Might Ben Affleck try leap from Hollywood to US Senate? So far, he's cagey.

The actor and director says he's 'happy being involved from outside in government.' But Ben Affleck didn't exactly put the kibosh on talk about a possible run for John Kerry's Senate seat.

CBS News/Handout
Actor Ben Affleck appeared on Face the Nation last week; some are wondering if he is contemplating a run for the Senate seat that will become open if John Kerry is confirmed as Secretary of State.

Could Ben Affleck head to Washington?

It seems like a long shot, but the actor and director's name has come up recently amid speculation over who will run for John Kerry's US Senate seat if the Massachusetts senator slides over to the State Department to serve as President Obama's foreign affairs chief. 

Mr. Affleck didn't start up the rumor mill, but when given an opportunity to say he isn't interested, he demurred – a move guaranteed to keep the rumors flying in Washington and, of course, Massachusetts. In an interview aired Dec. 23 on CBS's "Face the Nation," Affleck said "I'm not one to get into conjecture," when host Bob Schieffer asked him directly about any US Senate aspirations.

"I do have great fondness and admiration for the political process in this country," Affleck told Mr. Schieffer, "but I'm not going to get into speculation about my political future."

"Right now," he added, "I'm really happy being involved from the outside in government, advocating for the Congolese [and] taking this movie that I made, 'Argo' – it's really become a springboard for a dialogue about our relationship with Iran."

Affleck, founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative, was in Washington to raise awareness about violence in Congo. He testified before Congress on Wednesday about the conflict and said he will make his 10th trip there next year. He also met with Senator Kerry, along with other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

CBS Boston's Jon Keller was among the first to mention the star's name in connection with the Senate seat, saying he'd heard Affleck's name "tossed around" among the possibilities to replace Kerry.

Interest in the seat is high. GOP Sen. Scott Brown in November narrowly lost his reelection bid to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, and he is widely presumed to be interested in running for Kerry's vacated seat, should Kerry win Senate confirmation to be secretary of State. Affleck is just one of many Democrats whose names have come up to run against him. Others include US Reps. Edward Markey, Steven Lynch, and Michael Capuano; former Congressman Marty Meehan; state senator Ben Downing; and Victoria Kennedy, widow of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Ted Kennedy Jr., eldest son of the late senator, has decided against running for the seat, according to a Boston Globe report Monday.

Affleck, who has long campaigned for Democratic candidates and who majored in Middle Eastern studies at Occidental College in Los Angeles, would face significant challenges: a lack of any previous political experience running for office; the need to raise cash quickly (or use his own); and a crowded Democratic field. He grew up in Cambridge, Mass., and currently owns a home in the Bay State, but under state law he also wouldn't need to establish legal residency until Election Day.

And it's unclear whether Affleck, a filmmaker who seems to be reaching a new career peak behind the camera, would have an interest in trying for elected office.

But he would also not be the first actor to do so.

Surprisingly, despite the stereotype of Hollywood being full of liberals, most high-profile thespians and entertainers who have moved into politics have been Republicans.

Ronald Reagan, arguably the most successful and well-known actor-turned-politician, springs to mind. But there's also Arnold Schwarzenegger – who, now that he's finished two terms as California governor, has returned to acting.

There's Sonny Bono, the musician and actor who was elected mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., before twice being elected a US congressman. And Fred Thompson, best known for his role on TV's "Law & Order," and who played a US president three times in his acting career. Thompson served in the US Senate for eight years and later ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008. Clint Eastwood's career as an elected official has been confined to two terms as mayor of Carmel, Calif. But he made bigger political news this year when, during the GOP convention to nominate Mitt Romney, he gave an odd – and widely criticized – speech to an empty chair.

Jesse Ventura, the actor and professional wrestler who became Minnesota's governor, eschewed both Democrats and Republicans, running first as the candidate of the Reform Party of Minnesota (he later switched to the state's Independence Party).

Democratic actors who make the move from entertainment to political office are fewer, with Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota as the most prominent. A former SNL comedian and talk-show host, Senator Franken barely eked out a Senate win in 2008 in a hotly contested election.

Talk of Affleck as a candidate may be simply a combination of wishful thinking by media pundits and Democrats worried that Senator Brown needs a high-profile opponent.

Among other hurdles, it's unclear why Affleck would want to leave a successful career as both a filmmaker and actor. Having directed three critically acclaimed movies – and considered a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination this winter – Affleck finally seems to have laid to rest the embarrassment of past films like "Gigli" and "Surviving Christmas."

A move to Congress – where approval ratings haven't hit 25 percent in three years, and more often are stuck below 20 percent – would hardly be a reputation-builder. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Might Ben Affleck try leap from Hollywood to US Senate? So far, he's cagey.
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today