Depending on whom you talk to in Hollywood these days, Hillary Clinton is either too conservative, too polarizing, too famous, too stiff or -- keep this to yourself! -- too sexy.
And those are just the opinions of the celebrities who vote Democrat. (Don't even ask what the few Republicans had to say.)
Once the darling of the industry's liberal set, Clinton has come under attack from some as she starts to line up support for what many feel will be a run for the presidential nomination. But that's not unusual for Hollywood -- it's almost like a rite of passage, says veteran Democratic strategist Bill Carrick: You haven't really made it as a politician here until the stars line up to kick your tires.
Plus, "The Democrats want to win so badly, and Hillary is such an important leader, they're going to scrutinize everything she does," Carrick said.
The chatter started quietly last year, when the Hollywood political crowd began speculating that Clinton could be a 2008 contender. Of course her people denied it, saying she's concentrating on her Senate reelection campaign in New York this year. (But it didn't help that she was coming to town a lot, collecting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions -- money that could be used in the presidential election.)
For months, few were willing to say anything negative on the record, for fear of offending Clinton and her husband, Bill, who became Hollywood's favorite during his political career. When Hillary Clinton decided to run for the Senate in 2000, she was greeted with tremendous support from the entertainment industry's power brokers.
But Hollywood is a fickle place; behind-the-scenes feuding and gossiping are just part of the game. In December, the Sunday Times of London quoted George Clooney as saying that he was "frustrated and disappointed" that the Democratic leaders -- including Clinton -- had "backed themselves into a corner" over the Iraq war. According to the paper, Clooney reportedly called Clinton "the most polarizing figure in American politics."
The piece ran with the headline: "Clooney's ambush hits Hillary's campaign." Clooney and his publicist said the comments were taken out of context. But that's like unringing a bell.
Suddenly the Hillary issue became the question du jour in celebrity interviews:
How's your movie?
What are you wearing to the Oscars?
What about Hillary Clinton?
Kathleen Turner, starring in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" in London's West End, was asked by a British reporter if she thought Clinton could win in 2008.
"I have my doubts about that," Turner told Rosie Millard of the New Statesman. "We don't want a celebrity woman president. We want someone who is really proven, someone with a really good foundation at that level, not just a star."
Millard told the diva: "But Hillary is a bit more than a celebrity."
"Yes," Turner said, backtracking. "She might be uniquely qualified having been first lady for eight years. I may have to rethink my position."
Said Millard: "Well, that's a relief."
Next, Sharon Stone.
In a Q&A for the March/April issue of Hollywood Life, writer Lawrence Grobel was asking the actress such questions as, does she carry condoms with her? (She said yes and went into a long explanation about safe sex.) Then Grobel moved onto politics.
"Do you still think our president is an idiot?" he asked. Stone responded: "We can only hope that those people who hired a president they thought might be fun to go have a drink with will start to notice that the president of the U.S. is a business position -- the CEO of a nation."
So what about Hillary Clinton?
"I think Hillary's fantastic," she said. "But I think it's too soon for Hillary to run. This may sound odd, but a woman should be past her sexuality when she runs. She still has sexual power, and I don't think people will accept that. It's too threatening."
(And if her new movie, "Basic Instinct 2," is any indication, that holds true for movies as well -- audiences stayed away in droves.)
Then Madonna weighed in. In an Out magazine interview, she said she was equally concerned about Clinton's chances of winning. The pop icon reportedly said she thought the former first lady should "go for it" in 2008. But she wondered if the time was right for Americans to put their trust in a woman president.
"You've got to start somewhere in terms of women leading the U.S.," Madonna is quoted as saying. "In Europe and in Asia and elsewhere, women have ruled over millions. It's not an abstract or frightening or out-of-the-box concept.
"But in America, men are still afraid of women. And women, I don't think, trust women. I find that amazing."
A writer for More magazine took up the matter with Susan Sarandon. The actress was blunt. "I find Hillary Clinton to be a great disappointment," she said in the interview, which appears in this month's issue.