No great moment comes without toil. As proof, before Michael Moore was introduced to an exuberant crowd of 7,500 people at the Pit on Sunday, he was subjected to a press conference with our local media. Just minutes, in fact, before Moore walked across the Pit floor to his podium, greeted by a sustained standing ovation, he had to contemplate this inane question from a local TV newsman: "Why do people like George W. Bush?"
Sporting a red UNM Lobos baseball hat and his trademark baggy jeans and sneakers, Moore, fatigued from a lingering case of bronchitis, made the most of the moment. "For the same reason they like Ferris Bueller," he said, referring to the 1986 film staring Matthew Broderick. "He never did his work in school and never got caught. (Bush) never worked a day in his life and then they made him president. Who wouldn't want that? That is so Ferris Bueller."
But while Moore knows how to deliver a punch line, his stated purpose on Sunday night was not to entertain the converts, but to penetrate the minds of the very few in the audience who might be considering a vote for independent candidate Ralph Nader. If there's one thing that gets under Moore's skin, it's Nader, and by proxy anybody willing to cast a vote for him this year. In fact, the first words Moore uttered at his press conference were "366 votes last time," referring to Democrat Al Gore's margin of victory. "I can't think of a more important place to be. I have a special message for my fellow Naderites tonight."
That special message, it turned out, could be summed up in four words: Vote Kerry, not Nader. But that's not to say Moore didn't ramble in various directions, covering a range of topics in the same way he edits his films—with humor, outrage and pathos seemingly all at once.
Naturally, the show featured Moore mocking the president as an ill-informed yokel. Like the way Republicans howl at the mention of Democrat John Kerry as a flip-flopper, this theme never seems to get old with Moore. He called President Bush's facial expressions during the first presidential debate, "Three Stooges doubletakes." He said Bush showed up for the 90-minute debate with five minutes of material. He ridiculed the president for referring to a rumor about the draft posted on the "Internets."
"Where's the second Internet?" Moore said. "I want that. Mine's too slow."
Moore joked about the draft at one point, then later spoke on the topic soberly, saying: "Do the math. They have run out of troops. I'm telling you right now Bush, if elected, is going to bring back the draft."
He asked if there were any Republicans in the house. To the few faint claps, Moore said, "Welcome, we admire you." Then he proceeded to explain why, calling Bush's supporters relentless, organized and well funded. "You operate like sharks that never stop moving. You're up at dawn trying to figure out what minority group shouldn't be allowed to marry," he said.
From there Moore screened a series of mocking, and at times hilarious, faux campaign ads that highlighted the military service records of Bush and Kerry.
He talked about Fox News, pharmaceutical companies (the subject of his next movie) and Richard Nixon, to name a few.
Moore then segued into another video presentation, this time a five-minute clip of President Bush addressing the media following his interview with the 9-11 Commission. Moore set up the scene saying Bush opposed formation of the commission, refused to testify under oath, insisted he and Dick Cheney appear together and refused to allow the session to be recorded, transcribed or witnessed by the media. Then he showed the press conference, an unfiltered clip of Bush's inarticulate stonewalling, and Moore lamented that the press conference got little attention from the network news.
Then, as he was about to begin reading from his new book, Will They Ever Trust Us Again? Letters From the War Zone, a compilation of letters and e-mails from troops in Iraq and their families in the United States, a genuine slacker uprising from the audience interrupted Moore. A young woman challenged his support for Kerry, calling him a pro-war, pro-Patriot Act candidate. She heckled her theme loudly, without restraint, for several minutes. Her persistence inflamed Moore to the point he was yelling in the microphone: "Bush must go! What part of that don't you get!" Moore said Nader won a moral victory in 2000 by forcing the 2004 Democratic primary to veer away from Gore's conservative leanings and toward a more progressive agenda. He said Nader should "accept that victory and go home." He pleaded with the woman "to vote with us just this once and we'll all be on Kerry's ass Nov. 3, just for you." The woman was not swayed, nor deterred. She kept shouting her opposition to Kerry, and Moore kept firing back. He accused Nader voters of selfishness, of wanting to feel good about themselves, while ignoring the plight of troops in Iraq. He scorned Nader as an egotist. "It's all about Ralph," Moore said. "I'm so fucking sick of it right now," and he threw his pen on the podium.
The confrontation, however, dissolved into another playful skit as Moore's volunteers passed out bags of Ramen and underwear to slackers who didn't vote four years ago, but vowed to vote for Kerry this year.
After the show, Adam Hernandez, 42, a father, and one-half of a politically mixed marriage, said this year marks the first time in his life a political yard sign stands in front of his house. He said he's a moderate Democrat, his wife of 12 years is a Republican and still undecided, and they usually keep their political viewpoints to themselves. "This is such a big deal," Hernandez said. "The Iraq war pisses me off, but Bush is also bad on the environment and he's secretive."
Mario Trujillo, a 19-year-old TVI student, said he registered to vote on the day he turned 18. He said he wasn't worried about the draft, because he planned to join the Air Force after college. "But I don't want to go on a mission where I question its purpose," Trujillo said. "You can find anywhere on the corner somebody willing to die for our country. But we've been misled into believing the war in Iraq was necessary. Our freedom isn't in danger. Compared to other countries, we've got it made."