John Kerry just trounced the competition in the Iowa caucuses, and Im on the phone with Michael Moore in New York, wondering why he endorsed General Wesley Clark. No one expected Moore to throw his weight behind Kerry too aristocratic, too self-controlled. It was Howard Dean who seemed a better fit with Moores raucous populist style than the reserved and patrician-looking Clark. But sitting in his editing room working on a new film, Moore comes on sanguine and eager to stress whats right about all the Democratic candidates.
They all come from the same place, he says serenely. Dont beat up on the workingman. Other things being equal, Moores president of choice remains Dennis Kucinich, but he knows his favorite doesnt have a prayer, and given that all the candidates are to the left of Gore in 2000, he says hell go with any of them who can get George Bush out of office.
American Bigmouths Michael Moore, Howard Stern, Dennis Miller theyre here, they jeer . . . get used to it. MARC COOPERs liberal problems with Moore. BRENDAN BERNHARD on the pro-Bush Dennis Miller and KATE SULLIVAN on Howard Stern, Infinity and beyond.
Except, apparently, Howard Dean. Moore insists twice on his admiration for what Dean has done to energize young people to become politically involved. But spend 10 minutes in the same room with Dean, he says, and youre asking, do you want to support him?
Hes kind of a prick.
Theres a moment of revisionist silence, followed by Moores trademark high-pitched giggle. Prickly, really. I hate to slag him, but as you look at him, where will he win?
This is Michael Moore: the bigmouth we all know and the more unexpected sober pragmatist who, cattiness aside, turns out to have been as right about Dean as he was wrong about Clark. Its Moore the famous bigmouth, not the pragmatist, that people pay attention to, and depending on whether youre a fan or a critic, his outspokenness is either his greatest asset or his greatest liability. Last year, standing at the podium, accepting his Best Documentary Oscar for Bowling for Columbine, he called Bush a fictitious president running a fictitious government, and embarrassed much of old Hollywood. This year, standing on a platform next to Wesley Clark, he called Bush a deserter, and embarrassed the four-star general. Moore was unrepentant in both cases. Heres his Web site apology over Bushs National Guard record: What I meant to say is that George W. Bush is a deserter, an election thief, a drunk driver, a WMD liar and a functional illiterate. And he poops his pants.
As things have played out over the last few weeks, Moores remarks about Bushs military record turn out to be inaccurate, yet nearer the mark than probably even he thought possible. And though it was the Boston Globe that originally broke the story, hes not above taking credit for getting the message out. Moore is proud of his lip and so, apparently, are the legions of fans at home and abroad who have made his books and films runaway best-sellers and box-office successes, with a little help from the marketing departments of some of the very conglomerates he fingers as the root of Americas troubles. After a postSeptember 11 fight over its anti-war tilt, Stupid White Men (the No. 1 best-selling nonfiction book of 2002! his Web site crows) was published by HarperCollins Regan Books, owned, along with Fox News, by Rupert Murdoch, and publisher of right-wingers Bill OReilly and Sean Hannity. The book remained on the New York Times best-seller list more than 14 weeks without ever being reviewed in the paper. Last years best-selling Dude, Wheres My Country? was published by the former AOL Time Warner. Even Roger & Me, Moores first film and the one that got him noticed, was released by Warner Bros. Bowling for Columbine was distributed by MGM. And the new film, Fahrenheit 9/11, about the unholy business ties between the Bush and bin Laden dynasties, which he hopes to finish in time to take to Cannes in May, will be released in August by that tiny cottage industry, Disney, via Miramax. By any measure except his wardrobe, Michael Moore a schleppy, old-fashioned populist who not too long ago had his satirical television show canceled for lack of interest is a hot property. The question is, should we be pleased or sorry?
October 2003. Moore isnt just a public speaker these days: Hes a road show, and he doesnt travel light. Outside the tony Santa Monica hotel Shutters on the Beach, two assistants, Jason and Jonathan, scurry back and forth, loading a sleek black sedan with copies of Dude, Wheres My Country? Moores sister Anne, a pleasant, no-nonsense woman in jeans and no makeup, with the same milky-blue eyes and quick wit as her brother, presides over the action. Anne is a criminal-defense attorney, but on this tour with a double mission to promote Dude, Wheres My Country? and persuade America to join him in removing Bush from office shes her brothers roadie, as calmly efficient and unruffled as he is jumpy and distracted.