NEW YORK – The Bush bandwagon is getting crowded with celebrities who don't usually want a ride.
Democrat-dense Hollywood doesn't typically offer praise to Republicans of any stripe, but Bush's speech before Congress and his leadership since the events of Sept. 11 have some stars reconsidering the president.
Barbra Streisand, who is an outspoken critic of the nation's leader and often posts her political views online, has removed anti-Bush sentiments from her Web site.
It's a dramatic step for a celebrity who earlier this year fired off a letter to Democrats which throttled Bush, saying he "stole the election through family ties, arrogance and intimidation," and called him a "destructive man."
"In light of recent events, I strongly believe we must support our government despite our disagreements on certain policies, such as those relating to environmental, educational, social and other specific issues," Streisand wrote on her site.
Filmmaker Woody Allen also praised Bush for his handling of the situation.
"It does seem that the president, whom I was certainly very critical of before he was elected ... has got a good grasp on the problem," Allen told the press while promoting his film The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. He added that the Bush administration seems to understand that "this is not just a military problem, but a social, economic and political problem."
Actor Matthew Modine also came out to back the president. He told The New York Daily News that he perceived Bush in a new way after his speech before Congress. Modine said, "I'm encouraged by him. He is our nation's leader, and, like it or not, you have to stand behind him."
Of course, most stars have confined their involvement in the crisis to participating in benefits and making individual donations. Despite their high profile in other areas, some culture-watchers say many among the general public would prefer that their entertainers keep their political opinions to themselves. Dr. Georgia Witkin, host of Fox's Beyond the News, explained why celebrities and politics don't always mix.
"Performers are experts on performing," she said. "Polls say they are seen that way... not as politicians."
She added that, "Celebrities can sway opinion best by endorsing someone else — an expert — not themselves."
Some comedians are doing more than leaving politics to politicians. They are even curbing their humor. The Saturday Night Live cast has decided to nix the popular George W. Bush character played by Will Ferrell — for the moment, at least.
"I think in some ways we've seen Bush transform into a real leader," Ferrell told TV Guide Online. "There's a collective spirit at SNL that this is not the time to make fun of anything political or topical. We're very sensitive to that and we're going to have to play it by ear."
The kings of late-night talk — David Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jon Stewart — have also yanked Bush jokes from their programs, telling audiences that sensitivity to the situation has trumped political humor for the time being.
But not everyone in Tinseltown is buying the newly lauded Bush persona.
"I'm highly skeptical about President Bush," Ethan Hawke told The New York Daily News after the opening of Sam Shephard's new play The Late Henry Moss. "I pray for him."
And rock band Rage Against the Machine's Web site offers sympathy to the victims of the terrorist attacks, but lashes out at American policies.
The band's guitar player Tom Morello said in a letter on the site, "On Tuesday, the victims were American. But the horrible scenes that we've witnessed on TV this week are regular occurrences in other places around the globe. And too often, violence like this has been meted out by our own country and its client states."
And those who cover entertainment are offering opinions. Los Angeles Times television critic Howard Rosenberg wrote a column criticizing the president's speech before Congress. Americans "need a president they can look up to, not just one who will share in their mourning," he wrote.
Hollywood's political pondering will surely continue to sway from left to right like the palms that line the posh streets — but for now President Bush is getting two thumbs up.