Sean Penn: Bush Caused 'Enormous Damage to Mankind,' May Bring Fascism to U.S.

Actor Sean Penn, in a taped Larry King Live interview aired Thursday night on CNN to promote his new movie, All the King's Men, in which he plays a Huey Long-like character, suggested President Bush may bring fascism to America, charged that Bush has “devastated our democracy,” insisted Donald Rumsfeld and Bush have done “enormous damage” to “this country and mankind” and claimed the war on terrorism is meant to distract from reality.

Clearly referring to President Bush, a smirking Penn recalled: “Well, in 1932 Huey Long said something very interesting. It was, 'Fascism will come to America, but likely under another name, perhaps anti-fascism.'” Later, Penn fulminated about how “party clowns like Don Rumsfeld could be described as, as far as I'm concerned, except for the enormous damage he's done this country and mankind -- and our President -- and saw that they're getting out there and they're beating this drum, to drown out, as they did in 2002, to drown out other -- in that case it was Enron. Now we have another situation, so it's this war on terror, boom, boom, boom. Drown out the reality of what's really happening.” Penn also argued: “No Democrat that doesn't have a plan to get our troops out of Iraq should be voted for.”

Video clip (2:37): Real (4.5 MB) or Windows Media (5.2 MB), plus MP3 audio (925 KB).

James Carville, a Louisiana native, is one of the Executive Producers of All the King's Men, which will open on September 22.

About 27 minutes into the interview aired on September 14, Larry King proposed:
“But that character that you play, basically Huey Long, fictionalized version of Huey Long, the famous 'spread the wealth' former Governor of Louisiana, is a character who becomes affected by power, and then absolute power destroys him. Right? You can relate that to any political figure today, couldn't you?”

Sean Penn, clearly referring to George W. Bush: “Well, in 1932 Huey Long said something very interesting. It was, 'Fascism will come to America, but likely under another name, perhaps anti-fascism.'”

King, going into ad break: “We'll dwell on that for a minute.”

A couple of segments later, King brought up Iraq (following matches posted video clip):
King: “All right. Some other things. Iraq. Getting any better? The military now controls itself.”

Penn: “No. It's -- I think -- to me the situation is pretty simple. I mean, the devastation of the situation is pretty simple. Right now, you know, what these party clowns like Don Rumsfeld could be described as, as far as I'm concerned, except for the enormous damage he's done this country and mankind -- and our President -- and saw that they're getting out there and they're beating this drum, to drown out, as they did in 2002, to drown out other -- in that case it was Enron. Now we have another situation, so it's this war on terror, boom, boom, boom. Drown out the reality of what's really happening.

“I think the American people have a choice. In my idea, it's about an eight to ten-year proposition of Iraqis and Americans and others dying in Iraq. The same amount will be dead of Iraqis, innocent, in ten years without the Americans as they will with the Americans there. We'll just have more Americans dead. So shamefully, we have to -- you know, it's what Nixon called 'peace with honor,' to get out of Vietnam.

“I think that, you know, 'cut and run' is something that's meant to make people feel like cowards if they do it. Well, we did make a mistake. It is time to pull our troops out. It's time to rebuild our military because we've got a bad world and they've inflamed terrorism around the world. I think that's very clear to most people. So what's happened there is a civil war that's going to get worse with us or without us. It's time for us to strengthen ourselves and to try to help them through diplomacy and with money.”

King: “But when the President says we should support emerging democracies, because democracy's better for the world, is that -- isn't he right?”

Penn: “I think he's devastated our democracy. I think you have to start with our democracy. He's made us divided. I have a lot of very good friends who are Republicans, who are right-wing Republicans. And when you are with people and you talk to people as people, and not as Republicans and Democrats, you find that's why his numbers are down. Because people have common sense. They're going to vote, you know, in a few months, and they're going to say, well, are we going to be suckers again? Are we going to be suckers to partisan policy and politics and all of that stuff?

“By the way, no Democrat that doesn't have a plan to get our troops out of Iraq should be voted for. Not one of them. You know, there's got to be some courage expressed, and that's what I'm worried about is that we're not going to have good choices.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center