Despite the combined appeal of former Vermont Gov. Howard B. Dean and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich, controversial filmmaker Michael Moore—the director of the box-office hit Fahrenheit 9/11, which casts a sharply critical eye on President Bush and his policies—upstaged them as the main attraction at Tuesday’s “Take America Back” events, sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future.
Eagerly awaiting Moore’s arrival, the crowd at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge grew restless and began to cheer his name after the filmmaker did not appear at his scheduled time.
Chants of “Michael! Michael!” erupted as event organizers, who first shuffled the order of several other speakers, were eventually reduced to stalling by listing the names of liberal websites while Moore used the rest room before his speech.
When Moore finally arrived, well over an hour late, he wasted no time in berating the mass media.
“The obvious bad guy in [Fahrenheit 9/11] is George W. Bush. But there’s the unstated villain in the film, which is the national media,” he said. “It outs them as people who are cheerleaders to this war. It outs them as journalists who fell asleep on the job, journalists who didn’t ask the tough questions.”
Moore said members of the news media would have been patriotic to question the Bush administration, rather than succumb to pressure from the White House.
“To the members of the press in the audience: We need you to do your jobs,” Moore said, prompting an ovation. “You do us no service by hopping on a bandwagon.”
“You can ask any question you want and not get arrested,” Moore continued. “So what has prevented you from asking the questions?”
Moore said that he heard this week from a prominent talk show host who was admonished by Vice President Dick Cheney’s office for using an unfavorable tone while discussing the Iraq invasion. Moore pledged to tell the TV host’s story by the end of the week on his website if that host did not come forward.
Referring to the media’s war coverage, Moore added, “You haven’t just been embedded. You’ve been in bed with the wrong people.”
After finishing up his assault on the media, Moore said he thought high voter turnout could lead to a presidential win for Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass.
“I believe we will have the largest percentage of people voting in our lifetime on November 2,” Moore said.
Moore—who said the country is not in fact evenly ideologically divided, but liberal—said the increased voter turnout would help Democrats.
Moore even predicted that “good Republicans” might launch a Republicans for Kerry movement to protest Bush administration policies.
“The good news is things are going to change soon,” Moore said.
Moore said he did not blame Kerry for voting to go to war in Iraq because he said Kerry was misled by Bush to believe that Iraq posed an imminent threat.
“One thing I do know about Kerry—he will not invade a country the way Bush did,” Moore said.
Although Moore did not spend much time praising Kerry, he said he opposed the efforts of independent candidate Ralph Nader and those considering voting for him. Many political analysts believe that left-wing support for Nader contributed to the electoral defeat former Vice President Al Gore ’69 suffered in 2000 and could do the same to Kerry this year.
Moore said Nader already accomplished his goal of pushing the Democratic Party to the left after 2000. This year, liberals should unite behind the goal of voting Bush out of the presidency, Moore said.
“My appeal to the Nader voters is we have a different job to do this year,” Moore said.
But Moore added, “We need to give those who are thinking of voting for Nader a reason to vote for John Kerry.”
Moore urged the Democratic candidate to take tough and principled stands, lest he lose votes to Nader and cause apathy among the public.
Throughout his speech, Moore also continued his trend of attacking the Bush presidency and its supporters, labeling them unpatriotic.
“They’re not patriots—they’re hate-triots, and they believe in the politics of hate-triotism,” Moore said to a somewhat befuddled audience.
Moore also attacked the war in Iraq.
“The way you don’t support the troops is to send them into harm’s way when it isn’t necessary,” Moore said.
Moore wrapped up his critiques by making fun of an incident in which Bush was hospitalized after choking on a pretzel.
Moore said NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. advised all Americans on national television to watch Fahrenheit 9/11.
“I said a little prayer for George W. Bush,” Moore said. “I hope he’s not watching this race right now and eating a pretzel.”
—Staff writer Alan J. Tabak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.