Friday, November 30, 2007

Democratic Divas With a Difference

The names on the ballots are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama but, in Iowa and New Hampshire, a perfect storm of celebrity is brewing with two forces of nature named Barbra and Oprah on a collision course.

Like hurricanes, Streisand and Winfrey need be identified only by their first names, and they are lending their clout to Hillary and Barack to help elevate one of them to the ultimate celebrity.

The two women are a contrast in personal histories and styles. Winfrey, surviving an abusive childhood and early adulthood, created herself through empathy with millions of women. In backing Obama, she is taking her first steps into politics. When she appears with him next month, it will be a new experience.

At a fund-raiser that brought in $3 million, she reportedly told friends, "I haven't been actively engaged before because there hasn't been anything to be actively engaged in. But I am engaged now to make Barack Obama the next President of the United States,"

Streisand, a decade older and now eligible for Social Security, is a self-made powerhouse with an ego that is outsized even by Hollywood standards. She has been involved in politics for decades.

After Bill Clinton was elected, she was omnipresent at his inaugural. When his mother died, Streisand arrived by private jet for the funeral and announced her $200,000 donation to start a breast cancer research fund in memory of the President's mother, who, Barbra solemnly noted, had spent the last weekend of her life at Streisand concerts in Las Vegas.

This week, she announced her support of Hillary with a historical flourish: "Another former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote,‘In government, in business, and in the professions there may be a day when women will be looked upon as persons. We are, however, far from that day as yet.’ More than 50 years later 'that day' is now upon us…and Hillary Clinton is ready to shatter through that glass ceiling for all women."

Streisand will help Hillary with the Hollywood power structure, but Oprah will be giving Obama a unique advantage. Unlike 2000, when George Bush got a boost from appearing on her program, she won't be interviewing other candidates this time.

In light of her support for Obama, she has said, that would be "hypocritical," and nobody has ever accused Oprah of waffling about her feelings.

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