He calls the current mood among Hollywood Democrats a “matured enthusiasm,” but says support is strong.
Though Damon’s remarks about the president have been the most pointed, other celebrities have expressed disappointment, or at least mild disillusionment.
“I love the president like most of us,” Sean “Diddy” Combs told Source magazine this year. “I just want the president to do better.”
And will.i.am, creator of that viral video that ended with the word “HOPE,” told The New York Times earlier this year: “I don’t want to hope anymore.” Asked if he was disappointed in Obama, he said: “I don’t feel disappointed. I feel like, Argggh! Speak louder! I feel like, Do something!”
“Democrats eat their own,” the actor said. “I’m a firm believer in sticking by and sticking up for the people whom you’ve elected.” He went on to list the accomplishments of the Obama administration, wondering why Democrats weren’t selling them better.
There already have been plenty of celebrities hosting or showing up at Obama fundraising events. Actress Eva Longoria hosted one at the home of Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas. Lady Gaga attended a September fundraiser at the home of Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. Alicia Keys performed at a New York fundraiser.
Over the summer, film executive Harvey Weinstein held a Manhattan event sprinkled with celebrities including Keys, Jimmy Fallon, and Gwyneth Paltrow and husband Chris Martin. A 50th birthday-themed fundraiser in Chicago featured performances by Jennifer Hudson, Herbie Hancock and the band OK Go.
Of course, celebrity support isn’t always a win-win for a candidate. Just as Obama’s opponents in 2008 tried to use his taste for arugula to paint him as elitist, they tried to use his celebrity connections to imply he was lightweight, all pizazz and no substance _ most pointedly in an ad tenuously linking him to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.
The tactic seemed to scare Obama’s campaign enough to play down the role of celebrities at the Democratic convention that summer. Will the campaign similarly seek to downplay the celebrity role this time?
“Celebrities are helpful in terms of exciting a base,” says Griffin, the fundraiser. “I don’t think the president will have any shortage of surrogates.”
One thing is clear: They won’t include Damon, and the president wasn’t shy about making a few jokes at the actor’s expense back in May, at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
“Matt Damon said he was disappointed in my performance,” the president noted. Then he referred to one of Damon’s recent films. “Well, Matt, I just saw `The Adjustment Bureau,’ so right back atcha, buddy.”
Damon, whose representatives did not respond to a request for comment, has given no sign that he plans to do anything as dramatic as switch sides in November. The real danger, say some Obama supporters, is that comments like his would lead voters, especially younger ones, to stay home.