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An anti-Bush tirade from Whoopi Goldberg laced with profanity might have hurt John Kerry’s presidential candidacy four years ago. More recently, George Clooney said he’ll support Barack Obama any way he can, even if it means keeping his distance.
These are just a few examples that have left politically minded celebrities conflicted about their role in choosing the next U.S. president, and Tuesday night it was up to an unlikely pair of actors to sort it all out: comedian John Cleese and Richard Schiff of “The West Wing.”
Actors are often criticized for “not having anything to say and joining the party anyway,” Schiff told 2,000 attendees Tuesday night at the Milken Institute Global Conference.
Although Cleese and Schiff were more inclined to crack jokes, Fox News political pundit Frank Luntz pressed Schiff to take a stand on whether actors should use their celebrity megaphones for political stumping.
Yes, Schiff conceded a bit sheepishly, because they can bring attention to an issue. He also listed the entertainers who have parlayed their celebrity into successful political careers — Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sonny Bono — but seemed irritated that they were all Republicans.
Schiff likened the Democratic primary pitting Obama against Hillary Clinton to a Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier title fight, which reminded Luntz of Clinton comparing herself recently to Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky.”
“Someone had to remind her that the black guy won,” Luntz joked.
As for Cleese, he started by announcing he was no expert on American politics but, then again, neither are Americans.
“You’re always talking about being the greatest democracy in the world, and you’re no good at it,” he said, complaining that too few Americans vote and those who do are ill-informed anyway.
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