01 April 2014

Columbus, Ohio- Moveonpac.org was responsible for bringing Michael Moore to the Palace Theatre this past Saturday night. When I arrived to cover the event I was unexpectedly ushered to the basement for an impromptu press conference. When I entered the press room I was shocked to find that only one of the major media outlets in the biggest city in Ohio felt the need to send anyone to cover the event. With Cleveland polling very much toward Senator John Kerry and Cincinnati going for President George W. Bush, Columbus, is believed by many to be the prize of the state. The city of Columbus may not only be the difference in the state of Ohio but also in the whole election. Certainly the current thinking is that Kerry has no shot at winning the election without winning the buckeye state and Bush has a very slight chance to win the race without tallying Ohio in his wins column. You would think these facts would lead to a mad rush of media to cover a Michael Moore speech. However, the lone major television reporter at the press conference was Carol Luper. She works as a reporter for both ABC and Fox stations which share one news team. Whether you like Michael Moore or not, at the very least, you have to concede that he is newsworthy. Apparently that logic is at odds with the “think tanks” over at Columbus’ NBC and CBS affiliates who did not attend the press conference. So much for the much ballyhooed liberal media bias!



The few of us in the press room were filled with expectation as the Oscar award winning director stepped into the room and had a seat. Upon sitting down Michael tried to recall what day of the tour this was for him. Was it 55? 57? 60? He wasn’t sure. The list of cities that he had visited in the past week such as Youngstown, Toledo, Kent, and Cincinnati were listed off like those in the Johnny Cash hit, “I’ve Been Everywhere Man”. The fatigue he wore was obvious and clung to him like an early morning October fog covering his otherwise upbeat sunny personality. After settling upon Columbus as the 57th stop on this tour he gave out a great sigh and said, “Ready? Let’s go.”



To say I was at a press conference with Michael Moore is a correct statement but it is also very misleading. Usually press conferences are awash with ambitious reporters screaming, raising their hands, pushing, and shoving to get to the front of the room just to ask one question. The fact that only two other people asked Moore questions made this less of a press conference and more of a group interview. His Midwestern shoot-from-the-hip style and openly gregarious nature made him one of the easiest people I have ever had the pleasure to speak with. He is a man that knows where he stands and has no problem articulating his position in a firm yet friendly manner. After spending a moment with Michael it is simultaneously easy to forget and hard to believe that he is hated in many parts of America and probably most of Saudi Arabia.



Moore, who grew up in Michigan, first spoke of helping out his neighbors to the south, “right now there are volunteers with video cameras in New York City loading up onto a bus getting ready to head to Ohio. I am bringing these volunteers to Ohio to document any irregularities which may occur.” When asked about whether or not Moore would be supplying people with video cameras to other states he said, “yes, I think we will have about 900 people volunteering to be in Florida…” then added a warning, “if (Ohio’s) Secretary of State Ken Blackwell or anyone else breaks the law in the polling places we will be there to capture it on film!” Furthermore he added in his speech later that night that he would “wear a cap from The Ohio State University while he was in Michigan for a full year if Ohio went for Kerry!” For those of you not into sports and/or Ohio State-Michigan University lore, there is a long standing rivalry which is considered by many people to be the best rivalry in all of American sports. For Moore, a Michigan resident, to wear an Ohio State University cap in Michigan is akin to wearing a scarlet letter proclaiming himself as an outsider in his native land.



To help stoke the fires of the passionate crowd actor Viggo Mortensen from the “Lord of the Rings” fame took the stage and opined for a few moments. His main point of emphasis came from stories he has heard over the past couple of years from friends and family members that live all over the globe. Specifically, he touched upon their collective view of the United States and how it has soured since the Iraqi war. He charged Americans to show the world our real identity on Election Day. He seemed concerned that should we elect (not re-elect since he was appointed in 2000) George W. Bush that it would send the message to the world that Bush and his actions in his first term would gain a perceived mandate from the common American citizen. Viggo also touched on the issue of health care and related stories of how people who live in countries with government supplied healthcare find it odd that the richest nation on the Earth seemingly can not take care of their own citizens during times when it would appear that they need their government most.


The Iraqi war wasn’t the only thing on Moore’s mind. When he announced to the capacity crowd that his next documentary was going to be on healthcare they went completely bonkers. You would have thought the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Uncle Sam, John Bull, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles had simultaneously entered the arena. Vince McMahon could not over hype the reception the crowd gave! As part of this talking point Moore read a confidential insider memo that was distributed to all Pfizer offices. It included a “how to” guide to dealing with Michael Moore if he should come to your field office asking questions. It gave an unintended hilarious description of Moore which included a representation of his girth and told of his penchant for wearing wrinkled clothes. The real kicker was that it listed a number to call event that Moore would show up (1(212) 573-1226) at your office. Someone in the audience called the number and reported that it was a media relations number.



One of the more poignant moments of the evening was when the director told of his favorite moment from the three presidential debates. “My favorite part of the debates was when the president picked up a glass of water, brought it up to his mouth then realized that it was empty and instead of returning it to the lectern he raised the empty glass higher and acted like he was drinking! How stupid does he think we are?”



Adding a more serious tone to the evening John H. Brown, a former Senior Foreign Service Officer who retired in protest of Bush's Iraq policy and Ambassador Princeton N. Lyman, spoke for a brief period. In Brown’s resignation letter he stated, “The president has failed (to do the following): To explain clearly why our brave men and women in uniform should be ready to sacrifice their lives in a war on Iraq at this time; To lay out the full ramifications of this war, including the extent of innocent civilian casualties; To specify the economic costs of the war for ordinary Americans; To clarify how the war would help rid the world of terror; To take international public opinion against the war into serious consideration.” Aside from mentioning the points in Brown’s letter, both men related the unwillingness of President Bush to engage in any meaningful diplomatic negotiations with Iraq. Both men have served under democrat and republican presidents and until George W. Bush neither had ever campaigned for or against a candidate for president. They may have both lost an opportunity to become diplomats in the future for speaking out against Bush which may forever lock them out of their lives work. Though republicans will likely spin the truth these men are far from partisans on the stump and their insider point of view is compelling.



The night was not all Bush bashing. Moore reminded the audience that they did not just have to vote against Bush. He reminded them that Kerry was a man worthy to receive their vote. He asked the masses a rhetorical question, “Do you know why Bush calls John Kerry the most liberal Senator?”



The once roaring crowd fell immediately silent.



“Well it’s because he is… but that is a good thing! We don’t have to hold our nose to vote for John Kerry this time the way we had to hold them in order to vote for former Vice President Al Gore last time. In the second debate in the 2000 election Al Gore agreed with George W. Bush 39 times! Kerry is the most liberal on the environment… you like clean air don’t ya?” He then rattled off a litany of positions that Kerry holds that are not only liberal but moral and responsible. This whipped the already passionate crowd into an outright fervor of righteous anger. The emotional road the multitude had traversed in a very short time period from a quiet hush to pandemonium is not only a testament to Moore’s oratory ability but also to the masses ability to follow the logic behind Michael’s rhetoric and arrive at the same obvious conclusion; that John Kerry should be the next President of the United States of America.



Supplying the melody to the evening was rock band “The Goo Goo Dolls” from Buffalo, New York. Before they took the stage I asked singer Johnny Rzeznik how he felt touring with Michael Moore. “Actually this is the first time we have ever met. We’ve only spoken on the phone before right now.” Moore chimed in, “Yea, I like their music a lot and they called me up and asked what they could do to help. I told them about this so they flew down here on their own dime to help out.” Later from the stage Rzeznik captured the essence of Michael Moore when he declared him “the most dangerous man in America!”



To end the evening the “most dangerous man in America” regained center stage and exhorted the crowd to go out into the highways and byways to compel people to enter the shelter of the voting booth. He called upon everyone to work as hard as they possibly could for the remaining 72 hours left in the presidential race. Then he assured the crowd that “we’re going to take back our country.”