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Hollywood on the Hill

By David S. Broder
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 29, 1995

"The American President" is a delightful film in which Michael Douglas plays a widower chief executive hungry for a date. The lady of his dreams turns up in the form of a sassy environmental lobbyist played by Annette Bening.

The barriers to a happy ending arise from the difficult logistics of wooing in the White House, under the noses of a snoopy press, but it turns out they can be overcome. Douglas also resolves a not-very-tricky moral dilemma over cutting a deal with the "Motown Three," your basic congressional sleazes.

But before the final clinch, the audience is subjected to a five-minute presidential address, in which we learn: first, that you cannot truly love the Constitution unless you belong to the American Civil Liberties Union; second, that the only federal crime bill that makes sense is one banning assault weapons and handguns; and third, that when it comes to environmental measures, the stricter the standard, the better the bill.

In short, Rob Reiner, the producer-director of this basically entertaining movie, has loaded it up with the whole liberal message and told the ticket-buyers to swallow it along with their popcorn and soft drinks.

He has a perfect right, of course, to insert these mementos of the magic moments of Michael Dukakis's campaign into the middle of his movie -- and dare the customers to walk out. Still, I wonder if he's thought about the trend he may be starting.

I know that the left may have more clout in Hollywood than in most precincts, but there have to be some Republican moguls out there. If "The American President" is the hit it seems to be, how long until the West Coast fanciers of Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole decide to cash in?

The right wing could certainly demand equal time for "Speaker of the House," an adventure film about a daredevil, prematurely gray legislator on a mission to overthrow the "corrupt liberal welfare state." Unable to defeat him on the issues, his enemies harass him unmercifully with spurious ethics complaints and attempted exposes of his private life. The speaker's sinking polls jeopardize his legislative agenda. But just before the crucial vote on the budget bill cutting taxes on parents of junk-food-eating teenagers and abolishing OSHA and EPA, the speaker shows up unshaven and red-eyed at 7 a.m. in the House press gallery.

"I have an important announcement," he says. "I have just returned from Los Angeles, where I met a man who phoned me to confess to the most celebrated double murder of the decade. His initials are not O. J. He is, in fact, a fourth-generation welfare recipient who, trying to break the cycle of dependency, asked his seventh-grade public school teacher to explain the difference between right and wrong and was told by her that Department of Education regulations specifically prevented her from answering that question. Since then he has kidnapped nine junior high principals in succession and tortured them with the same question. He has been convicted in six different states, but never received a sentence of more than 60 days from our corrupt liberal judicial system.

"You will learn more about this nauseating case of public-sector perversion tonight when he appears on Larry King. But let me say to my colleagues who must vote this afternoon on our budget . . ."

And consider the commercial potential in the "Masterful Majority Leader" series, recounting the continuing travails of a sage but short-tempered prairie politician, perpetually frustrated in his quest to escape from Congress and get an executive branch job. In earlier films, we have seen him recover from repeated rejections when the public chose a more glamorous or wealthier rival. But now, when everything is in place, the hero's wife quits her job as the head of America's favorite charity only to discover that she is not covered by his health insurance policy.

In a tearful scene, she implores him to remember that this happens to millions of ordinary people every year and begs him to pass a national health plan.

He turns to her, his eyes moist, and says: "If you think I'm going to fall for that socialistic sob story and forget the Contract that my pal Newt signed, you've got another think coming. The 10th Amendment makes it absolutely clear your problem should be handled by your home state of North Carolina. I'll talk to my friend Jesse and I'm sure he can help. Call me in New Hampshire."

Call it the C-SPANNING of Hollywood. If it catches on, the movie houses will be as empty as the polling booths.

© Copyright 1995 The Washington Post Company

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