Most Americans who know him, including conservatives who won't vote for the Democratic ticket, recognize Joe Lieberman's personal decency and integrity. But not all.
Of those upset with Al Gore's choice, a great many work in the entertainment community. They are steamed over Lieberman's frequent, and perfectly justified, criticisms of their industry's sleazy product.
Two of them, perhaps in fear of being shipped off to some sort of showbiz gulag should Lieberman be elected, recently spoke anonymously to Electronic Media. One commented, "This is a deeply troubling and almost offensive choice. (Lieberman) tends to build his reputation on the backs of our business." Said the other, "For anybody who's interested in First Amendment issues, you'd think this would give them pause."
Lieberman-bashers who will identify themselves include Howie Klein, president of Time Warner-owned Reprise Records, who said he now won't vote for Gore and called Lieberman a "self-righteous fanatic ... (a) nut."
Another longtime music-business figure, Danny Goldberg, wrote an essay for Inside.com in which he described Lieberman as a "straight-up Philistine," elaborating "Philistines really hate popular culture. The best among them have some idealized notion of 'America' that is constantly being undercut by actual Americans, the messy, coarse folk who laugh at Farrelly Brothers movies, watch wrestling and listen to rap music."
(Actually, if popular culture is musicians spewing the f-word, wrestlers smashing each other's heads with folding chairs and jokes about semen and excrement, then I think one can safely speak for Joe Lieberman in saying yes, he does hate that.)
Still and all, it looks as if Hollywood, whatever its reservations, is generally behind Gore-Lieberman. "Other issues are so drastically important ... Gore and Lieberman are so much my choice," remarked producer/director Sydney Pollack. Actor/director Rob Reiner told Electronic Media, "Great choice. It couldn't be better for America or for the party," adding, "Hollywood has to take responsibility." But will it?
Let's see if Hollywood is ready to do that. It could start with, say, MTV's ultra-racy soap opera "Undressed," whose characters range in age from high school to just out of college -- all the better to appeal to MTV's young audience.
Plenty of television shows are about sex -- gratuitous, inconsequential, animalistic sex. Then there's "Undressed." The network's web site boasts, "Nothing tastes quite as sweet as 'forbidden fruit.' So call us a little devilish! We've got 30 episodes of sexy stuff, and the temptation's far too great! ... 'Undressed' is getting hot 'n' steamy this season."
Credit MTV with truth in hyping. This month, "Undressed" viewers have seen, among other delights, a college guy having sex in front of his roommate and his roommate's girlfriend, and a couple learning how mints make oral sex more enjoyable.
"Undressed" runs outside of prime time -- at 11 p.m. Eastern, 10 Central -- but children are still MTV's audience during that time period, especially in the summer. But you won't hear a peep from virtually anyone in Tinseltown -- and for good reason.
Hollywood's sneering at traditional values isn't a raging fad that will pass. It is hardened hostility. A May episode of the gay-oriented NBC sitcom "Will & Grace" ridiculed those who seek to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality, suggesting that those joining this cause are in denial over their true nature as gays or lesbians.
Mike Haley of the traditional-values organization Focus on the Family took notice. Haley (himself a former homosexual) wrote one of the softest, most gracious letters imaginable to "Will & Grace" producers, offering to meet with them to talk about the ex-gay movement.
And what he got back from "Will & Grace" executive story editor Jon Kinnally was a spit in the face.
"In response to your request for a meeting, well, I think I can read between the lines on that one," wrote Kinnally. "I'm about 6'1," brown hair, green eyes, and I'm into rollerblading, baking cookies, and cleaning up afterwards. My dislikes include game-playing, negative attitudes and condoms ... Like you, I am an expert on homosexuality, and in my expert opinion, this 'hard-to-get thing' you're playing is Hot, Hot, Hot!"
A disappointed Haley said, "I think that open dialogue can help to bridge the gap that so needs to be bridged here when you're talking about an issue as volatile as homosexuality." But dialogue is the last thing Hollywood's cultural militants want. It is why so many in that industry feel such loathing for men like Joe Lieberman, who is using the bully pulpit of his office -- and, one hopes, his campaign -- to do just that.