Arnold vs. Affleck: The conventions' Hollywood moments. rates the pop-culture references, actor appearances, and musical choices at the Democratic and Republican gatherings

By Brian Hiatt
Updated September 08, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: J. Scott Applewhite/AP; Ben Affleck: Rebecca Sapp/

Arnold vs. Affleck: The conventions’ Hollywood moments

Both sides keep telling us that the 2004 election is among the most important contests of our lifetime. And we don’t doubt it. But once the campaigns hit primetime, via July’s Democratic convention and this week’s Republican gathering, they also became just another reality show — kind of like the Olympics. So, let’s put important issues aside (which is never hard around here), and take a fair and balanced look at entertaining moments from the conventions:

Random celebrity award (Republican) Actor Ron Silver said in his GOP convention speech that President Bush is doing ”exactly the right thing.” And Ron Silver is determined to win the war on terror. Great! But who is he, again?

Random celebrity award (Democratic) Post-Bennifer, Ben Affleck had promised to lower his profile. His chosen method: appearing in every single audience-reaction shot during every single speech at the Democratic National Convention, and managing to get romantically linked to both Kerry daughters in the gossip pages. Is he hoping to spread a little of that ”Jersey Girl” magic onto his party of choice?

Best pop-culture references California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger turned a ”Terminator” line into a tearjerker through the tale of an injured soldier who promised to recover and return to the Iraqi battlefields: ”Arnold, I’ll be back.” Later, the governor called Democrats ”economic girlie men,” which way too many clueless commentators took to be another movie reference (of course, it’s from the old, Ahnuld-mocking ”Hans and Franz” skit from ‘”SNL”).

Worst pop-culture references In a ”hip” speech reportedly ghost-written by Bush adviser Karen Hughes, giggly Bush daughters Jenna and Barbara drew laughs and cringes as they claimed their grandmother thinks ”’Sex in the City’ [sic] is something married people do but never talk about.” After mangling that show’s title, they quoted OutKast’s played-out ”Hey Ya!” — becoming, we hope, the last people on the planet to make a ”shake it like a Polaroid picture” joke.

Most revealing ’60s moment (Republican) Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, explained that her dour hubby was never much of a mover: ”And when practically everybody in Casper, Wyoming, started doing the twist, I can tell you, Dick did not.” But did he shake it like a Polaroid picture? (Whoops.)

Most revealing ’60s moment (Democratic) The Steven Spielberg-produced biographical film for Kerry included soundclips of the future senator playing hamfisted basslines in his ultra-crude prep-school garage band, the Electras. Kerry even threatened a reunion — but let’s hope he’ll take some lessons first.

Best narrator (Democratic) The dulcet, folksy tones of God Himself — aka ”Bruce Almighty”’s Morgan Freeman — graced Spielberg’s Kerry documentary.

Best narrator (Republican) The dulcet, folksy tones of ”Law & Order”’s district attorney — a.k.a. former U.S. senator Fred Thompson — carried Bush’s introductory film.

Best entrance music (Democratic) As John Kerry prepared to ”report for duty” on the podium, Bruce Springsteen’s rousing 1984 track ”No Surrender” blared. Its refrain provides perfect fighting words for a campaign: ”We made a promise that we’d always remember/ No retreat, baby, no surrender.” Then again, its line about learning more ”from a three-minute record than I ever learned in school” might not be a good example for the kids.

Best entrance music (Republican) The sounds of silence. Perhaps as a slap at all those singing liberals, both Cheney and Bush took the stage buoyed only by the roaring and chanting of the Madison Square Garden crowd. Hmm… There’s still time for a country singer to come out with a song called ”Four More Years.”