn't talk about a certain topic or mention somebody.
KING: Preconditions are always, always, always dangerous in our business, Howie, which is why we try to avoid them.
KURTZ: Trying to avoid them, indeed.
Well, I'm out here in L.A. I'm heading out to the Lakers game, game seven of the playoffs. So I'm going to turn things over back to you, John.
KING: Rub it in. Rub it in. Enjoy the game. Good luck to the Celtics in the more important game, 7:00, later tonight.