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‘Weirdly optimistic’: Michael Moore at the Greek

| 22 October 2003


While iconoclastic filmmaker Michael Moore, seen here at a press conference preceding his Greek Theatre appearance on Saturday, predicted confidently that “regime change” will occur in the 2004 presidential election, he stressed building a third party as a long-term grassroots goal.
Wendy Edelstein photo

Academy Award-winning documentarian and all-around progressive gadfly Michael Moore greeted a sold-out, manifestly liberal Greek Theatre audience on Saturday with news they welcomed.

The country has turned to the left, Moore announced, citing as evidence mainstream media reports that the American public supports strengthening environmental laws, raising the minimum wage, and supporting affirmative action.

“I’m weirdly optimistic that we’re entering the final 12 months of George W. Bush,” he told the crowd of 8,500. He assured them that it wasn’t only in this venerable bastion of liberalism that such large numbers were coming to hear his message; similar attendance figures marked his recent appearances in Denver, Minneapolis, and Baltimore. Moore is on a 33-city tour to promote his latest book, Dude, Where’s My Country?, which debuted in the number-one spot on the New York Times Best-Sellers List a week after publication.

Before the major primaries begin in January, Democratic voters have leverage, he said, and should push candidates to take stronger positions on the issues. Since there’s a large field of hopefuls vying for the top spot on the ticket, Moore feels confident liberal voters will “get 70 to 80 percent of what they want. This means we don’t have to settle for a loser like Gore,” who in the 2000 campaign, he said, agreed with Bush on most issues.

Moore insisted that he himself is “not in the anyone-but-Bush camp.” While he is not yet endorsing anyone, he does “agree 100 percent with everything [U.S. Rep.] Dennis Kucinich stands for” — with one caveat. Kucinich, who used to oppose a woman’s right to choose, now prefaces his new pro-choice position by saying that he is personally opposed to abortion. “I don’t want the leader of the country saying that,” asserted Moore. “I’m a guy. He’s a guy. We’re never going to have an abortion. I want to change the terms of the debate.”

As for the other candidates, Moore said that “Howard Dean is a good guy and is so good on so many issues.” But he doesn’t like that Dean supports the death penalty for certain crimes, or that he says he wouldn’t cut the Pentagon budget. Moore urged the audience to call or write Dean headquarters to let them know they won’t vote for anyone who takes those positions.

“I like the idea of having a four-star general on our side,” Moore said about General Wesley Clark, especially one who “knows the Pentagon didn’t want [the Iraq] war. I have this fantasy of Bush debating Clark,” continued Moore, “the deserter versus the general.”

An audience member shouted that Clark voted for Reagan. “So did most of America,” responded Moore, who some time ago emailed Clark to encourage him to join the field of Democratic contenders. “That’s why people don’t like the left — we have a hoity-toity attitude.” Liberals, he said, need to embrace and welcome anyone who voted for Reagan or Bush who now wants to switch sides.

Moore is optimistic not only about the outcome of the ’04 presidential election but about what he believes is the coming demise of right-wing conservativism. As signs of this shift he points to the recent revelation of Rush Limbaugh’s OxyContin abuse, and the fact that Californians last November voted for a governor they despised rather than vote for a conservative. Listen to talk radio or watch Fox News, he advised. “That’s the sound of a dying dinosaur. They know their days are numbered.”

Nonetheless, Moore emphasized the necessity for grassroots work to ensure a victory against Bush. He strongly encouraged the audience to volunteer to get out the vote next November, especially in congressional districts with tight races.

“If the Bush people get four more years, they will solidify the control corporate America has on our lives,” Moore said. “If we lose this one, I don’t know that we can recover in my lifetime.”

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