It took him more than a few years, but the president who Hollywood helped put in the White House finally returned the compliment with public words that said what the entertainment industry has been dying to hear: Entertainment matters.
To that I’d only say: What took him so long?
See photos: President Barack Obama Speaks at DreamWorks
Speaking on the DreamWorks Animation campus in Glendale on Tuesday, Obama finally threw his arms around the left coast liberals who make the movies and television shows that the whole world hungers to see. (And by that I mean not only the actual “Hunger Games.” )
For once, Obama publicly acknowledged the value that America’s popular culture bestows around the world, and in this country.
“Entertainment is one of America’s biggest exports … part of our American diplomacy,” he said. “You can say, ‘May the force be with you’ [anywhere in the world], they’ll know what you’re talking about.”
He added: “You help shape the world’s culture.”
Ain’t that the truth. Hollywood does more than shape the world’s culture. Hollywood IS the world’s culture. Do you know of another global lingua franca besides Michael Jackson, Mickey Mouse and “Breaking Bad”?
It took the president only slightly longer to embrace his left coast entertainment industry base than it took to get behind same-sex marriage.
Hollywood is an “economic engine,” Obama said, a rare bright spot in the economy that creates “hundreds of thousands of middle class jobs — not only the ones on the marquee.”
In his first administration, Obama turned off many of his most ardent Hollywood followers by seldom visiting the West Coast and declining to give them their own bedroom at the White House, as Bill Clinton did. Many who supported him in the first campaign were less enthused in the second one because of that.
Obama has been on a first-name basis with Jeffrey Katzenberg for many years. As he has with Sony’s Michael Lynton and his wife Jamie, as he is with Harvey Weinstein and any number of leading celebrities including Eva Longoria, Kerry Washington, will.i.am and others who stumped for him tirelessly.
But you never saw him saying so in public. In a Tea Party world, you love your liberals in the closet, not in the limelight.
On Tuesday, he finally deigned to publicly embrace the company Jeffrey built in a tough economy and in a shifting global marketplace.
It was notable that billionaire donor Haim Saban, the diehard Hillary Clinton supporter, softened his stance and hosted Obama for a fundraiser on Monday night for the first time.
Tuesday was something different. Perhaps it’s because Obama is in his last term, or perhaps he needed to balance the scales and show some gratitude as he makes new rounds asking for cash for Democrats.
Or maybe he’s just tired of the right coast resentment and looking for that left coast love.
You know Hollywood always gives it to him.
He joked: “Marlon Brando had it easy in ‘The Godfather': “When it comes to Congress, there’s no such thing as an offer they can’t refuse.”