Should movie stars speak out publicly for a political candidate? The debate is what makes this election so interesting.

I talked to someone in Hollywood who said they shouldn't.

"I don't believe stars should be denied the right to vote, but the rest of us don't want to know who they're for," he said.

I said, "There's an argument that, since their duty is to entertain, their endorsement will affect their performance."

He said, "It is not a question of speaking out, it is a question of who you are speaking for. Ninety percent of Hollywood is for John Kerry. Even Michael Moore, who in the past never inserted politics into his documentaries, is now anti-Bush."

"Why do your think so many stars are for Kerry? Their income bracket is certainly in the top 1 percent."

"That's the reason. They feel guilty about making so much money so they support the little guy. They believe they have a duty to make sure everyone can afford the American dream."

I said, "And if they achieve the American dream, they can afford to go to the movies."

He said, "What really ticks me off is how the Hollywood people take pride in their fundraising. They will pay $25,000 to hear Barbra Streisand sing 'The Way We Were,' and Johnny Depp read from the Halliburton financial report."

"The Republicans have country singers from Nashville," I said.

"And Kerry has Whoopi Goldberg. It's no contest."

"The right-wing talking heads, such as Bill O'Reilly, claim that Hollywood has a liberal bias and is as far out on the left as you can get."

He said, "I agree with that. The Bush bashers flaunt their left-wing opinions at the rest of us. They even sneak their pinko ideology into films like 'Harry Potter' and 'Shrek.' "

"Has it always been like that?"

"Yes, it has. Hollywood has always been on the wrong side."

"So you believe that the stars should not take one side or the other?"

"Bush bashing has become Tinseltown's favorite sport. Matt Damon, Billy Crystal, Willie Nelson, Chevy Chase, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro are all going for the gold."

"Why do they want to bash Bush?" I asked him.

"Because they're afraid he is going to cut back on their Social Security."

"That's a good reason," I said. "Doesn't your side have any big names?"

"Bo Derek. The only problem is, Bo hasn't made a picture in years and the younger generation doesn't know who she is."

"Do you think the Bush bashing by the stars will affect the election?"

"There is no question it will. The more the right attacks them, the more money Hollywood can raise for Kerry."

"And how does this affect the American people?"

"As long as the public gets sex and violence in its films, it's not going to object to what Hollywood thinks of politics."

I said, "I don't mind Hollywood opposing Bush. At least the movie stars light up the screen, which is more than you can say for Dick Cheney."

(c) 2004, Tribune Media Services