Maybe it’s a case of being the last in a series of anti-Bush books to hit
since the summer, or perhaps it is simply fatigue on my part after
reading similar works (in the past few months alone I have read Joe
Conason’s Big Lies, Al Franken’s Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and Molly Ivins’ Bushwhacked). Whatever the explanation might be, I felt a curious detachment while reading Michael Moore’s latest, Dude, Where’s My Country?
Needless to say, I am a big fan of Moore’s, applauded his Oscar speech,
consider myself as far Left as he does, and believe he is one of the
boldest, most original voices in pop culture today. Still, Dude, Where’s My Country?
is simply “more of the same” and while I too want George W. Bush to
take an early retirement, I’m not sure that books like this are the
best means to that end. While Moore discusses much of the post-9/11
environment that was missing from his previous effort Stupid White Men
(including necessary revelations about the extent of the Patriot Act
and chilling curbs on free speech), I’m not sure the tone and direction
of this book are any different from that one. In the end, I’m in favor
(and support the full promotion) of anything – book, movie, article, or
stump speech – that blasts the current administration (in my opinion
the worst since Harding, perhaps the worst ever), but merely agreeing
with an author’s opinion does not mean that a particular book is a
great one. If I jumped and roared for a book only because it is of my
political persuasion, then I would not be a critic so much as a
mindless cheerleader, the very sort I find so annoying on the Right.

Dude, Where’s My Country? presents much of what we have
heard before: Why was the bin Laden family allowed to leave the United
States despite the fact that all other planes were grounded? Why were
members of Al Quieda in Texas in the years leading up to 9/11 trying to
negotiate a pipeline deal in Afghanistan? To what extent did we furnish
Iraq with the very WMDs we later claimed were to a threat to world
peace? If the safety and security of the Iraqi people were so vitally
important to us, why then have we ignored the plight of others around
the world, from the Congo to Burma? Is this all just a ploy to secure
Middle Eastern oil reserves for our own use? And is John Ashcroft
really more evil that Hitler? (I can answer that – yes). I am
always thrilled when Americans ask these questions, largely because the
so-called “liberal” media has failed in its duty to hold power
accountable, but Moore does not further challenge the presumed audience
of this book. In other words, because liberals are more likely than
anyone else to buy and read this book, does it not stand to reason that
they have already asked these questions, both of themselves and their
friends? Preaching to the choir has its place, but that’s not exactly a
prescription for winning the White House in 2004.

There is a chapter where Moore does address reaching across the
aisle and appealing to the conservative brother-in-law we all have.
Rather than bullying him, we liberals should appeal to his frame of
mind and demonstrate how liberalism is actually more likely to make him
money than the current brand of conservatism. Moore is correct in that
no attempt to reason with conservatives can deviate from the “what’s in
it for me?” idea, so he rightfully positions his arguments in terms of
financial advancement rather than a sense of duty and morality that
most right-wingers lack. Moreover, Moore actually admits that liberals
can, and have been, wrong on occasion. This is a stunning admission
from a man who usually paints the world in stark black-and-white terms,
but it is necessary in order to advance the rigid ideological divide
that is, quite frankly, getting us nowhere. For example, he admits that
liberal cause celebre Mumia Abu-Jamal most likely killed that police
officer. He also says that it is not a good idea for teenagers to be
having sex, although he readily admits that he just might be jealous
since he didn’t start having sex until he was in his thirties. Moore
also reveals that he does not believe all unions are a good thing, and
that drugs have no conceivable benefit, although he still strongly
opposes the failed War on Drugs. He also knows that Democrats need to
laugh a little more; that they need to toughen up and fight for their
beliefs with the same intensity as Republicans; and that Clinton was
not our savior as he appealed to the center far too often to satisfy
traditional liberals (remember, old Bill signed such right-wing
measures as the Defense of Marriage Act, the Communications Decency
Act, as well as Welfare Reform).

And I simply could not support Moore’s idea that Oprah Winfrey
make a run for the White House. Yes, she could be elected, but why on
earth would we want our political leader to be a woman who has elevated
emotions over reason and narcissistic self-help over lasting social
change? I don’t want a leader who leads us in a group hug or a
collective cry. Secretary of Something Related to Personal
Relationships? Fine. But I have a hard time believing that our status
in the world would be improved if yet another celebrity took the reigns
of our most prestigious position. I’m already red-faced with shame over
California’s suicidal act regarding Arnie.

So yes, Mr. Moore, we need more attention paid to corporate
scandals and the erosion of workplace security, and the Bush
administration has failed in every regard – from foreign policy, to tax
“relief,” to the economy. This is indeed a government of oilmen, shady
cronyism, and short-sighted disaster. Bush is indeed a liar, and he has
surrounded himself with brilliant, yet devious scoundrels who have
managed to take a colossal boob and transform him into a statesman.
That we are even debating whether or not to re-elect a man who has
presided over the worst economy since the 1930s is a testament to the
passivity of a sheep-like populace, and the only proof we’ll ever need
that Americans are as stupid as they are selfish. And yes, the Bushies
have exaggerated the terrorist threat to create a climate of fear that
allows them to justify all actions as part of a never-ending “war.” On
these points and many more, Moore is absolutely correct. And yet, I
believe that at this crucial time, we need more than mere reiteration.
This is, I’m afraid, familiar ground. And while I’m comfortable here,
it just isn’t enough.