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Warren Beatty May Run for President

September 8, 1999

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ At Mann’s Chinese Theatre, a Hollywood landmark where generations of stars have left their hand prints in wet cement, Aziz Khezam stood on Warren Beatty’s palm impressions, smoking a cigarette and considering the prospect of a Beatty White House.

Vice President Al Gore, the leading Democratic presidential contender, is tainted by the scandals that have plagued President Clinton, he said. Beatty, said Khezam, is ``an intellectual who could be understood by the masses.″

``I’ll take my time to see what Beatty stands for,″ said the pastry shop owner.

Beatty _ movie actor, producer, director, writer _ and now presidential candidate?

In an interview last month with The Washington Post, Beatty acknowledged that he was thinking about a possible candidacy, but said it was too early to say more. ``I’m careful,″ he said.

Interviews with members of his likely base _ disaffected Democrats and other left-of-center activists around the nation _ suggest deep suspicion about his motives and credentials.

Karen Marchioro, a longtime Democratic activist in Seattle, believes her liberal politics are akin to Beatty’s, but dismissed his potential White House bid.

``I take my politics seriously, but I don’t take this at all seriously, because he’s never run for anything,″ she said. Ronald Reagan was an actor who made it to the White House, she allowed. ``But he was a governor first, and not a very good one, I might add.″

Yet tourists from across the country visiting the heart of Hollywood last week were intrigued, even though most of those interviewed had no idea about Beatty’s views _ except that he was a liberal. All, however, had seen ``Bulworth,″ Beatty’s movie manifesto on campaign finance reform.

``I don’t know his credentials, but I’d certainly give him consideration once I was aware of what he stands for,″ said Pat Patterson, a legal assistant from Charleston, S.C. ``Right now, I know nothing about him.″

Polls suggest that if Beatty ran for president as a Democrat he would draw support, but he wouldn’t dramatically alter the race. In a mid-August ABC poll of 452 Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters, Gore was supported by 61 percent, while 24 percent backed former Sen. Bill Bradley and 9 percent endorsed Beatty.

Just 1 percent of likely Democratic voters in a recent California Field poll said Beatty was their first choice for their party’s nominee.

In an essay published last month in The New York Times, Beatty said he wanted to ``help persuade the slightly more liberal one of the two accounting firms we call our major parties to return to the principles of the Democratic Party of my youth.″

Beatty said he was interested in providing universal health care and lifting up the poor, protecting the environment and improving public schools. To do that, he wrote, ``We must have complete public financing of all federal campaigns.″

He declined an interview request with The Associated Press.

State Sen. Tom Hayden of Los Angeles, an anti-Vietnam War activist who disrupted the Democratic Party’s 1968 convention and remains a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, said a Beatty candidacy would ``spice up the debate.″

Hayden said his friend Beatty knows the difficulties he would encounter in running for the White House. ``Trying to go from the world of entertainment to the world of politics is not like catching a first-class flight from L.A. to Washington,″ Hayden said.

Outside this Mecca for the star-struck, there are signs of resentment against actors who seek high political office.

``I think liberal Democrats would tend toward liberal Democratic candidates with experience, not just good-looking actors,″ said Caroline Gelb, an Internet producer and New York liberal.

In liberal Madison, Wis., Democratic state Rep. Spencer Black called the possibility of a Beatty candidacy ``humorous.″ ``Essentially, the president is leader of the free world, if not all of it, and I don’t know that Beatty has any credentials whatsoever to undertake this kind of job.″

While everyone seems to have an opinion, Beatty is leaving people guessing.

``In the disparity of our prosperity, someone must rise to honor the historic mission of the Democratic Party,″ he wrote in the Times. ``Why not Bradley? Why not Gore? Why not now?

``Stay tuned. We’ll be back after this message.″

Beatty is likely to shed more light on his intentions at a Sept. 29 address to the Southern California branch of the liberal Americans for Democratic Action, which plans to honor Beatty with its Eleanor Roosevelt Award.

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