NEW YORK Poor John McCain.
Here's a guy I've always sort of liked, a courageous war hero reduced to carrying water for the Bush campaign. (Related stories:
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So it was Monday night, as I sat in the press section unbeknownst to Sen. McCain when he switched from pro-war convention speaker to film critic. Out of nowhere, he began to attack my movie, Fahrenheit 9/11, calling me a "disingenuous filmmaker." The problem is, he hasn't seen the movie, a fact he later admitted to Chris Matthews on MSNBC.
I know Republicans are mad that my film may have convinced just enough people to tip the balance in this election. Yet with all the serious issues facing our country, and right smack in the middle of an important speech about the need to catch the terrorists and continue the war in Iraq, McCain decided to turn the convention into the Ebert and McCain Show. He claimed that I portrayed Saddam's Iraq as an "oasis of peace."
Some of the 20 million who have seen the film must have wondered, "Did I miss that scene? I knew I shouldn't have gone out for those Goobers." All I can imagine McCain was referring to was a brief cutaway just as President Bush announces the commencement of the bombing of Baghdad on March 19, 2003.
Human-rights groups say thousands of civilians were killed because of our bombing. I thought it would be worthwhile to show some of the faces of Iraqi people who might soon meet their death.
I felt really bad for McCain standing there on the stage. The man wanted to be president. That dream was snuffed out during the 2000 primaries, when George W. Bush's supporters spread nasty rumors about what five and a half years in a North Vietnamese POW camp might have done to McCain's sanity.
Then there were the calls to potential white voters in South Carolina to inform them that McCain had a "black baby." (He and his wife adopted a child from Bangladesh.) The Bush supporters also spread other rumors that questioned McCain's patriotism, even though the man was a decorated war hero while W. chose to oh, let's not get into that again.
Still, McCain has offered to soldier on for Bush. So how does Bush's campaign treat him? It doesn't tell him I might be in the press section, officially credentialed.
It has him say some gibberish about my movie. Everyone then sees me, I start laughing my ball cap off, the crowd goes bananas, and poor McCain must think he said something funny or cool, so he says, "That line was so good, I'll use it again."
Thousands of Republicans turned to me chanting "Four more years." I thought, "That's strange, Republicans are usually good at math, but they're off by a few dozen months. Bush only has two months left." So I held up two fingers to correct their miscalculation. But that just drove them into more of a frenzy.
If you have never had this happen to you, I insist you try it at least once in your life. It is better than an angry mosh pit at a Slayer concert. As a quiet salute to Beavis and Butthead, I held up my index finger and thumb in an "L" the international sign for loser which is what I hope their candidate is about to become.
As for McCain, he had to beg the mob to be silent and listen to the rest of his speech. He must have wondered why a party that promises to protect us from terrorists booed my name more loudly than Saddam's or Osama's. Actually, no one mentioned the "O" name Monday night because, well, that would acknowledge that they have failed to find him.
Perhaps that is why Bush told Today anchor Matt Lauer that we can't win the war against terrorism. Perhaps that is why they were more mad at me than the bad guys. I'm much easier to remove.
Maybe I'll call up McCain and treat him to a movie down the block, one I know he will enjoy, considering he agreed that I was right when Chris Matthews said a main point of my movie is that "war is often fought by people without power."
If he will join me at the movies, he'll see brave soldiers like himself face the camera and tell the truth to the American people about what is going on in a place called Iraq.