Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) selection of Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) as his running mate represents the sunny side of the Democratic presidential campaign. Unfortunately, there’s also a dark side, represented by former Vice President Al Gore and filmmaker Michael Moore, whose falsehood-laced film, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” has been praised by the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and publicly repudiated by no top party official.[IMGCAP(1)]
President Bush’s campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, told me that he thinks that “hate-filled” diatribes from what he calls “the coalition of the wild-eyed” will end up hurting the Democrats by turning off moderate and independent voters.
“In 1992,” he said, “Bill Clinton gained a lot by denouncing Sister Souljah,” the African-American rapper who suggested that blacks kill whites. “He separated himself from the extremists in his party.”
This year, he said, “you have [DNC Chairman] Terry McAuliffe pictured at the opening of ‘Fahrenheit’ cheering on Michael Moore. You’ve got Al Gore comparing Bush to the Brownshirts. You’ve got MoveOn.org calling Bush a liar. These people are effectively surrogates for John Kerry and he’s not treating them like Clinton did Sister Souljah.”
Moore, Gore and MoveOn aren’t official surrogates for the Kerry campaign, of course, but they certainly are working toward the same goal: defeating Bush.
Last Thursday, Kerry and Edwards raised no objections at a New York fundraiser where movie star Whoopi Goldberg blasted Bush with sexual innuendoes and other performers called him a “thug” and a “killer.” In fact, the New York Post reported that Kerry thanked the performers for “an extraordinary evening.”
During the primary campaign, both Kerry and Edwards also came close to adopting the “people versus the powerful” populist line that Gore pursued in the 2000 campaign. Kerry condemned “Benedict Arnold corporations” that sent jobs overseas.
During the primaries, Edwards combined an upbeat spirit with the overstated allegation that the country is divided into “two Americas” — wealthy elites and the rest of the population, who can’t make ends meet or afford health insurance.
In fact, the vast majority of Americans are middle class, own their own homes and have health insurance. Many have “Cadillac coverage” negotiated by labor unions with large employers.
In naming Edwards, Kerry said he would adopt the North Carolinian’s theme, but give it a positive twist — that he wanted to “build one America for all Americans” — and that he would attempt to close the gap between the rich and the middle class through the expansion of education and health programs.
But Democrats are clearly motivated this year by more than “positive populism.” From the beginning, “Bush hatred” has been a mighty driving force that is shared widely in the party.
It was expressed repeatedly in the primaries, as the candidates competed with each other to denounce Bush as a “right-wing extremist,” a “liar” and a “menace to our civil liberties.”
Now the theme is being taken up in graphic fashion by Michael Moore — someone who never mentions Kerry, but whose obvious purpose is to oust Bush.
Much of the conspiratorial content of “Fahrenheit” has been exposed as fraudulent. Republicans did not steal the 2000 election in Florida. A newspaper-financed recount of ballots showed that Bush won narrowly. And thousands of voters went home in the conservative Florida panhandle when the television networks called the state for Gore before the polls had closed.
Moore charges that Bush allowed members of the bin Laden family to flee the United States even as other air traffic was grounded after Sept. 11, 2001. And he charges that Bush and his family have been bought and sold — for the exact figure of $1.4 billion — by rich Saudis, including relatives of Osama bin Laden.
But while there does seem to be an excessive affinity between the Bushes and certain Saudis, Newsweek reporters Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball have debunked the theory of massive financial ties. And the national commission investigating 9/11 has certified that no Saudis of interest to the FBI were allowed to leave, that departures took place only when air traffic was resumed — and that the person who authorized the departures was White House aide Richard Clarke, who is now a leading Bush critic.
What’s especially odious in “Fahrenheit” is its depiction of Iraq as a peaceful paradise — “a nation that had never threatened to attack the United States” — before Bush began bombing it.
There’s nary a mention of the horrific atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein against his own people, Iranians and Kuwaitis and constant efforts to shoot down American planes enforcing the no-fly zones mandated by the United Nations to protect Kurds and Shiites from Hussein’s forces.
Moore’s movie is much praised by Bush-haters and I have to admit, it’s a powerful piece of propaganda — until Moore exploits the grief of a mother who’s lost her son in Iraq.
It would be good for Kerry and Edwards to repudiate Moore, Sister Souljah-style. And while they are at it they should distance themselves from Gore, who, among other things, has charged that Bush has “betrayed the country.”