Lucas vs. Luntz

John McCaslin
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Posted: May 06, 2009 11:09 AM
Lucas vs. Luntz

The public feud between Hollywood actor Josh Lucas and renowned pollster Frank Luntz has no sign of dissipating before Friday's Washington premiere of the Barry Levinson documentary "PoliWood," starring Mr. Lucas, Spike Lee, Susan Sarandon, Ellen Burstyn, Matthew Modine, Richard Schiff, David Crosby and Graham Nash.

Oh, we can't forget the cast's lone Republican, Mr. Luntz.

While the pollster has a close, personal rapport with Mr. Levinson, there is clearly bad blood between Mr. Luntz and Mr. Lucas. At the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Mr. Levinson filmed the pollster conducting a seminar for celebrities, explaining how to more effectively convey support for issues such as arts education.

But as the Daily Beast Web site reported, when "Luntz mildly suggests that the actors tone down any in-your-face rhetoric, perhaps use language to sway opponents not antagonize them, actor Josh Lucas turns as red-faced as a kid whose toy has been taken away on the playground; he's indignant at being told what to say. Actress Gloria Reuben actually compares Luntz's advice to stomping on her First Amendment rights."

At last week's New York Tribeca Film Festival premiere of "PoliWood," Mr. Lucas turned on Mr. Luntz again. At a post-screening Q-and-A session on a stage filled with "liberal actor activists" - or so Mr. Luntz describes them for Inside the Beltway - the pollster was apparently one Republican too many for Mr. Lucas, who complained that "Luntz had set me up."

Mr. Luntz's response to the 37-year-old actor: "How could I set him up? I didn't even know who he was."

As earlier reported in this column, Mr. Luntz and Mr. Lucas will soon be neighbors: the pollster to the politicians is now the pollster to the stars. He just bought a house in Los Angeles and will be moving shortly, he tells us. In the meantime, he will attend Friday's "PoliWood" premiere.

Mr. Luntz is no stranger to Hollywood. He was a consultant for NBC's "The West Wing" and Showtime's "The American Candidate." He played himself in the TV sitcom "LateLine," starring political newcomer Al Franken. Otherwise, he has appeared on virtually every network news show.

YOUNG AND FEMALE

Thomas C. Goldstein, co-head of Akin Gump's Supreme Court practice (he's argued 21 cases before the nation's highest court), says nobody really knows who President Obama will pick to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter.

"We strongly suspect a woman," Mr. Goldstein, who teaches Supreme Court litigation at Stanford and Harvard law schools, tells Inside the Beltway Radio (www.washingtontimes.com or www.wsradio.com), citing the Supreme Court's present imbalance of eight men and one woman (the latter being Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, only the second female justice after Sandra Day O'Connor).

Mr. Goldstein said Mr. Obama would desire the next justice serve up to 25 years in the Supreme Court, so the ultimate pick would likely be aged 45 to 55 "and at the very outer edge 60."

Among the possibilities, Mr. Goldstein drew attention to federal Judges Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Wood, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, and he even threw Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona governor, into the mix given her "appreciation of the dilemmas legislators face."

We even heard Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton mentioned as somebody Mr. Obama might choose. Look for an announcement "about the middle of June," the lawyer said.

WASH AND GO

The dreaded swine flu continues to be a top news story for the nation's broadcast media outlets, with top-of-the-hour updates that count every American who has suffered - and recovered - from what amounts to a mild strain of influenza.

Peter Greenberg, one of the country's more sensible broadcasters of NBC "Today" fame, cautions of the difference between "concern" and "fear."

"Remember the SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] and the SARS crisis?" he writes on PeterGreenberg.com. "Well, there was no SARS outbreak ... How about the avian flu? As things developed, about the only people infected (and there were incredibly few of them) were those who actually worked on chicken farms.

"And have you forgotten the hoof-and-mouth disease scare in the United Kingdom? Did that stop you from traveling to London? And when you got off the plane, were you greeted by any people frothing at the mouth? Of course not."

"And now we have swine flu," he noted. "[I]t gets down to your own personal hygiene routine. Do you wash your hands before and after eating? Before and after going to the bathroom? Stay hydrated? This is simple, basic, but effective common sense. Now, having said that, should you travel to countries like Mexico? Of course you can, and you should."