Michael Moore raises Democrats' temperature

Published July 27, 2004 10:47PM (EDT)

Michael Moore raised the temperature of an already heated audience of progressive Democrats at the Take Back America conference Tuesday at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge, across the river from the site of the Democratic convention. Moore, whose documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" just passed the $100 million box office mark, is taking his film directly into the heart of Bush America on Wednesday, screening the explosive film in Crawford, Texas. But Tuesday was an occasion for Moore to whip up the anti-Bush faithful to work for regime change in November, and he hit all the right buttons.

"They keep telling us it's a 50-50 country out there, but let me tell you, I've been traveling around a lot these days and it ain't a 50-50 country. There's a whole lot of angry people out there and they want to get rid of George W. Bush!" bellowed Moore, bringing the crowd to one of its many standing ovations. "I was flipping channels recently and I saw Fox covering some NASCAR race, and the Fox guy asked Dale Earnhardt Jr. what he did the night before. And he said, 'I took my crew to go see 'Fahrenheit 9/11.' Then he said, 'I think all of America should go see it.' Well, I said a little prayer for George W. Bush when I saw this. I said, 'Oh my God, I hope he's not watching this right now while he's eating pretzels!' I mean if this is how far the movie has gone into middle America, they're in trouble!"

Moore admonished the crowd that it would take unrelenting hard work to remove the Bush administration in November. "They will not go easy. Believe me, they're better fighters than we are. They eat hate for breakfast. They're going to fight, smear and hate all the way. So we have got to get out there and counter it with the truth." The right-wing likes to claim the flag as its own, added Moore, but they're not true patriots -- "they're hate-riots."

But Moore saved most of his scorn for the media, which he called "the unstated villain" in his record-breaking film. "A lot of them are mad at me right now -- I'd be mad too. We outed them as shills for Bush, as cheerleaders for this war, and in the case of the decent ones, as journalists who fell asleep on the job and didn't ask the hard questions they should have.

"You know the thing I hear over and over from people who see my film is, 'I never saw those black congressman (protesting the 2000 presidential election) being shut down one after the other on the floor of Congress, I didn't see that riot at the Bush inauguration, I never saw any amputees in military hospitals complaining about the war.' So our humble plea to those of you in the press is, 'We the people need you to do your jobs, to show us what they don't want us to see, to demand the evidence before they send us to war!"

Moore pointed out that some of the country's largest news operations are owned by conglomerates that have financial stakes in the Iraq war. "NBC is owned by G.E. -- G.E. now has over $600 million in war contracts, they're war profiteers. So it doesn't surprise me that their news arm failed to tell the people the truth about the war. So I understand the Lisa Myers, the Matt Lauers."

Moore ripped into docile, high-paid journalists who do the government's bidding: "You've got your little American flag pins, you're not just embedded -- you're in bed with the wrong people."

Moore said that despite his political views, he has always fared well in the entertainment industry because the "greed" of the executives who distribute his books and films "supersedes their hostility towards me." But when it came to Disney, the original backers of "Fahrenheit 9/11," "greed didn't work this time." Even though the movie has already made more money than any other Disney film released this year, Moore observed, the company decided to dump the film.

Moore said it took Canadian journalists to figure out why. He credited newspeople from the north with breaking the story that a wealthy Saudi family owns 17 percent of Euro Disney, after saving the company's troubled division with a $300 million bailout, in a deal brokered by the Carlyle Group. "Fahrenheit 9/11" makes much of Carlyle, an international financial power in which the interests of the Saudi dynasty and Bush dynasty merge. "But no American journalist will ask (Disney chief) Michael Eisner about that."

Moore ended his speech with an appeal to Nader voters to return to the Democratic fold this year. The filmmaker, who campaigned for Nader in the 2000 presidential race, said he "tried to explain to Ralph this time that you've already done your job. The Democratic Party of 2004 is not what it was in 2000. Even the Al Gore of 2004 is not the Al Gore of 2000. Your message was carried this year by Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich and they already pushed the party to where it should be, with the majority of Americans.

"So my appeal to Nader voters is that we have a different job this year. It is so misguided, so wrong, so uncool to be doing this."

Moore endorsed Kerry as this year's peace candidate. "One thing I know about John Kerry -- he will not invade a country like Bush. This is a man who was shot three times. My dad was in the Marines in the South Pacific in World War II and he always said if you've been there, you don't want to see anyone else go, unless it's absolutely the last resort. In my heart, I believe John Kerry when he (too) says that."

By David Talbot

David Talbot, the founder of Salon, is the author of New York Times bestsellers like "Brothers," "The Devil's Chessboard," and "Season of the Witch." His most recent book is "Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of My Stroke."

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