Matt Damon on Obama: ‘I think he’s rolled over to Wall Street completely’

This isn’t a story about Matt Damon. It’s not even a story about Barack Obama. It’s a story about us, and about the year-long ad campaign known as the 2008 election:

Few of Barack Obama’s celebrity supporters at the 2008 US presidential election were as committed to his cause as the Oscar-winning actor Matt Damon. Rather than merely support Mr Obama in an online video, Damon, one of Hollywood’s highest-profile liberal activists, campaigned for the Democratic nominee in Florida. Not content with that, he provided one of the most cutting insults of the campaign when he described the Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin as “really terrifying… like something out of a bad Disney movie”.

What happened to Damon has happened all over the country:

Damon, 40, star of the Bourne spy trilogy and two new films, The Adjustment Bureau and True Grit, is scrupulously polite and mild-mannered when we meet in a Manhattan hotel. But laying bare his disenchantment with the Obama administration, he doesn’t hide how let down he feels. President Obama’s record on the economy particularly rankles. “I think he’s rolled over to Wall Street completely. The economy has huge problems. We still have all these banks that are too big to fail. They’re bigger and making more money than ever. Unemployment at 10 per cent? It’s terrible.” … He is upset that Mr Obama, who promised to “spread the wealth around”, has extended the Bush tax cuts and that the inequality gap has widened.

“They had a chance that they don’t have any more to stand up for things,” he says. “They’ve probably squandered that at this point. They’ll probably just make whatever deals they can to try to get elected again.”

I really meant it that this isn’t about Obama, but about us. I think Damon speaks for many. So, thinking theoretically about the 2012 election, how does a left-leaning (or left-appearing) candidate re-engage this many disillusioned voters?

If the race is not tight, a no-brainer, that’s probably not a problem. But even John McCain gave Obama a run, and the 53-46 margin, though comfortable, was not a blowout.

What if Obama seriously missteps twixt here and there? I don’t think he can reach back into his pocket and pull out yet more legions of starry-eyed newborn voters. (Our thoughts on the starry-eyed newborns are here.)

An interesting side-detail about Damon:

[T]he most extraordinary thing about him in person is how ordinary he is. He brushes aside an attempt by a publicist to serve him coffee, insisting on pouring it himself. Instead of a celebrity actress or model spouse, he is married to Luciana Barroso whom he met while she was bartending in Miami. They live in New York with their four children.

How refreshing, for a change.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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