Just as our former president is wearing out his welcome in Hollywood, Hillary's star power is rising.


Published: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 12:00 a.m.
MAUREEN DOWD Hollywood agents now advise budding screenwriters how to pitch scripts by using a political analogy.
"You're in the Oval Office," they bark. "You're briefing President Bush. He's got no attention span. He doesn't care about details. Sell him the movie."
If you can tell the story vividly and simply enough to appeal to the curiosity-challenged chief executive who likes his memos on one page, the agents figure, you might be able to win over busy, bottom-line-oriented studio executives.
It's not even meant as an insult. This was never Bush country. The most the president has ever done for California is dump his six-toed cat, Ernie, at a pal's house here. This was Bill Clinton's Magic Kingdom and ATM.
But after 9-11, in a surge of patriotism and hawkishness, many Democrats decided W. might be well cast as president.
Maybe, they told each other, a guy who loves Israel so unequivocally and sees the world in bumper-sticker terms would be better at fighting evil than a president who thinks in complete paragraphs and sees life with all its nuances.
If Clinton was a talky Stephen Soderbergh feature, W. was a fast-cut Jerry Bruckheimer trailer. Besides, Hollywood was exhausted from its long tango with Bill. The "power clutch" between L.A. and D.C., as they call it here, was heady and fun. The ante kept going up, both emotionally and financially. Bill was more high-maintenance and insatiable than a starlet with a brand new Oscar. His trashy exit, with the last-minute pardons, angered many.
And fund-raising dinners had escalated from $1,000 a plate to $25,000 a plate. Even in a bull market, Bill was a draining co-dependent.
But Clinton keeps in touch, and the Top Gun aura of W. has faded.
Hollywood players who were mocked for having the run of the Clinton White House now acidly point out that at least they only wanted to jump on the Lincoln bed, not dictate energy policy, as the current favored West Wing guests do.
There have been dinners and coffees for candidates. "John Edwards is practically living here," says one star's political consultant, adding that no one is sure if he's exciting or an empty suit.
John Kerry is popular on issues, but people have been e-mailing around a Washington Post article about his volatile wife, Teresa.
Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt are respected visitors. ("Dick needs eyebrows," sighs a Democrat.)
Holy Joe Lieberman is unpopular. "He asked for money and then bashed Hollywood," groused one fund-raiser. Most Clinton-lovers in L.A. never warmed up to Al Gore, finding him supercilious.
The story circulated that when a wealthy donor hosted a Gore-Lieberman fund-raising party at his mansion, Gore came up to him at the end, not to thank him but to ask where the bathroom was.
Tinseltown may not recover from its Clinton exhaustion until it's time for another Clinton run. Senator Clinton is on the move.
She made a boffo keynote speech Monday at the Democratic Leadership Council meeting in New York, bashing the president's economic record compared with her husband's.
The Clintons have asked the government to pay millions in legal fees incurred by the Whitewater investigation; Hillary sees the reimbursement as a vindication.
She recently got into a rumble with her party's Mr. Clean, the campaign finance reformer Russ Feingold.
In Hillary's real world, the soft money that Feingold wants to see banned forever is what elects and re-elects the Clintons.
Like Terry McAuliffe, the party chairman and Clinton bagman, Hillary pays lip service to cleaning up the money-in-politics sewer, but knows her presidential ambitions would be sustained by the big checks Feingold wants to outlaw from Hollywood and Wall Street.
Democratic strategists think Bill has smiled on John Edwards' candidacy because he and Hillary want Edwards to lose to W. in 2004, thus diminishing him and clearing the way for a Hillary run in 2008.
Hollywood prefers actresses under 40, but doesn't mind women over 40 running studios, Senate offices or the country.
In the new futuristic Eddie Murphy movie set in the year 2087, Mrs. Clinton was a beloved president long ago. In space, $10,000 bills have her face on them and are known not as dollars, but as Hillaries.
Maureen Dowd writes for The New York Times.
7A THE GAINESVILLE SUNOPINIONSTHURSDAY, AUGUST 1, 2002

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