John Leo
Hollywood is still fretting -- quietly, for now -- about Sen. Joseph Lieberman's presence on the Democratic ticket. My favorite quote on this subject comes from Tom Strickler, a Republican and a talent agent in Los Angeles. Although the industry is sour about Lieberman, "the Democrats could have selected Idi Amin as vice president and Hollywood would have welcomed him," Strickler said.

This is probably so. Idi Amin may have killed and eaten a few people here and there. But at least he had the decency not to criticize the entertainment industry. Why can't Lieberman just restrain himself and admire Hollywood, like all good Democrats? After all, showbiz folk raise a lot of money for the party. They expect to be consulted and flattered. And they expect critics of the entertainment industry to be labeled as censors, bluenoses or would-be national nannies.

Normally the Democrats are eager to comply. Tipper Gore was stigmatized this way back in the late 1980s when she objected to the first major wave of degrading, violent and woman-hating song lyrics. She never came close to calling for censorship. All she wanted was a rating system for albums. This was reasonable enough, but Hollywood hostility burned her badly and she dropped the issue, probably so that showbiz money wouldn't dry up for Al Gore's 1988 try for the presidency.

Now Gore has elevated Joe Lieberman, a much stronger critic than Tipper. Lieberman had the courage to join Bill Bennett in bestowing the "Silver Sewer Award" on three major corporate interests with roots in the entertainment industry, Rupert Murdoch, CBS and Seagram's. No, Hollywood is not pleased. So it rolled out the usual rhetoric.

Jim Wiatt, head of the William Morris Agency and one of the most powerful people in Hollywood, made it sound as though Lieberman's criticism of showbiz excesses is a strange personal failing: "Senator Lieberman has been vocal to the point where he needs to tone down his rhetoric and not make this industry the whipping boy for the decline of Western civilization."

Jeff Berg, chairman of International Creative Management, another powerful agency, complained about the vice presidential nominee too. "Some of the things Lieberman has said about lyrics, content and theme are in basic conflict with the creative process," he said. This is probably true too, at least if you define "creative process" as an obsession with smarminess, drugs, graphic violence and misogyny.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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