Has Obama lost Hollywood?

Or had he just misplaced it?  Michael Hastings reports for BuzzFeed that Barack Obama’s support in Hollywood has waned, and not just with Jon Lovitz.  The entertainment industry had concluded that the Obama administration had flopped — or at least they had until yesterday:

Though Lovitz is on the conservative end of California liberal, complaints about Obama had become a feature of the L.A. landscape. Over the past week, I’d spoken to more than a dozen Hollywood players, and all had a litany of criticisms. “I’ll write the check,” one top producer, whose films have made over a billion at the box office, told me. “But I’m not going to bother voting for him.” Another studio exec—in a land where the hard driven deal is cultural requirement —wondered if the president’s penchant for compromise meant he had, in the parlance of our times, “no balls.”

A number of other actors and producers lamented how they’d gone so far as to donate and volunteer for Obama in 2008—and now, disgusted, they were planning on doing neither this time around. They had bought what Obama was selling four years—about the wars, about Gitmo, about changing things in Washington, about the hope and the change—and Obama had let them down. Even Matt Damon—one of the president’s most stalwart celebrity supporters—famously said last year he was disappointed.

“Starry-eyed, thinking Obama was going to change the world, post-racial America, all of that—it was here in Hollywood, more so than anywhere else in the country,” says an influential Democratic party insider and fundraiser in LA. “It’s a city where there’s an almost child like imagination, a city where the imagination runs wild. It’s one of the city’s greatest strengths—the West Coast attitude to say, okay, go for it. So they believed in Obama. And now they hate him. They hate him.”

Some of the hate came from aggrieved self-interest, too:

Then there was what the Hollywood community saw as the betrayal over the anti-piracy bill known as SOPA earlier in the year. After a frenzy of lobbying from the rival two California power centers, the White House seemed to choose Facebook, Google, and the new digital media companies over the once-powerful Motion Picture Association of America. And Obama’s unwillingness to build relationships with studio heads and other key players in the city left many a tad chagrined when the campaign came back asking for cash for 2012—a source of income, with the loss of big Wall Street money, that he’d need to win.

Therein lies the rub for Team Obama.  They’ve already alienated Wall Street through the heavy-handed Dodd-Frank legislation, and perhaps severed the connection for good with Obama’s class-warfare arguments over the last eight months.  After stoking the Occupy movement, rhetorically if not financially (which Obama’s union allies certainly did), Wall Street won’t be donating much to Obama’s coffers in this election.  The entertainment industry is Obama’s backstop now, and he needs to woo them back into the fold.

It was this concern over fundraising that drove the decision to publicly endorse legalizing gay marriage, as had been their plan all along, even if Joe Biden blew up that strategy:

Senior administration officials admit that Biden’s comment was, indeed, the catalyst for Obama to make his historic announcement weeks earlier than planned.

But Biden’s remarks on “Meet the Press” deeply annoyed Obama’s team, people close to the situation tell POLITICO, because it aggrandized his role at the expense of Obama’s yeoman efforts on behalf of the community and pushed up the timing of a sensitive announcement they had hoped to break — at a time and place of their own choosing — in the weeks leading up to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this fall.

Nor did it tickle anyone, from Obama on down, that Biden — who backed the Defense of Marriage Act while serving in the Senate in the 1990s — seemed to be getting more credit in the LGBT community than a president who has actually taken steps to repeal the Clinton-era law that defined marriage as something that could only take place between a man and a woman.

And it chafed Obama’s team that Biden had, at times, privately argued for the president to hold off on his support of marriage equality to avoid a backlash among Catholic voters in battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to two officials familiar with those discussions.

Jonah Goldberg throws a flag on this interpretation of events:

Does anyone believe this? Obama was scared to antagonize swing states over the issue of gay marriage in May but he was planning to do it in September? Really? He planned to make the Democratic Convention an infomercial on gay equality? That’s ludicrous.

Actually, I have believed that all along.  I also don’t think that Pastor Joe is as much in the doghouse as Politico reports.  The coincidences are too numerous: Richard Grennell had just resigned from the Romney campaign, stories began appearing about fundraising issues among big-ticket progressive donors over the lack of progress on LGBT issues, and a bad jobs report on Friday showed the need to change the narrative — and fast.  I believe the White House thought they could ride a will-he-won’t-he storyline all summer long, and then use the DNC convention for Obama’s evolutionary completion, and use the debate to distract the media from jobs and the economy.  That might have given some time to soften opposition in the swing states, but it would have kept donors engaged all summer long.

The donor issue is now solved, but the distraction won’t last much longer.  The White House miscalculated how quickly this would force Obama’s hand.  In a few more days, they’ll have to come up with another distraction, and high-school pranks and Seamus the Roof-Ridin’ Dog won’t cut it for long.  Meanwhile, this will be enough to get Hollywood back on board, so expect some eye-popping fundraising numbers from the entertainment industry once again.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on January 30, 2023