The Magazine

The Streisand Democrats

People who need soft money are the unluckiest people in the world

Apr 16, 2001, Vol. 6, No. 30 • By MIKE MURPHY
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SOMEWHERE ON CAPITOL HILL a group of long-faced Democrats are having an unhappy meeting about the cost of giving up huge soft money donations to the Democratic party. But there is a bright spot: A voice from the back of the room pipes up, "Well, at least this means I can finally ignore those damn fruitcake memos I keep getting from Barbra Streisand." Heads nod all round.


Barbra is at it again. Last week the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call published a "memo" Ms. Streisand recently sent to every Democrat in Congress. It is an astonishing mix of New Age boosterism and Old Left knownothingism, blended into a flaky litany of insults directed at George W. Bush. Entitled "Nice Guys Finish Last" -- this is, after all, advice from Hollywood -- Ms. Streisand's opus brings to light the dreariest side of Democratic soft money: the grue-some requirement to suffer rich fools, no matter how chowder-headed their opinions.


Barbra Streisand is a champion fund-raiser for the Democratic party. Since 1993, she has personally contributed more than $ 200,000 to Democratic candidates, and her relentless tin cup banging and concert giving have helped the Democrats raise more than $ 51 million from Hollywood.


Democrats return the golden favor by indulging her ego and keeping a straight face while Barbra blurts out her opinions. The same week as the Streisand Grand Strategy was leaked -- no doubt by a chortling Hill aide -- the Washington Post reports that Streisand "held a top-secret strategy session with House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, actor Warren Beatty, producer Norman Lear and billionaire entertainment mogul Haim Saban at her Southern California estate," meeting later with Democratic National Committee boss and moneyman Terry McAuliffe.


Another Reykjavik to be sure. One can imagine the scene: the most powerful Democrat in Congress nodding agreeably throughout the lecture while stealing secret glances at his watch and wondering if it will be steak or chicken on the long flight back to D.C. Perhaps Barbra's psychic nutritionist had a few good ideas to share about reforming Medicare.


If the meeting was anything like Streisand's memo, then Gephardt surely earned his bagful of money. Barbra's Big Idea? Congressional Democrats need to stop being such squares and scaredy cats and start telling the REAL STORY about the election: a vast -- you got it -- right-wing corporate conspiracy hatched by the bought-and-paid-for Supreme Court to steal the election and ruthlessly "roll back more than thirty years of social progress." In Barbra's view, it was all a "Supreme Coup" (the emphasis is hers, to be certain the dim bulbs in Congress get it).


The obvious path to unlimited success, according to Streisand? Remind people about Bill Clinton. Stop pussyfooting around the pardon thing. "Clinton's pardons have no impact on the health and welfare of the American People."


Streisand even exhumes a moldy old liberal crowd-pleaser about Ronald Reagan. Nobody ever supported Reagan on the issues; no, never that. Instead the dunce-filled American public only supported him because they admired his strength and sense of purpose. And oh-my-God, it's happening again, warns Streisand: "Unfortunately the public is being fooled by Bush. They are not sufficiently informed to protect their own self interests." It's quite a bummer. "Look at his ratings -- how could such a destructive man be so popular with the American people?" While refraining from a call for an all-knowing leadership apparat of the proletariat, Barbra does remind Democrats that "the public responds to strength." She concludes with, "Just being nice doesn't work."


The right to spout off crank opinions from every barstool, cab window, and Hollywood mansion is as American as apple pie. What is amazing is the get-out-of-jail-free pass Hollywood blowhards get from the media. No lefty pop culture titan is ever held accountable for inaccurate, insulting, or just plain nitwitted commentary. Instead, mouthy celebrities are indulged like precocious but gifted children. "Isn't that cute? Barbra thinks the President of the United States 'stole the presidency' through 'intimidation' and 'fraud' because sinister corporate interests bought the election! And the Supreme Court is corrupt!"


Woe unto thoughtful and legitimate liberal Hollywood activists like Rob Reiner and the Creative Coalition's William Baldwin. Celebrities who call names and make up facts are treated just like those who study the issues and propose serious ideas. To a lazy media, there is no difference.