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EXCLUSIVE: Filmmaker Michael Moore on Midterm Elections, the Tea Party, and the Future of the Democratic Party

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For the past 20 years, renowned filmmaker, author and activist Michael Moore has been one of the most politically active, provocative and successful documentary filmmakers in the business. Moore came to our studio last night for our special live Election Night broadcast to discuss the midterm election results, the Tea Party movement, and the future of the Democratic and Republican parties. [includes rush transcript]

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StoryJul 05, 2010Michael Moore on His Life, His Films and His Activism
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to renowned filmmaker, author, activist, Michael Moore. For the past twenty years, Michael has been one of the most politically active, provocative and successful documentary filmmakers in the business. His films include Roger & Me about the corporation General Motors; Fahrenheit 9/11 about Bush and war; Bowling for Columbine, for which he won the Academy Award, about gun violence; he did Sicko about healthcare; and his latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story.

Michael Moore came to our studio late last night to take part in our election special. Michael began by talking about President Obama and the midterm elections.

MICHAEL MOORE: In the morning, President Obama is going to hold a press conference, and he’s going to take the wrong path. He’s going to say what we really need now is more bipartisanship and more kumbaya. And the other side wants none of that. And I don’t know — I don’t know how much you have to be battered and bruised to understand when the abuser is not going to stop abusing.

So, let’s look into the crystal ball and see what 2012 looks like. If the tea party thing keeps its mojo killing, they have a very good chance of, in the primaries, nominating one of their people, Sarah Palin or others, Rand Paul maybe. It’s not unlikely. That will — if that doesn’t happen, and if a more mainstream Republican gets nominated, they will probably be so upset they will run a third party person. And somehow, there’s going to be a very strong possibility of a potential split, and there’s going to be two people from that side running for president of the United States.

Obama, if he continues this war, if he expands the war, if he doesn’t get a hold of Wall Street and wrestle them to the ground, if we have another crash in the next ten years because he didn’t do the job that he was supposed to have done — he left it up to Geithner and Summers to just take us into the next crash — it is not unlikely that there will be a Naderesque-type challenge from the left. And maybe not in the primaries, but actually an independent candidacy. So we’re going to have, for maybe, I think, the second time in the last 150 years, potentially a four-candidate race. In a four-candidate race, Abraham Lincoln — that was the first one, and that was — I think he won with thirty — thirty-some — do you know, John?

JOHN NICHOLS: Thirty-nine.

MICHAEL MOORE: Thirty-nine percent of the vote. And Harry Truman in '48, with Dewey, Strom Thurmond and Henry Wallace. It, first of all, presents perhaps the only opportunity in our lifetime where someone from the left could actually win the presidency with a plurality of votes. What it could do is deny Obama his second term. And I think that instead of the Democrats and President Obama taking all of us who are the base that he criticized for the last two months — you know, if he doesn't take seriously why we went out to work for him and got him elected, there’s a very strong possibility that that challenge is going to exist. And they should think about that, as they think tomorrow, the next day, that they should be moving more to the right in order to sustain themselves. The right is going to get — it’s going to be a very crowded freeway heading toward 2012. He doesn’t need to go over on that road. He needs to solidify this road to get things done that we need done and to get that second term.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think? With the Republicans, you have Mitch McConnell, who is the Senate Minority Leader, Kentucky, and then you have Rand Paul, the new insurgent from Kentucky. They don’t like each other. One is tea party; one is Republican. Maybe it’s going to the point you’re making, that they are going to divide. You have Sarah Palin. Any assessment has changed, on your part, of Sarah Palin?

MICHAEL MOORE: Other than that there’s a very strong chance she’ll be the candidate for president in 2012, no. It was interesting watching Christine O’Donnell’s sort of concession speech tonight. I don’t know if you saw it while you guys were in here, but it will be on YouTube on — more on the comedy channel than anything, but it’ll — you have to watch it, because it was interesting. And she got 40 percent of the vote. “I’m not a witch” got 40 percent. That’s where we live. But she was criticizing the Democrats, and she sort of made a kind of a veiled threat to the person who beat her, like he better do this and he better do that. But it wasn’t 'til she attacked the Republican, she got — that's where she got the loudest applause in the room. It was the attack on the Republicans.

If people think that they’re going to be spending a lot of time going after us and our issues, they’re going to be very occupied with each other, because they’re involved in their own civil war. And I’ve got to believe that if Sarah Palin or a Rand Paul is nominated for president of the United States, that someone in the more mainstream, you know, intelligent, if I could use that word for Republicans, camp is going to run, or a Mike Bloomberg is going to run. But somebody is going to run that’s going to go, “OK, this is nonsense. That’s a bag of Froot Loops, and we need to have an adult running, or Obama is going to get another term.”

AMY GOODMAN: And as Ralph Nader said on Democracy Now!, he said Mike Bloomberg, unlike Ralph Nader, will be taken seriously, because he’s a billionaire, sort of like Ross Perot. He’ll be that kind of third party candidate.

MICHAEL MOORE: Yeah, he also put nice little chairs and tables in the middle of Broadway here. You know, I mean, he’s done a lot of nice things here — bike lanes and, you know, and he’s trying to get the soda out of the schools.

AMY GOODMAN: So the discussion of the pundits on television is —


AMY GOODMAN: — is how Obama can reach out to the right, as if he hadn’t been doing that all along, saying that he’s going to make concessions when it comes to free trade agreements. There’s going to be the effort on the part of the Republicans to roll back what they call “Obamacare.”

MICHAEL MOORE: That’s right. Instead, what he should be doing is going on TV today, tomorrow, and look right into the camera and say, “My fellow Americans, the working people of this country, you are the majority, and I am your representative. I am going to fight for you. We are going to — we are going to wrestle control of this country back into the hands of we, the people. This country was not built for the billionaires and for the upper one percent. And I know they’re not going to like some of this, but we’re just going to go ahead and do it.”

And I think he should —- you know, he’s not going to have the House, but he’s got two of the three. He’s got the Senate, he’s got himself. And then he’s got to get into that bully pulpit and inspire the voters to put pressure on the Republican House to do it. And if they don’t do it, they will be the ones that are going to be faced with the change in the next election. But that’s going to take real guts and real leadership. No more thinking it out. It’s already been thought out. And, you know, I’ll say this to his credit, I think he’s a nice guy. I think that -—

AMY GOODMAN: You were a big supporter of him.

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, yeah, I think he — I think when he — I think he came in there with a good heart, and I think he really did want to hold the olive branch out. I don’t think that was a trick. I think that really is who he is. I think he’s a go-along, get-along guy. And he just got it whacked out of his hand one time after another. And it’s like, at some point you just have to say, “OK, I tried. Now you’re going to have to go to your timeout room, while the rest of us, the majority of this country, run the show.”

LAURA FLANDERS: But that would require him to no longer be the candidate of Wall Street. Has enough Wall Street money gone to the other side that it’s not left there for him? I mean, for him to really do that FDR 1936 polarization with the banksters would require him not to be the guy of Larry Summers. Has there been a change?

MICHAEL MOORE: No, but I’ll tell you, though, you just gave me an idea. If he would also add in the speech to the American people this week, if he would commit right now, if he were to say, “Neither I nor the Democrats are going to accept one dime of Wall Street money for the 2012 election — we’re making that statement right now — we will not take their dirty money. Their money brought about the collapse of this country, of the middle class. They’re the people responsible for the fact that, as you’re watching this, you can’t say with any certainty that the job you’re in today will be the job you’ll have a year from now, the house that you’re in today will be the house that you’ll be in a year from now. Nobody has any security. Everybody’s frightened. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. Well, I’m going to be the one who’s going to fight for you. And I’m not going to take their dirty money,” — jeez, if he said that, you know, I just — that would just — it would wake people up. It would get them out of this depression that they’re feeling.

I don’t mean just an economic depression, but I’m saying the depression that comes over you when you are just struggling to get by, and you’re not thinking about elections. People today aren’t thinking — they’re thinking about, you know, the second job they had to get to tonight. They’re thinking about how, you know, they’re going to — the kids are going to have to come back and go to community college, because they can’t afford the tuition bill for next semester at the nice university. That’s what’s on people’s minds. And they’re mortified by what they think is in front of them. And boy, I mean, if there isn’t a — if there wouldn’t be a better time for someone to — for a profile in courage to step forward and be that person —- and he could still be the same nice guy. Don’t say it like I’d say it. I mean, say it like -—

AMY GOODMAN: And Michael Moore, your assessment of the new House Speaker, John Boehner?

MICHAEL MOORE: I think, just wind him up and let him loose. Let people — the 55 to 60 percent who didn’t vote today will get a good taste of what he’s about. More than likely, they will do themselves in, because they will overreach in such a profound way.

But again, we have to get our message straight. We don’t — they can’t — they don’t — I mean, this is why you admire the Republicans, because they know how to talk. “Stimulus”? What the hell is a stimulus? It sounds like a gynecological procedure. What is a stimulus? Where did they come up with that word? It’s called a tax cut and jobs bill. That’s what it’s called, because actually that’s what it is. That’s not an Orwellian term. That’s what it actually did and was supposed to do, although it only went halfway, like all the other half-measures, that, you know, he thought, well, we’ll just do some healthcare or some stimulus or some, you know, whatever. And it didn’t work.

The last thing I want to say is, we have something on our side of the fence that they don’t have on the other side, and that’s the popular culture. The popular culture is — motivates people, especially young people, in such a profound way. I mean, you saw that a bit with the Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert thing this weekend. But it goes much, much more beyond that. When you look at past movements — again, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the antiwar movement — culture, music, film, books, poetry, TV, all of this, radio, was all part of it. And on our side of the fence, we have so many creative people who do so many good things that that needs to be used for the common and greater good. And it hasn’t been used. And Obama hasn’t tapped that. He’s accused of being Mr. Hollywood, but I’m thinking, how come Hollywood isn’t making these great spots that should be made to explain this to people, what’s really going on? You know, let’s — I mean, with all due respect to Republicans, let’s face it, they’re not very funny. And they don’t have a lot of rock-and-roll bands. And they’re pretty far behind on the hip-hop level. You know, they complain, “Oh, the theaters, all they show are these Michael Moore documentaries and Morgan Spurlock and all these other — you know, they’re all lefties. How come there’s never any” — well, because they don’t make them. They just don’t make them. I mean, occasionally one will be made, and then nobody goes to see it, because it’s — you know, it’s ehhh.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you make of war not really being mentioned —


AMY GOODMAN: —- in this -—


AMY GOODMAN: — in this midterm elections.

MICHAEL MOORE: Gone, right.

AMY GOODMAN: The talk shows on Sunday —- WikiLeaks, the biggest military intelligence leak in the history of this country, that week the major agenda-setting talk shows on the networks there was no discussion -—


AMY GOODMAN: — of what’s happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.

MICHAEL MOORE: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: And when it’s raised with the hosts, they say, “Because we’re talking about the midterm elections.”


AMY GOODMAN: Aren’t the elections a referendum on the major policy issues —


AMY GOODMAN: — domestic and foreign?

MICHAEL MOORE: Right. You know, what I really want to say to that, I don’t want to say it. You know.

AMY GOODMAN: Just don’t curse, because we want to play it on the air.

MICHAEL MOORE: Eh, no, it’s not about cursing. It’s about a profound question, which is, who are we? I mean, really, who are we, as a people, as Americans? You know, we are responsible at this point for so much death and destruction in certain places in this world that will be such a black mark on our soul for so many years to come, and we just want to try and not think about it, forget about it, stay away from it as far as possible. You know, there’s a lot of guilt. There’s a lot of guilt amongst liberals about the wars, because many liberals were for the wars. Most liberals I know were for invading Afghanistan right after 9/11. But when I think back, you know, to the Iraq war, the beginning of that war — and we’ve talked about this before — where, you know, people I know, the people that were funding my film — the Weinstein brothers were, you know, for the war; eventually they were against it. My agent in Hollywood, the infamous Ari Emanuel, was for the war.

AMY GOODMAN: Rahm’s brother.

MICHAEL MOORE: Rahm’s brother. Al Franken said things in support of the war. I mean, I could go down a whole list of people who we don’t really want to kind of remember that too much. But, in fact, that was the truth. And those who spoke out against the war, especially those who were well known, were vilified for that, even though a month before the war there’s literally millions of people in the streets of America, in towns and villages and cities, for the largest antiwar combined demonstration in our nation’s history. And yet, you know, you had liberals on MSNBC, you had Al Franken, you had other people, who — and Nick Kristof in the Times, Raines, the editor, Keller, who had a column then, all making these pro-war statements. And the New York Times itself, with Judith Miller, helping lead us into the war. So I think there’s a lot of liberal guilt about this, and I think that’s one of the reasons it isn’t discussed.

I have one criticism about WikiLeaks. And this is again why we don’t do things as well as the right and the conservatives do. They released that incredible 400,000-plus document revelation on a Friday night. They did the document drop that you do when you don’t want anybody to notice the documents. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I really was like, “What?” Where — when are we going to get a clue? Do we have to have, like, classes in how to do this? It’s not that hard. And I say this, again, with all due respect to WikiLeaks, because I have huge admiration for them, and I’ve — you know, I’ve been both a financial and a moral supporter of them and Bradley Manning and others who are being persecuted as a result of telling the truth, but we have just — really have got to get it together here and quit pussyfooting around, as we say in the Midwest.

AMY GOODMAN: Filmmaker and author Michael Moore, Academy Award-winning filmmaker. GritTV host Laura Flanders co-hosted the Election Night special with us last night. She’ll be joining us after break, as will Rich Kim and John Nichols of The Nation magazine. Stay with us.

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Election Roundtable: Breaking Down the Results with Laura Flanders of GritTV, The Nation’s Richard Kim & John Nichols, and Journalist David Goodman

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