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2008: Will Al Gore Be the Anti-Hillary?


Update: Al Gore tells AP he isn't planning to run for president. So, like a woman saying she isn't going to sleep with you, he instantly becomes that much more desirable. And he does leave the (bedroom) door open, saying: "I don't completely rule out some future interest, but I don't expect to have that."

It's still three years away but Hollywood is already starting to choose sides for 2008. And two very distinct camps have started to form: those backing Hillary, and those desperately searching for the anti-Hillary.

Hillary is descending on L.A. this week, with a small Democratic strategy session planned for Thursday at Ron Burkle's home with, among other Hollywood players, Haim Saban and Rob Reiner, and a trio of fundraisers Friday and Saturday at the homes of Reiner, Bruce Cohen, and Marta Kauffman.

The devoted Hillary-ites include deep-pocket donors like Saban, Steve Bing, and Alan and Cindy Horn.

The Hollywood insiders who are not going the Hillary way are not ready to go public yet (I'm sure some of them will even be at the Hillary fundraisers this weekend). But, in private conversations, a growing number of them say they are determined to find another candidate to support.

Even though they backed both of Bill Clinton's White House runs and Hillary's Senate campaign, they've had enough of Hillary's attempt to rebrand herself as a fence-straddling DLC Dem. They're tired of the relentless strategic triangulating, the all-too-predictable attacks on video games (Sistah Soljah, meet Grand Theft Auto), the willingness to go along with President Bush's missile defense fantasies (one of only six Dems to do so), and the endless photo-op-ready partnerships with the likes of Bill Frist, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich.

But most of all, they are put off by her bellicose support for the war in Iraq -- which has, at times, left her sounding more like a White House shill than a viable opposition candidate.

Exacerbating the problem is that, when it comes to Iraq, Hillary is telling Hollywood donors whatever they want to hear.

One major party donor, who is supporting Hillary even though he is against the war, told me that Clinton had assured him that she, too, was "against the war" but believed that there was no way a woman could ever be elected president while being against the war. "She is convinced," the donor told me, "that she'd be attacked as soft on defense and unable to deal with national security and the war on terror. And I think she's right. I'd rather she be anti-war, but I can't argue with her reasoning."

But a growing number of Hollywood insiders are refusing to buy into this "wink, wink," "I'm just saying it for the yokels" routine.

"The old 'say one thing and do another' bit isn't going to fly this time," a politically active producer told me. "We're not ready to go through another experience where we back a candidate not ready to speak the truth. We kept our mouths shut and fell behind Kerry but, to quote the Who, 'We won't get fooled again.'"

The big question then becomes, who will be the candidate of the anti-Hillary crowd? Russ Feingold's out-front stance on Iraq has earned him some early attention from, among others, Brad Whitford and Tommy Schlamme. Norm Pattis of Westwood One Radio had a fundraiser for Joe Biden.

But more and more, the Hollywood buzz is centering on Al Gore.

"He's been strongly against the war since the beginning," a big Dem donor who is hoping to convince Gore to run told me, "and with gas prices going through the roof and killer hurricanes wreaking havoc, he's the gold standard on global warming, alternative energy, and the environment. What's not to like?"

And Lawrence Bender, who after producing "Kill Bill" is now producing what I hear is a killer documentary featuring Gore and his fight to get our country to take action on global warming, told me that the former VP "would be a hell of a candidate. Unlike 2000, he's now clearly very comfortable in his own shoes. Bold, passionate, committed, and very funny. It's been amazing working with him."

For now Gore is focusing on Current TV, and delivering yet another combustible, populist speech.

The idea of Gore vs Clinton in 2008 certainly presents a wealth of delicious story lines: The former Number 2 running against his Number 1's wife. Gore taking down Hillary as payback for the pall Monicagate cast over 2000. Gore as "the new New Nixon" (Gore will be the same age in 2008 as Tricky Dick was in 1968). Automaton Al remaking himself as progressive firebrand. Passion vs. polling.

The purpose of the meeting at Ron Burkle's home on Thursday is to discuss how to best implement the Democrats' new party platform and make sure, as one of the movers and shakers who will be at the meeting told me, that Democrats "stick to our themes" and "all speak with the same voice."

But will that voice sound like Hillary -- or will it sound like Al?