This was the year Hollywood finally realized that it couldn’t sell an anti-Iraq war film. It also was the year the mainstream media discovered it couldn’t report that the war on terror had failed.
Countless prime-time hours and untold acres of celluloid and newsprint were wasted demeaning the American mission. Yet, in the end, the heroic warriors destroyed their media adversaries by defeating our true enemies on the battlefield.
Except for the election of an antiwar candidate, 2008 was a great year for the pro-war side and only an economic meltdown could divert attention from this fact.
And even President-elect Barack Obama seems poised to disappoint the zealous anti-warriors who flamed his candidacy. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates could not have been the “change” Moveon.org believed in, just as soon-to-be Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton - who voted to authorize the Iraq war - isn’t likely what filmmaker Michael Moore had in mind.
Now, however, Mr. Obama - perhaps desirous of being a great wartime president - can do what a Republican president, especially one vilified in Hollywood, could not: sell the war.
Mr. Obama has the tools, the alliances and the skills needed to begin an unprecedented propaganda campaign to repackage America’s efforts against international terrorism and the global jihad movement.
The goal would be to strengthen the resolve of a conflict-weary American people and to send a message abroad that Americans stand united once again and that our war to defend modernity also is theirs.
It’s not as if there’s no precedent for Hollywood supporting a war under a Democratic president. Consider World War II. There were superstar actors and top directors in the military (Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Frank Capra), and others such as Ronald Reagan and John Ford made training and propaganda films and documentaries. The studios turned out pro-war films such as “Air Force,” “Guadalcanal Diary” and the “Why We Fight” series. Betty Grable adorned every soldier’s locker, and anti-Nazi German Marlene Dietrich did USO shows as near the front line as the military would let her. Some stars even gave their lives; Carole Lombard died in a plane crash while on a bond-selling tour.
As for the current war on terrorism, there never was any chance of Hollywood liberals supporting it as long as George W. Bush was president. Wrong though it is, it is simply an Article of the Liberal Faith that Mr. Bush stole the election in Florida (look at movies such as the HBO film “Recount”) and his entire White House reign was illegitimate - “not my president” and all that. But if Mr. Obama - “my president” - is prosecuting the war, that fundamentally changes the mind-set.
On the precipice of victory in Iraq, and recommitting to destroy the Taliban in Afghanistan, continuing military victories on a Democratic president’s watch would be extraordinarily transforming for a party that pretends to thrive in the shadow of George McGovern.
Throwing antiwar agitators Markos Moulitsas and Arianna Huffington under the biodiesel bus would be a historic act that would cause moderates and traditional liberals to rejoice. What would the nutroots at the Huffington Post and the Daily Kos do: Draft Cindy Sheehan again? Or support the Republican next go-around?
Most conservatives just want to win and don’t care who gets the credit. If Mr. Obama crushes al Qaeda over the next four years, he will be re-elected, and he will win over many Republicans, including Mr. Bush, who only cares about winning. Not who gets the credit.
The president missed a historic opportunity to win over the hearts and minds of Hollywood immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
One actor told me of immediately going to the Santa Monica, Calif., military recruitment office and attempting to sign up. Technically one year too old to enlist, the familiar face - who was at peak athletic condition at the time - insisted that the chain of command make an exemption.
“Think of the good press it would get,” the television and film actor begged. “Find someone, anyone who will grant me an exemption. I’ll even take on your best recruits to prove I’m can do the work better than anyone else.”
Bruce Willis famously tried to join the military ranks in 2001. “I wanted to sign up and fight with you guys, but they told me I was too old.”
A New York-based iconic writer and director who creates $100 million alternative universes went straight to the Defense Department and pitched his wares, “I can do propaganda for you. And they told me, ‘Sorry. We don’t do propaganda.’ ”
Well, now we can, and we should fight the war in the media. Hollywood got Mr. Obama elected, and he has an army who will do whatever he says.
Scarlett Johansson has Mr. Obama’s e-mail address. Perhaps she can become the new face of the USO. And Ben Affleck is still young enough to enlist. Susan Sarandon can play the part of Martha Raye.
In one epic act of triangulation, deploying America’s awesome propaganda power, Hollywood and the Democratic Party can be redeemed.
Are you ready to win a war, President Obama. Or what?
• Andrew Breitbart is the founder of the news Web site www.breitbart.com and the video site www.breitbart.tv. He also is co-author of “Hollywood Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon - the Case Against Celebrity.”