“We have more to be afraid of,” says one right-leaning screenwriter, explaining why he thinks there are probably more closeted conservatives in Hollywood than gays. But that doesn’t mean these red-staters are putting up with the blue-state of mind when it comes to voting for the Academy Awards. “On this point, we will be heard,” says the writer. And the target of their wrath is director Robert Altman, nominated for Best Director for his British comedy of manners, “Gosford Park.”
Altman, along with actor Alec Baldwin, was the most vocal of the Hollywood left who “threatened” to renounce their American citizenship or permanently relocate to Europe if George W. Bush was elected. Altman, who resides for long stretches in England anyway, was particularly vocal in his anti-Bush and anti-American sentiments after the Supreme Court’s ruling that effectively gave Bush the presidency. “Baldwin and Altman haven’t moved, but they also haven’t kept their mouths shut either,” says another conservative writer and Oscar voter based in Los Angeles. “Given the quality of his work, Baldwin has been easy to ignore. But Altman should have to feel some sense of loss for his comments about Bush, and denying him an Academy Award — and having him know why we voted against him — would be one way.”
To be fair, Altman isn’t favored to win the golden statuette, but conservatives simply want him to know that he’ll be getting fewer votes than even he might expect. “We’re voting with his patriotism, or lack thereof, in mind this time around. And we’ll enjoy it when he loses,” says the screenwriter.
EVEN ENRON’S WORTH MORE
Disturbed by rumblings coming out the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, executives and program directors of National Public Radio in Washington have been holding secret meetings with investment bankers and longtime corporate backers about taking NPR — or parts of the radio-programming giant — private. “There are several CPB board members who clearly are antagonistic toward the current NPR programming approach,” says a senior NPR producer for several of its news shows. “[The NPR honchos] are hearing that in return for federal funding, CPB wants ‘fair’ airing of all sides of an issue, shows that feature equal numbers of liberals and conservatives. These people aren’t going to change their programs just because their bosses want them to. That’s why they are talking to outside money men.”
Ironically, most of the CPB board members are Clinton appointees. None of the Bush administration’s nominees have been confirmed.
NPR executives are looking for ways to cut the cord between them and federal funding, which makes up between 20 to 40 percent of NPR’s budget. The rest comes from private donations, and corporate and foundation underwriting. “They’d make up the difference with for-profit programming. Shows that could be syndicated or sold beyond the public-radio network,” says the NPR producer.
But the NPR bigwigs got quite a shock from their meetings: “No one thought they could do it. They were told NPR offered literally nothing marketable beyond their current nonprofit audience and sponsors. That says something about the kind of programming they are producing,” says the radio producer.
HILLARY COST CONTAINMENT
With campaign finance reform pretty much a done deal, the White House is moving to develop a health-care reform package ahead of the Democrats. Already, the White House has been putting out parts of its senior prescription drug benefit plan. But according to White House sources and health-care lobbyists who have been brought over to 1600 Pennsylvania for background briefings and advice, the Bush plan will involve a lot more than just prescription benefits.
“They’re looking at a much larger plan, something they can get a few Democrats to back early,” says one lobbyist who has been participated in the meetings. “Cost-containment for the health-care industry: hospitals, long-term care, where the real spikes in costs are occurring, infant and child health-care issues.”
The Bush team has set a late spring deadline for the health-care plan so that it can be rolled out after the campaign finance reform furor has been put to rest, and also give the White House time to line up Democratic support. “We need a Democrat backing whatever we put forward, someone high profile,” says a White House aide involved in health-care and domestic policy.
And the name on the top of the list is … Sen. Hillary Clinton. “We’re at least going to talk to her. Why shouldn’t she want to be part of the solution if we’ll give her a role?” asks the aide. Other Democrats mentioned as potential allies: Zell Miller of Georgia, Dianne Feinstein of California and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.
One name not on the list: Ted Kennedy. “We’ve worked with him on education. We don’t think he’d be receptive to a second go round. He might earn a reputation as a Republican shill. And no one wants that,” says the aide.