It is hard to bite the hand that feeds you, so Bill Clinton decided recently to lick it instead.
Violence on TV and in movies has become a big issue, and Clinton's attorney general warned the entertainment industry in October that laws to control such violence were "constitutionally permissible."
And last Friday, Clinton seemed to join Dan Quayle in a desire to see traditional "family" values portrayed on TV.
"I read his whole speech, 'the Murphy Brown speech,' " Clinton told NBC. "I thought there were a lot of good things in that speech. The rise of violence is related to a decline of traditional families and upbringing and a decline in the economy."
So last weekend, Clinton went to Beverly Hills to confront the movie and TV moguls, the producers, the studio heads and the stars.
Well, he didn't actually come to confront them.
He came to get money from them.
He came to raise $2 million for the Democratic Party, exactly the kind of special interest "soft money" he had campaigned against.
Not that the president was going to let money affect what he said to these people.
Instead, Clinton reminded his audience -- an audience that included billionaire mogul Marvin Davis, multimillionaire super agent Michael Ovitz, movie producer Steven Spielberg and stars like Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Kevin Costner, Dustin Hoffman, Kim Bassinger, Amy Irving, Sally Field and Chevy Chase -- that not everybody in America was like them.
As if they needed reminding.
Here, word for word from the official White House transcript, is what Clinton said:
"Now what we have are people who are vulnerable to cultural forces that the rest of us find entertaining, that are not in and of themselves bad when made part of a culture that is organized by work, by family, and by other institutions. I love television. I saw two or three of you tonight and quoted about sometime I'd seen you on television recently. I love that."
Translation: Violent shows are not "in and of themselves bad" when they are viewed by good people, people who have grown up in traditional homes that are "organized by work, by family, and other institutions."
But not everybody in America is like that, are they? No, unfortunately, there are people from lousy homes who are vulnerable to violent shows, Clinton said.
"But what might be entertaining to us -- a violent, thrilling movie or television program, a torrid but fundamentally amoral use and manipulation of people in what may be for us just an entertaining 30 minutes or an hour. If it's 10 or 11 hours a day of relentless exposure into the minds of people who have never been taught to understand the consequences of their action, never had any kind of internal structure motivated and driven by seeing their parents go to work every day and having a regular relationship with family and having other institutions, then these things can -- unintentionally can set forth a chain reaction of even more impulsive behavior, even more inability to deal with conflict in nonviolent ways and to pass up the aggressive influences and impulses that all of us feel but most of us learn at some point in our lives not to act on."
Translation: When good people like us see violence it's merely "thrilling." But when people from crummy homes see screen violence this violence can "unintentionally" lead to real violence.
So what must Hollywood do? Relax, you moguls.
Because the answer is: Not much.
The president said:
"So what I ask you to do is join a partnership with me, not to stop entertaining or even titillating, not to stop frightening or thrilling the American public, but to examine what together you might do to simply face the reality that so many of our young people live with and help us as we seek to rebuild the frayed bonds of this community . . . and restore some structure and some hope and some essential dignity and purpose to lives that have been dominated by chaos or worse."
That's it! We don't need laws against screen violence!
All you moguls and producers and stars have to do is join some "partnership" and "rebuild some frayed bonds" and it's a wrap!
Oh, one other thing: Please drop off your contributions at the door.