If you were casting a young charismatic politician, you could do worse than Ben Affleck, who, by the way, played just that in the movie State of Play. But for Affleck, politics have always been more than just a a role to play. Back in 2004, he lent his celebrity and charm to John Kerry’s presidential bid, and the next year, some Virginia Democrats reportedly wanted Affleck to take on incumbent Republican senator George Allen. Though he obviously did not run then, he’s never closed the door on a future in politics, and his passion has been showcased in his multiple appearances on Real Time With Bill Maher.
Inevitably, all those questions and wishful rumors reemerged this week, with Affleck in Washington to speak to Congress about atrocities in the Congo. Affleck founded the Eastern Congo Initiative in 2010, and he’s visited the war-torn country nine times to help alleviate the suffering. (He testified to Congress that approximately five million people have been killed there in the last 14 years.) While on the Hill, he reunited with Kerry, who just happens to be the frontrunner to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State… meaning his senate seat might be open very soon.
So how did the 40-year-old director of Argo and EW’s Entertainer of the Year respond to a question about the possibility of succeeding Kerry: “That’s not what I’m here to talk about,” he told Politico. And when Bob Schieffer asked him directly in an interview that will air this Sunday, Affleck refused to dismiss the notion. “One never knows. I’m not one to get into conjecture,” Affleck said. “I do have a great fondness and admiration for the political process in this country. It’s a big deal for me to come down here and be on your show that I’ve watched so much, but I’m not going to get into speculation about my political future.”
That is hardly a Sherman-esque “No.” In fact, that is so far from a “No” that I’m actually worried for him. Let me say that there is nothing ridiculous about an actor running for office. Ronald Reagan is a beloved Republican icon, George H.W. Bush briefly considered picking Clint Eastwood as his V.P in 1988, Warren Beatty seriously flirted with a presidential run of his own in 2000, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of our most populous state. But would Affleck really put his rejuvenated movie career on hold, just as he’s entering his prime as a filmmaker, to become a D.C. politician. Back in 2005, he explained his ambivalence on the matter to the Washington Post this way: “You got to think, would you rather be sitting by the pool, or going to some Elks lodge to eat some doughnuts and shake hands?” he said, before hedging, “I’d look into it, maybe sometime in the future.”
I suspect that Affleck is sincere in his interest in someday running for office — like Alec Baldwin — but as a movie fan, I’d prefer that Affleck continue to postpone his political ambition. Making movies like Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo is hardly “sitting by the pool,” and Hollywood also needs its “best and brightest.”
Plus, I don’t look forward to the negative attack ads that would be hurled his way if he ran — “Affleck wants to do for Massachusetts what he did for Gigli!” — or the flock of Aflac ducks that his opposition would sic on his rallies.
Just say no, Ben. For now, anyway. And until that day comes, keep your ear to the Hollywood grindstone.