Beatty told a group of Hollywood activists late Wednesday that Democrats and Republicans are participating in "a slow-motion coup d'etat of big money interests over the public interest." But the film star and liberal firebrand did not reveal whether he would make a go at the countryÂ's top job.
Beatty For President?
"There is no harm in thinking about this however unlikely it may be. But whatever you do, go ahead and speak up. Speak up for the people nobody speaks for. And if you speak up well," he said amid applause, "if you speak up well, maybe you'll influence some people, maybe you'll influence the party, maybe you'll influence the candidates that are running. And who knows what else."
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But when word leaked Beatty might announce a presidential bid, the international media turned out - as did actors and politicians, who find a spark in Beatty's liberal democratic ideals.
"It's helpful for him to speak out on issues that aren't getting enough attention," said former Democratic Senator Alan Cranston.
Beatty, a longtime Democratic activist, feels presidential frontrunners Al Gore and Bill Bradley are too centrist and that they are too timid to handle issues like poverty, universal health care or the influence of big donors.
He said both men were honorable and capable, but condemned what he said is a trend in which the increasingly moderate Democratic Party is looking more Republican, reports CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen.
"Is there no protest anymore?" Beatty asked his celebrity-studded audience of several hundred people. "Are we coming to the point where the Democratic Party has to have a Republican president to find its voice again?"
"We don't need a third party, we need a second party," he said.
Beatty said both parties forget that the prosperous economy is leavin millions of Americans behind. "The rising tide doesn't raise all boats," he said.
He said America's biggest problems - health care, poverty, homelessness and the widening gulf between the rich and the poor - cannot be solved until the political system is overhauled. As a solution, he offered public financing of elections, arguing that the cost of the last two national elections, if divided among Americans, would cost less than $4 each.
He also said corporate chiefs, not public servants, are writing the rules of the new global economy and ignoring the interests of working people.
"What we are in danger of experiencing is a slow-motion, coup d'etat of big money interests over the public interest," Beatty added.
In the movie Bulworth, Beatty plays a senator who begins to speak the blunt truth about politics and his constituents find it refreshing.