'Lincoln' Screenwriter Tony Kushner Criticizes Tea Party, George W. Bush on 'Charlie Rose'

Tony Kushner Headshot - P 2012
Joan Marcus

Tony Kushner Headshot - P 2012

"There’s this rejection of this sort of basic idea of human community," the "Angels in America" playwright says of the conservative political movement.

Ten days ahead of the Academy Awards telecast, Tony Kushner, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter for Lincoln, was on television sounding very ardent about his liberal politics, slamming Tea Partiers for their ignorance and blaming today's weak U.S. economy on President George W. Bush.

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Kushner stated that progress along many political fronts is hampered by conservatives and that progressives need to exercise more patience. While the current president didn’t have as big a mess to deal with as President Abraham Lincoln had, “You could argue that Barack Obama faced in '08 a situation as bad as any president since the Great Depression,” Kushner said. “What Obama inherited from the Bush administration, we all remember, was just an absolute global catastrophe.”

Kushner was speaking Thursday night to Charlie Rose on PBS, and the interview was posted on the Internet on Friday. He launched into his views about modern politics when Rose asked him what he learned while writing Lincoln.

“It was a great privilege and blessing to work on this during the Obama years,” Kushner answered, before talking about global warming, gay rights, taxation and other modern-day controversies.

The movie, directed by Steven Spielberg and nominated for multiple Oscars, is the story of how the first Republican president in U.S. history passed the 13th Amendment and outlawed slavery. But while Kushner has lots of praise for Lincoln, he doesn't have much respect for the evolution of his party.

Obama, he said, has done an “astonishing” job on the economy and other matters, said Kushner, but, “like Lincoln, there’s been an enormous amount of criticism of our president – our current president – from the left, that comes from impatience.”

See video here. Kushner and Rose talk about modern politics at the 18:30 mark.

“The fact of the matter is that when you’re elected president of the United States rather than king of the United States, you have to work with a very cumbrous, unwieldy machinery," he said. 

“I got to say this to the president when we went to the White House with the movie, " he continued. "Obama has made a very determined and conscious effort to keep saying over and over again: ‘Government is not the enemy. Government is an expression of the better angels of our nature.’”

Kushner contrasted that to Tea Party conservatives.

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“You have people like these Tea Party people protesting government and then asked if they really want to give up their Social Security payments and they don’t seem to know that that’s actually part of what government is,” he said. “There’s this rejection of this sort of basic idea of human community.”

Before the interview ended, he had strong criticism for former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and warned of the dangers of global warming.

“Now that we’re facing challenges like climate change that absolutely demands a global, collective response … we have no hope for survival as a species if we continue down the path of this kind of psychotic individualism,” he said.

Email: Paul.Bond@thr.com