MORE THOUGHTS ON MICHAEL MOORE
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Say what you want about Michael Moore and his "Fahrenheit 9/11," but he certainly makes you think.
Question: Does it all come down to a choice between playing fair or winning?
Some critics, including a few liberals, have been particularly vociferous in attacking Moore's "factual mistakes," which are actually ellipses he uses as part of his polemic against President George W. Bush and his administration. It brings to mind the old adage that every time the left circles the wagons, they face into the center and shoot. They are attacking Moore with a ferocity that was never used on Rush Limbaugh or, for that matter, President Bush.
One leading pundit said on public radio that while it was true that the right frequently lies, he had hoped "our guys" would play fair, because isn't that why they're "our guys?"
Speaking as a wide-eyed and woolly idealist, it pains me to say that the footage of Al Gore presiding in the Senate over his own demise is so painful to watch that it makes playing fair seem as dumb and self-destructive as the actions of those hundreds of upper-class Englishmen who dashed to their deaths in the "Charge of the Light Brigade."
Question: Why, when members of the Congressional Black Caucus tried to challenge the results of the 2000 election, did not one senator support them?
Not even our own sainted Sens. Patrick Leahy and James Jeffords spoke up. We are still waiting to know why.
Question: While they remind us of Nixon's infamous 18 minutes of erased tape, are President Bush's seven minutes really that funny?
The scene shows the President on Sept. 11, 2001. He's sitting in a Florida classroom. He has just been told that a second plane hit the World Trade Center, and it appears America is under attack. He has no idea of what to do. So he sits there for seven minutes and pretends to read "My Pet Goat" while the television cameras roll.
The footage is priceless, and you would think it was enough to shake die-hard Bush supporters. Think again. One woman wrote The New York Times to deny that President Bush looked "befuddled": "I saw the President trying to digest the information and its implications while at the same time clamping down on his emotions and considering how best to ease himself out of the classroom without unduly traumatizing the youngsters and their teachers."
Do you have to watch "The West Wing" to know that a real leader would immediately stand up. He would calmly thank the teachers and students and leave the room. He would then dash to a secure telephone. He would start educating himself about the attacks, finding out who was behind them, whether others were impending, what could be done to help those already hurt. He would jump on a plane back to Washington. He would make decisions. He would lead. He would not sit there pretending to read a children's book.
Question: It has been three years, thousands are dead, and I'm still asking: why Iraq?
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden is from Saudi Arabia. Saddam Hussein may have been a madman and a murderer (formerly, he was our madman and murderer), but he had been contained for years.
It is clear that we went to war because a series of lies. But why were we looking at Iraq in the first place? Why the sleight-of-hand to direct our attention away from the root of the problem, which seemed be growing in Saudi Arabia?
Moore emphasizes the close connections between the Bush family and the Saudis. But all of us who drive cars and use electricity have a close relationship with the Saudis.
When solving a crime, the police focus on motive. Using the same reasoning, the U.S. has already made out like a bandit from this war. We now have 14 new military bases in Iraq, access to one of the world's largest oil reserves, and a free hand for corporate looting. I think Moore went easy on President Bush and the neo-cons on this one.
Question: Is it true that behind every great fortune is a great crime?
For me, the most troublesome scene in the film comes when the President is speaking to a group of wealthy supporters at a formal dinner. With a smirk, he says that while some might call these people "the elite," he calls them "my base." The well-tailored men and diamond-bedecked women smiled, preened and applauded; my heart dropped.
That was the moment I realized that these people know the President very well. They know he's a charming idiot, a wealthy, well-connected ne'er do well. They know that he's run every business opportunity he's ever had into the ground. They know he's not qualified to be president of a local garbage-hauling business, much less of the United States. And they don't care. They flat-out don't care.
The point is that he is one of them. They can trust him and his handlers to protect their privileges and increase their wealth. They'll fill President Bush's coffers for this election and vote for Jeb Bush in the next one. The rest of the country can go to hell for all they care.
And don't tell me that Sen. John Kerry is also "one of them." I know it. For all our vaunted democracy, we find ourselves in the same position as the Argentine peasant who was asked why he supported Juan Peron so enthusiastically when he knew Peron was a crook. "They're all crooks," he said. "But at least this one gives something back to the people."
Question: How scary is the upcoming presidential election?
A sham government in Iraq is allowing President Bush to wash his hands of American and Iraqi blood. At home, new electronic voting machines will leave no paper trail for a recount, and they are made and programmed by a man committed to putting the President back in the White House. Should the race be close, black-robed vultures are sitting in the U.S. Supreme Court, waiting to pounce on democracy again.
All the decks are stacked against us. People accustomed to power do not surrender it easily. Even if Moore's film manages to change enough minds to get the popular vote for Kerry and Sen. John Edwards, what is to keep President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney from suspending the Constitution, declaring martial law because of "the terrorist threat," and refusing to leave office? It could be ironic in the extreme if we go under martial law at the same time as the Iraqis.
Those of us who - like Michael Moore - love our country, who believe in freedom and democracy, who squirm and squeal under the yoke of President George W. Bush and the radical right, who are brave enough to ask serious questions, and who yearn for a real leader to navigate us through these dangerous times, have a real fight on our hands.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.