But with everyone else tucked so securely into the pocket of the
Chinese -- the Clinton administration, former presidents, former
secretaries of state, and the business community -- the most audible
dissenting voice on our craven China policy belongs to . . .
The actor, who wears Buddhist prayer beads on one wrist and an expensive watch on the other, has been ridiculed as an airhead since the 1993 Oscars, when he asked the billion people watching the show to beam vibes of ``love and truth and a kind of sanity'' to Deng Xiaoping.
David Thompson, who writes about Hollywood, once mocked Gere as ``a fashion plate of meditation, the Dalai Lama on one arm, Cindy Crawford on the other.''
But it is a measure of Washington's moral and intellectual bankruptcy that Gere's reflections now seem so compelling. (When Al Gore wanted to offer a deep thought on the dangers of homophobia, he rose to the defense of a sitcom.)
China's president, Jiang Zemin, is being portrayed in news reports as a despot who wants to be loved, the sort of guy who, after a few fiery maotais at a banquet, might belt out Love Me Tender or recite sections of the Declaration of Independence. (Proving something about his memorization skills but nothing about his reading comprehension.)
Slavishly imitating the more-commanding Deng, who put on a 10-gallon hat and rode around the Astrodome in a stagecoach in 1979, Jiang put on a three-cornered hat as he was led around Williamsburg by tour guides dressed as Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. (Forgive me, but this is sacrilegious.)
The president met socially with Jiang on Tuesday night in the White House residence to set a feel-good mood. Proving again that he likes bonding more than leading.
So it fell to the man designated
``a pin-up'' by the November Vogue to provide a reality check. This is what we have come to.
``I think we're all very disappointed with our president,'' Gere told NBC's Katie Couric, noting that the State Department said that human-rights abuses had grown worse in China and Tibet since Clinton ``de-linked'' trade and human rights.
The actor does fall into the argot of massage therapy at times. ``You can feel the tension there,'' he said on a PBS Frontline documentary about China. ``You can feel the rigidity of letting go, of how hard it is for them to let go, and ultimately, as we all know, that's about insecurity.''
Henry Kissinger, the highly paid China apologist, told PBS: ``I think that Richard Gere is a better actor than he is a political analyst.'' Of course, an insult from the amoral Kissinger is a badge of honor, even for an actor.
Needless to say, Hollywood has its own China policy. Filmmakers are casting a very harsh light on Chinese authoritarianism. In Seven Years in Tibet, they are even willing to glorify the Nazi played by Brad Pitt to knock the Chinese.
But entertainment pooh-bahs are skittering away from the China-bashing movies, afraid of losing access to illusory Chinese markets.
Hearing the siren song of a Shanghai Disneyland, Michael Eisner has hired Kissinger to help him assuage Chinese outrage over the Disney movie Kundun, Martin Scorsese's life of the Dalai Lama.
On the Charlie Rose show, Eisner sounded as if he wanted to strangle Kundun in its crib. ``We're distributing it, and hopefully the Chinese'll understand,'' the Disney chief said. ``In this country, you put out a movie, it gets a lot of momentum for six seconds and is gone three weeks later.''
Gere pushed to have the premiere of his new movie, The Red Corner, in
which he plays an American lawyer framed for murder in Beijing, coincide
with the Jiang visit. When Clinton gave the Chinese leader a 21-gun salute
on the South Lawn on Wednesday, Gere was at a rally across the street
featuring a replica of the Goddess of Democracy, the symbol of the
Tiananmen Square massacre. China's bosses, abetted by our corporations,
persuaded Clinton to walk away from his campaign ideals on that
Clinton's major China speech last week was Pablum. ``At the dawn of a new century, China stands at a crossroads,'' he intoned.
Now if only Ellen would come out for sanctions . . .
©1997 New York Times News Service
Copyright © 1997 The Miami Herald
Copyright © 1997 The Miami Herald