Boston (CNSNews.com) - Actor Alec Baldwin slammed the influence of religious conservatives on Wednesday, telling Democrats that the Republican Party "has been hijacked by these fundamentalist wackos."
The audience, which included Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, greeted Baldwin's comment with sustained applause.
"To me, the Republican Party is the real great tragedy of the last 25 years because there are lot of good and decent people and a lot of good political points [that have] come from the Republican Party in the post-war period, but it has been hijacked by these fundamentalist wackos," Baldwin said.
He was speaking at DNC-sponsored event called "Funny But True: Important Issues in 2004."
"There are a lot of decent Republicans out there who feel they have to profess this loyalty to these people," Baldwin added after the applause faded.
Baldwin also took aim at the Bush administration's policies, telling CNSNews.com before the panel discussion began that the administration is "really only good at two things, which is manipulating corporate profits and waging war, and they basically botched both of those things."
On Wednesday, Baldwin appeared on stage as part of a celebrity panel with fellow actors Ben Affleck, Rob Reiner and Esai Morales, Air America radio host Al Franken, former Clinton administration press secretary Dee Dee Meyers and CNN's Paul Begala also appeared on the panel. The event was closed to the press, but CNSNews.com was able to gain entry and record the proceedings.
Following the 90-minute panel discussion, DNC Chair McAuliffe joined the celebrities on stage at Boston's Schubert Theater: "What did you think of our group? Give them a great round of applause," McAuliffe said.
"What we wanted to do this year instead of just hosting parties, we wanted to have substantive events for you like we had here today," McAuliffe added.
Actor Ben Affleck told CNSNews.com just before the panel discussion began that the event was "about having a good time."
Following the event, CNSNews.com asked Al Franken about the appropriateness of Baldwin's "fundamentalist wackos" comment, given the Democratic Party's efforts to tone down Bush bashing and inflammatory rhetoric during the this week's convention.
"I can't remember the exact context; I am sure he was talking about the whole conglomeration of neo-cons (neo-conservatives) who are so ideologically tied to, were so ideologically tied to, invading Iraq that we went in there before we needed to," Franken said, implying that Baldwin's comments referred to the politics of the Iraq war.
In fact, Baldwin's comment about "fundamentalist wackos" had nothing to do with war planning. It was a direct reference to the GOP's stance on conservative social issues.
Franken, however, seemed to believe that the Baldwin was referring to the Iraq war. Sensing negative fallout from Baldwin's comments, Franken told CNSNews.com not to edit his interview about the comments.
"I was just --- were you, were you, are you going to edit this?" Franken asked, referring to his comments about Baldwin.
"Please don't edit this. I have done four USO tours, I visited our troops in Iraq, and-and, you know, I -- I am very mad that we went in there without proper planning and that we went in there with the ideology -- and this is what I think he (Baldwin) might have meant -- with just planning for nothing but the best-case scenario, and that was all ideological, and it wasn't based -- or actually, it was based on willfully ignoring all the planning that was done for the war," Franken said.
'Easier to digest'
Baldwin drew a rebuke from Franken during the panel discussion when Baldwin implied that the GOP used "personality issues" to win over voters in "flyover" country because such issues "were easier to digest."
"I am talking about flyover America, I am not talking about the leadership class of either party," Baldwin said. "I am talking about the average American out there. They latch on to these personality-driven issues because they are easier for them to digest in this kind of tabloid world."
Franken immediately warned Baldwin to be very careful with his line of reasoning.
"I think we have to be very careful to say this. I am from flyover. I grew up in Minnesota. There are more sophisticated people throughout this country than there are in New York and even L.A.," Franken told Baldwin.
But Baldwin insisted, "The concept is the leadership class -- politically -- wherever they may be, who have a high degree of awareness versus people from whom that kind of debate of the language, behavior, what is appropriate -- look at Clinton's impeachment. Look at Clinton's impeachment. Does anybody really believe that anything that Clinton was doing in his private life had any bearing on his performance as president of the United States?"
The other celebrity panelists also weighed in on the GOP and social issues. Affleck called the GOP "the party of the haves and the haves-more."
"What the Republican leadership seems to do is sort of obfuscate that debate by throwing up this kind of red-herring stuff: 'Well, you don't want your son marrying a queer? No, I guess not, I don't.' It's sort of a scare tactic," Affleck said.
'Divide the country'
Actor and producer Rob Reiner, who played "Meathead" on television's "All in the Family," told CNSNews.com before the panel discussion began that the GOP uses "wedge issues to divide the country."
"If your focus is to divide the country, use wedge issues and the social issues to divide the country, it's probably easier to do because you don't have to worry about healthcare or the environment or education. All you have to do is get people focused on abortion or stem-cell research or gay marriage -- if you think about that, you can divide the country pretty quick," Reiner said.
Later, during the panel discussion, Reiner said, "I go around the country and I hear a lot of the Republicans who are very tired with what has happened [to the party]."
Actor Esai Morales observed, "I think we have to appeal to the good Republicans out there, there are people who joined that party for good reason. They have been taken over by the body-snatchers."
Morales said he believes the GOP is a party that turns its back on compassion.
"So I think the difference in the Democrats and the Republicans is very simple. The Democrats believe in investing in humanity, investing in people, not just the technology that is going to blow people off the earth," Morales said.
"Most actors are intimately concerned with the human condition," he said as part of an effort to explain why many actors are liberals.
'So emotionally immature'
Actress-turned-liberal-radio-host Janeane Garofalo echoed the criticism of religious conservatives. Garofalo did not take part in the panel discussion, but she spoke with CNSNews.com at the main convention hall later on Wednesday.
"Conservatives are traditionally fiscally prudent, small government," Garofalo said. "They prefer the government out of both the boardroom and the bedroom. Then there is right-wing America, which is actually very elastic in those things," Garofalo said.
"Try not to be so emotionally immature," Garofalo urged "right-wingers." "Take anger-management class and work on your impulse control," she added.
See Related Articles:
Michael Moore Rages: GOP Promotes 'Hate-triotism'
Michael Moore Backpedals on Key Premise of Documentary
'Guns, God, Gays' Losing Voting Appeal, Howard Dean Says
Top Democrats Embrace, Distance Themselves From Michael Moore
E-mail a news tip to Marc Morano.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.