Dems Feel Michael Moore's Wrath
by Alec MacGillis
Filmmaker Michael Moore speaks about his film "Capitalism: A Love Story" during the 34th
"Capitalism: A Love Story," the filmmaker provacateur's latest documentary, had its American premier Monday at the AFL-CIO convention that is underway in this working-class city (President Obama is addressing the convention Tuesday).
"Capitalism," which will open in theatres nationwide in October, manages to use just about everything lousy that's happened in the past year to build Moore's case against eat-what-you-kill, free-market Reaganomics--from foreclosures on prairie farmhouses to kids unjustly jailed in Pennsylvania to the plane crash in Buffalo. It's all wrapped up, literally, by the spectacle of
The film is vintage Moore, and perhaps more: the hefty Michigander declared from the stage of a classic downtown theater here that it was a "culmination of all the films I've made." It is being released on the 20-year anniversary of "Roger and Me," the takedown of General Motors that made
For history buffs, there's also a fascinating clip of Franklin D. Roosevelt delivering the highly egalitarian conclusion to his final State of the Union address, where he lists the "second bill of rights" that every American deserves. The speech was thought to exist only in audio, until
So far, so anti-Republican.
But then things get interesting -- in building his indictment against the ill-fated marriage of Wall Street and Washington, Moore zeroes in less on Phil Gramm or other GOP string-pullers than he does on White House economic adviser Larry Summers, Robert Rubin and Sen. Chris Dodd. Especially Dodd, the
Dodd had appeared to be clawing his way back onto safer political ground in recent months, as he filled in for the dying Ted Kennedy as chair of the Senate health committee. But if "Capitalism" packs them in in
The film also maintains a delicate ambivalence about President Obama, casting him as a change agent and depicting joyous images of his victory last November, but also implying that Wall Street had showered money on Obama's campaign in an effort to buy him out. The question of whether it had succeeded in doing so are left more or less unanswered.
Most notably, perhaps, the film spends quite a lot of time building up last fall's financial bailout as the ultimate showdown between Wall Street interests calling in their
Left unsaid is that a larger proportion of House Republicans than Democrats voted against the bailout -- many of the same Republicans, in fact, who have been leading the anti-government, anti-universal health care charge that
In a telephone interview as he headed to the airport to fly west for his Jay Leno appearance Tuesday night,
He was slightly defensive when asked whether the film had glorified the anti-bailout position assumed by so many conservative Republicans, saying that what he had really set out to do was to reclaim the bailout critique for skeptics of capitalism, away from the anti-government types.
"I wanted to stop the revisionist version of how the bailout is remembered," he said. Republicans "are trying to ride some phony populist wave because they know there's anger brewing. Beneath the surface, history is full of people taking advantage of [populist anger] and taking this country to an extra reactionary place."
Yes, the Republicans voted against the bailout, he added, but "they voted against it for all the wrong reasons -- they didn't give a [expletive] if the teacher's pension in
As for Dodd, he said, "Lets the chips fall where they may." Last he checked, he said, Dodd was so low in the polls that his prospects looked bad no matter what.
"For the Democrats to save that seat, for the good of the party he should probably not run,"
And as for Summers and Treasury secretary Tim Geithner (also not kindly treated), Moore told the audience in a brief question and answer period that he hoped Obama had brought them on in the same way that some banks hire robbers to help them guard against future theft: "Maybe that's what Obama's doing -- he hired the people who robbed all the money to help him get it back. That's the optimistic version."
Noticing that the audience seemed lukewarm about the president,
Speaking in a convention hall earlier,
Asked by an audience member if he was going to offer the president a private screening,
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs
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