May 6, 2012

Interview With Actress and Activist Roseanne Barr

May 6, 2012
Roseanne Barr
Roseanne Barr
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Actress and activist Roseanne Barr gives legalization a presidential promise

Roseanne Barr knows a thing or two about commercial and critical success. Her hit TV show Roseanne lasted nine seasons and earned the comic-actress an Emmy, a Golden Globe and three American Comedy Awards. At one point, Barr was the second-highest paid woman in show business, second only to Oprah. Her HBO comedy specials, return to stand-up gigs, books and various television and cable appearances have been embraced by fans. Heck–Barr even dipped her toes in the reality-TV pool with the short-lived Roseanne’s Nuts show. Last September, she appeared in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement–and that changed the whole game. Roseanne Barr now wants to be the Green Party’s candidate for President of the United States of America. CULTURE recently spoke with Barr to discuss her presidential efforts, why she would legalize marijuana and why she doesn’t consider herself left-wing.

So, I hear you’re actually running for president.

Yes, I’m running for the Green Party nomination to be candidate for president.

So tell me, why the Green Party?

They’re the party that seems to be closest to the way I think. I’ve been a Green for a number of years. I voted Green in the last election. I voted for Cynthia McKinney and I became close with her and other Green Party people as friends, and they kind of talked me into it.

Then I thought, well, you know, it’s something I dreamed of ever since I was a kid, running for president. So I thought, “Why not?” It’s a great way for me to get points out there no other candidate seems to be raising and that became important to me when I saw how it was that both of theses major parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, who I call the “Demopublicans” and the “Republicants.” They don’t say anything that has any relevance to 99 percent of America. That’s kind of why I thought, “Well, you know, what would it look like if–for once in this country–there really was a candidate who really did speak for the taxpayers? For the 99 percent.

Well, a lot of people–including myself–think we desperately need a viable third party in America. What I think you’re trying to say is that by entering the race you can keep these guys honest. In the same way that the Republicans keep pushing each other farther to the right perhaps you can push progressives here back–not even to the left–but just back to the center?

Well you know what? You’re exactly right and the fact is we’re going to have to push these people really far left, just to get to the middle. That’s my point. They’re so far right, even to call people liberals . . . it doesn’t even really exist. “Demopublicans” are as right-wing as the Republicans are. Maybe two percent less. But they are not speaking for the majority of Americans who really are liberal in their beliefs and believe in social programs and social safety nets, etc.

Most people if you ask them “Do you think we should have clean air and clean water?” would say “Of course.” I think the vast majority of Americans agree that we should have good schools, a safe food supply, access to affordable healthcare, libraries, fire departments, a well-maintained infrastructure and so on. We all believe these things are important, but we don’t talk about it.

No, we don’t talk about that, we don’t talk about anything that is relevant at all with these two parties. It’s repulsive to me. It’s frightening and repulsive, and I’m gonna do everything I can do because I feel that I owe that to the people I grew up with and the place I came from.

Let me ask you some of the serious questions which you will be asked if you do become the Green Party candidate for president: Do you have a platform? You talk about restructuring the entire government, which is a massive undertaking. Do you have a plan to do this? Do you have a staff in place–not just to run for the nomination–but to actually govern? Do you have enough money to see this through? Where are you in this process?

I do have a platform. I do have a staff. They’re in Georgia. I have all the things in place. It’s taken me a while and I entered this race late. Right now, it’s just about campaigning and trying to get those delegates. Far beyond that, I envision naming the problems that exist in this country, bringing them up, putting light on them and asking other people to join with me in speaking solutions instead of turning the other way, drugging ourselves and remaining apathetic and uninvolved in our own government. I aim to jumpstart democracy in the United States of America with my campaign.

We desperately need to start having an adult conversation about these issues.

Here are some of the ideas. Number one if I were president right now–if I were Barack Obama–what I would do is to immediately call for a moratorium on all foreclosures. Then I would use every single part of the government to locate, arrest and try the financial terrorists who brought our country to its knees for no other reason than to line their pockets with public money. I would make sure that we looked at the actual scene of the crime. Predatory lending and all the things that went into creating a false bubble–all of those things–there are laws against all of them on the books. They do exist now and I would seek to activate every single one of them. I would also seek redress and a return of all of those monies.

Obviously you’re not entirely enamored of Obama, I haven’t agreed with a lot of things he’s done, but I do think he’s dealing with a psychotic opposition.

I think gridlock is his strategy, and I think it’s a Republican strategy, too. That’s how they avoid doing anything, and when it comes down to it–and Obama has had the chance–he signs the worst crap that any Republican would sign. I believe he’s a Republican, and no I don’t believe there’s a lot he’s done at all. He has not given one dime to the victims of the people he supports. Let’s talk about Wall Street. He hasn’t done one thing for American homeowners who were bilked by criminals, not one thing. So what did he do right? I don’t know, maybe he passed one decent law along the way, but then we get into [the] NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] locking Americans out. Supporting the same dictators who Bush supported. No, I don’t think he’s done a lot, and I know he’s done nothing to alleviate the suffering and pain of American citizens who were ripped off by his friend [U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy] Geithner–who he hired. I think he’s as corrupt as anybody’s ever been, and I think he’s 2 percent better than Romney.

You don’t see that much of a difference between them? Really? Mitt Romney?

I don’t see a difference between any of those people. No.

Dick Cheney and President Obama?

Dick Cheney should be tried in The Hague for war crimes.

I’d love to see that.

So should Bush and all of them. All of Congress should be arrested for insider trading. They’re just criminals. They’re just lobbyists for criminals. They’re gonna be the death of America unless I win, and that’s bottom line. No matter who wins this election, if it isn’t me, they’re going to start arresting the unemployed and calling them vagrants, and do everything they do until every last dime of the middle class and the working class in this country is squeezed out and put into the private hands of all of their friends.

Can’t I ask you–

–Wait, you didn’t even get to the things I would do. Number one, I would get rid of the War on Drugs, I would legalize marijuana, I would forgive student debts, I would forgive all debt and it would be very simple for me to make that happen.

How would you do that?

Well, I’d just ask the Federal Reserve to go ahead and print up more of the currency and pay themselves off on behalf of the American people who would be forever indebted to them.

Would you keep the Fed in place or get rid of it?

I would kick them to the curb. I would kick them and their currency and all their criminal activity. I’d sue them under RICO and get rid of them.

You obviously believe our current system needs to be completely changed. So why don’t you forget the presidential election and take the Occupy Wall Street route?

I’m not going to let these idiots go unchallenged . . . and, yes, I am pro-Occupy Wall Street. I was there on the first day.

I heard you were there at the very beginning. What did you think about Occupy Wall Street? Give me your impression of it.

It was kind of freaky. The night before I was going to New York, I was already hooked. I was readingAdbusters and I was talking to my boyfriend. I saw “Occupy Wall Street,” and I said, “I’m gonna go there! I’m gonna announce my candidacy for the presidency of the United States”–which I had done a year before in front of the White House on Mother’s Day. That was a speech I gave . . . kind of a satirical speech pointing out that all politics in Washington are obsolete and over and patriarchal politics are obsolete. There was a little bit of satire in that speech I wrote, and I said, “I’m gonna go give that speech again over [at] Occupy Wall Street.” When I got there there were no more than 200 people.

Did you have a sense of how big it was going to be?

Believe me, I did. I knew the minute I read about it. I have young kids, well not so young now, but my kids are in their early 30s through 40s and I have another kid who’s 17. I know all of their friends, and I see that they’re saddled under that student loan debt. They’ve taken away their parent’s homes and saddled the kids with the student loan debt. I know. I see it and it just disgusts me. It makes me sick. I knew it would be big, and I’ll tell you another thing: It’s gonna be even bigger, and there’s no stopping it. They will never stop it, and it will never end and I’m so happy about that. This spring it’s going to be unstoppable.

I’m wondering, instead of doing the presidential thing, the Occupy Wall Street route just seems so much more pure and powerful. Look at what they did. Before OWS, the Republicans had completely hijacked the narrative. It was all “Spending is out of control! We have to reduce the deficit!” It was all about austerity, that’s all we heard. Then OWS just completely changed the narrative. It’s incredible what they pulled off.

It’s so brilliant, isn’t it? It’s gonna become even more brilliant and more informed and even more powerful. Don’t forget that every single day even more people are being put out of their homes, and having their retirement stolen and social safety net dismantled. Their adult children are moving back in to their homes. They’re not gonna keep this movement down. They may think that people are gonna take it, but they’re not going to and I’m not going to.

What do you think about the other third party candidates who’ve run, like Ralph Nader? What do you think he did wrong?

Ralph Nader is an honorable person whom I love, and he did nothing wrong.

What do you think he could have done better?

He’s a moral man and he should be president.

I’m not arguing with you, but when you consider how far third party candidates have gotten in the past–which is to say not far at all–what do you think you can do better or improve upon?

I can improve upon all of it because first of all, I hate to say it because people take it wrong, but being a woman, a feminist, a mother and a grandmother uniquely qualifies me more than almost anybody else in this country to sit in judgment of this White House, this Congress and all the other people in this government. I raised five ethical children and that uniquely qualifies me. Apart from the fact that I am a true job creator. I created many millionaires in the television world and never once did I sell out my core values or my ethics. In fact, I fought for them damn near a decade and I’m not about to start selling out now. I think that makes me better than anybody else running for president, along with the fact that I have well thought-out solutions to the problems.

Do you worry that you may be too far to the left, and that might turn people off?

No, I’m not actually left at all. I consider myself extremely middle. I believe in capitalism, obviously. I think it’s a great thing . . . a tool and an instrument. With the right morality applied to it, I think it can solve all the problems. I’m not far left at all. I think it disturbs a lot of people that I’m more middle than left.

Let’s talk about capitalism.

As an extremely regulated instrument.

How do you effectively regulate something that’s designed to always grow and devour all our natural resources without limits?

Through a leader that has morals and ethics. What this country does not have is a leader, and I am a leader.

A leader is one thing, but as far as capitalism, companies are rewarded for concentrating on making short term profits above all else. They are designed to constantly grow, and they’re always going to get bigger than and eventually subvert the regulators. How do you keep the regulators honest? You said yourself that all the laws already exist to keep Wall Street in line. They’re all on the books and there are all of these organizations in place, but they’re just not doing their jobs.

Then we’ll repeal, starting with Clinton’s repealing [the] Glass-Steagall [Act, a 1933 banking reform law that established the FDIC, among other things].

That was a big mistake.

When Reagan talked about deregulating and all that crap he just meant for criminals. The criminals are totally free to move their slaves on their pirate ships country to country. I will put an end to that because I will restore law and that is what’s missing. There is no law. Okay, the drug laws in this country are written for drug lords.

I know, to make sure their profits remain high. I agree with you almost entirely and we could discuss politics all day, but can we talk about what you’ve been doing on TV lately?

I have some gag orders on that.

Then let’s talk about your Roseanne’s Nuts show on Lifetime. When I see all this reality TV, it amazes me how low the bar has become to have our own show. Yours was actually interesting to watch, much more than watching a bunch of snarky girls put on makeup and go to clubs.

It’s just the people at the network I was working on–who give quite a lot of money to right-wing causes–didn’t find it to be entertaining.

The thing that put you on the map, of course, was your show Roseanne. And I generally don’t like sitcoms, but yours I always found to be consistently funny in the way that all the best comedy is truthful.

Everything is truth. Thank you very much, I do appreciate that. I am working on doing a pilot, but I can’t really talk about it. I am happy to have another chance to speak to America, though.

Intelligent, powerful women are big forces for change. What do you think about a person like Oprah? Is she someone you admire?

Yeah, I admire many things about her. Many things I don’t admire about her, either. I don’t admire billionaires.

I don’t admire famous people because they’re famous, I admire people who create something, or have artistic talent–they make things happen. I don’t admire people like Paris Hilton who are famous for being famous. Donald Trump is another one.

That’s not their fault. It’s the television executives’ fault, not Paris Hilton’s fault. They don’t have to put the worst stuff they can think of on television, but they really have no imagination. They’re very limited. All they care about is money.

If you make a hit, they can’t stop you right? What do you think about Jon Stewart?

I’ve written a lot about him on my blog.

Yes, I see you’ve challenged him to do more.

He and Bill Maher, if you really watch them and break down the things they say, they’re part of it. They have more right-wing lunatics on their show and they sit and smugly argue with them and they think they’re doing the American people a favor, but they never book any left people at all, including myself.

I don’t know about that.

I just wonder about the whole nature of it. For them to constantly harangue on Fox News, and therefore constantly promote Fox News. They’re all in it, just like the government, there’s one party, the Money Party. Bill Maher and Jon Stewart . . . look at their guests. They’re all right-wingers.

I’m going to have to disagree with you on that one. They’ve had a lot of great authors on. I’ve seen scientists, journalists and a lot of other people who aren’t necessarily famous but who are making a difference.

Really? When was the last time you saw anyone left on there?

Well, I can’t give you a date but have you seen what Stephen Colbert did recently? Completely exposing the Super-PAC system for a total sham? He started his own Super-PAC, got a bunch of money, then he gave it to Jon Stewart on the air. He had his lawyer on the show and asked if he could just keep Stephen’s old staff [which he could]. He used satire to expose the entire system.

I have many of those same lawyers on my campaign, too.

I’m sure you know when you’re outspoken as a celebrity, you’re gonna catch a lot of arrows for it.

I always have.

What do you think about what George Clooney’s doing?

Oh, boy, I’ve written about that, too. I think that he means well.

Could you expand on that a little bit?

Yes, I will. Vulture capitalists are what is wrong in the Sudan and Africa. Specifically, a thing called Africom. It’s for vulture capitalists and vulture investors, and blah, blah, and he’s not saying anything about that . . . you know I have a radio show on the Inland Empire every Sunday? I don’t know if you knew that, do you?

No, I didn’t. But I only found out I was interviewing you a few hours ago.

It’s on, but it’s also on 1050 AM in the Inland Empire every Sunday, and we were just discussing last Sunday about this guy named Paul Singer[, the founder and CEO of hedge fund Elliot Management Corporation]. This one billionaire is responsible for almost everything horrible that’s going on in the Sudan–blood diamonds and everything–all through Africa.

Who are your heroes, who are the people you admire throughout history? Hopefully some of them are still alive.

A lot of them are still alive. I admire anyone who has the guts to stand up and say anything true. I admire all the people at OWS. I admire them more than any famous person before them or after them. They’re putting their bodies right there on the front lines and I just admire them, the young ones, and there’[re] older ones, too. I just admire them because those are indeed Americans who make me proud to be an American. I hope they like some of the things I say.

There sure is a lot of bad stuff going on in the world and it’s damn depressing sometimes. What makes you happy? What’s inspiring you?

Well, my family, my friends, getting smarter every day, getting more information and keeping my brain active. Just listening to people and trying to figure out how to solve problems is the greatest turn-on in the world to me. I like taking apart systems and rebuilding them. Because I’m a writer, I like to take things apart and make sense of them.

You said you would stop the drug war. I think it’s done tremendous damage to our civil liberties.

That’s how they got their fascist hold on us by having everybody spying on everyone.

What do you think about what’s going on in states like Colorado and Washington right now with the crackdown on medical marijuana?

It makes me furious, because that’s cracking down on sick people. What kind of a psychopathic theory is that? The thought of this country as a bully country, and that really makes me angry, that it only picks countries to attack that have no army, only blames the poor for what rich people do. They don’t pay taxes, we never talk about that, but the poor, they always blame people at the bottom rung other than the top. They always go after the sick, the widows and the orphans. That’s whose retirement they cut. Our government is in control of psychopathic bullies.

I personally think that privatizing prisons is immoral. Giving these companies a financial incentive to keep people in jail is wrong to me.

See, that’s way crazier than anything I’m saying. The reality of the things they’re getting away with is way more radical than anything I have to say and I really would like to press that point.

I think that private prisons may be part of the reason they trying to crack down on drugs again. When the prisons aren’t full, they’re not making any money and they start cutting funds for prisoners.

The only job we have in America now is half the population holding a gun to the other half of the population’s head that’s in jail. That’s what these geniuses–these brilliant, elected geniuses–that’s the best they could do with all they had at their fingertips and disposal. I tell you one thing, I couldn’t do any worse.

I see a couple of people doing the right thing. I’ve actually been very impressed with what Al Franken has done. It’s amazing how he’s progressed from being a comedian and satirical author to a statesman.

Well, you know, comics are the best people in the world, the bravest, best people in the world–like all of us comics say to each other. That’s what we say to each other; that comics saved this country. Tina Fey, she saved the country from Sarah Palin. It’s funny how the humorous are the real leaders of this country.

They keep me sane. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me, Roseanne. Best of luck.

Thank you for being real smart and real informed. Keep it up.

This article was republished with special permission from Culture


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