I’ll be attending the first six days of the 2009 L.A. Film Festival this year — Thursday, 6.18 to Tuesday, 6.23. Which means I won’t be around for what could potentially be a fairly newsworthy event — i.e, a discussion with Jon Voight just prior to a “Behind The Scenes” screening of John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy on Thursday, 6.25, at 7:30 pm at the Billy Wilder theatre.

You know what I’m going to say now, right?

If I could attend I’d damn well ask Voight about the rightie rhetoric he’s been spewing about Barack Obama over the last year or so. And I’m suggesting here and now that in my absence that someone should man up, stand up and ask him to explain the facts and attitudes behind his views.

Voight obviously has a perfect Constitutional right to say whatever he wants and yes, he’s a fine actor who delivered a legendary performance in Midnight Cowboy (and in several other films including Coming Home, Runaway Train, Enemy of the State and Ali), but isn’t it fair in a q & a setting to respectfully question the guy about certain belligerent remarks he’s made?

Remarks that Obama is a “false prophet” and that his leadership is making us a “weak nation” and that his leadership will cause the “downfall” of the country,” I mean? And that stuff Voight said last summer in a Washington Times piece about Obama having “grown up with the teachings of [the] very angry [and] militant Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Louis Farrakhan, William Ayers and Rev. Michael Pfleger” and that “we know too well that [he] will run this country in their mindset”?

Especially given the rightwing-nutter hate killings that have occured in recent weeks and how guys like Frank Rich and Paul Krugman are concerned about how intemperate and questionable remarks by rightwing demagogues may be enabling the haters and fanning the flames?

If no one brings up Voight’s Obama rants and Thursday’s q & a focuses entirely on a movie that was made 41 years ago…well, fine. It’s a film festival setting and why cause trouble, right? But if no one does there will be a huge elephant in the room. Don’t you just hate those discussion-session vibes when there’s something that everyone wants to ask about and get into but nobody brings it up because they don’t want to seem impolite or ungracious?