Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's active opposition to an American-led war on Iraq has earned him an early boost in Hollywood's presidential sweepstakes, in the form of an endorsement by director and key Democratic activist Rob Reiner.
"Dean's the only major Democratic candidate speaking out against going to war without the support of the United Nations," said Reiner, who will be the California co-chairman of the Dean campaign. "My urgency to support him right now is to give him as big a forum as possible so that his views can be heard. It's a very dangerous time right now."
Unlike the other top contenders -- Sens. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri -- Dean opposed last fall's congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. Earlier this week, Dean called for intensified U.N. inspections as an alternative to war. He does, however, approve of a U.S. invasion of Iraq if it is backed by the United Nations.
Reiner's endorsement, which will be announced today in an appearance with Dean at Children's Institute International, a Los Angeles early childhood center, demonstrates the growing commingling of presidential politicking and Hollywood's burgeoning antiwar movement.
Last Saturday, Reiner marched in the antiwar protest in Hollywood with actor Martin Sheen, another Dean backer.
Though Reiner may be best known to Americans as "Meathead" from the '70s sitcom "All in the Family," he is a children's activist who spearheaded the 1998 drive to pass Proposition 10, which imposed a 50-cent tax on cigarettes. The tax garners about $600 million annually, which is used to fund health and education programs for children under 5.
Earlier this month, in a Los Angeles Times poll of registered Democrats nationwide, Dean garnered 1% of the support. Yet Dean's blunt style and ardently liberal views have begun to generate buzz in Hollywood, an all-important source of cash for the Democratic Party.
Given Hollywood's balkanized, competitive nature, it is difficult for any activist to magnetize the entire community. Yet Reiner's endorsement had been sought by several Democratic presidential candidates because of his energetic advocacy.
In the last presidential campaign, he hosted or co-hosted at least a dozen fund-raisers for former Vice President Al Gore, including one that raised $4.5 million.