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Courting the Michael Moore Vote in N.H.

By Alec MacGillis
LACONIA, N.H. -- The more pugnacious among the country's left-leaning Democrats tend to be fond of John Edwards, who pledges that he was "born for this fight." They also tend to be big fans of the work of documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. Is it a surprise, then, that Edwards is not himself an avid follower of Moore.

At a town hall meeting here yesterday, Edwards was asked by Jessica Halm, a high school teacher attending with her 7 week old baby, what he made of the Michael Moore films "Bowling for Columbine," "Fahrenheit 9/11," and "Sicko." Edwards paused for a moment, as if searching his memory, and then said that he thought he had seen the first and the third but not "Fahrenheit 9/11," the provocative 2004 look at President Bush's first term and the start of the war in Iraq, a movie that broke attendance records for a documentary and became a rallying cry for many Democrats. Edwards then went into a lengthy discussion of the health care shortfalls described in "Sicko."

Afterward, Halm said she was a little surprised that Edwards had not seen "Fahrenheit 9/11." She said she supported Edwards but was actually not an unequivocal admirer of the three films and was hoping that Edwards would give a more in-depth critique of the films' strengths and weaknesses.

"I wish he'd answered it more directly," she said. "I wanted him to have a more critical eye."

It is perhaps not entirely surprising that Edwards did not see a film that contributed so heavily to the inflamed political climate of the 2004 presidential campaign. For starters, he was busy that year, running for the Democratic nomination and later for vice president alongside John Kerry. But as his rivals like to remind voters now, he was also running as a far more moderate kind of Democrat that year, not nearly as closely aligned with the Michael Moore perspective as he is now.

To his credit, he did not try to cover over the gap in his cinematic background in his response. He may have learned from experience: in 2004, Edwards went on Turner Classic Movies to introduce "Dr. Strangelove" as one of his favorite movies, even though he had not ever watched it. Slate magazine reported last week that Elizabeth Edwards had suggested her husband give "Dr. Strangelove" as a favorite after it turned out that a different senator introducing films on the channel had already claimed Edwards' actual favorite, "To Kill a Mockingbird." John Edwards got a briefing on the movie he hadn't seen, and went on the air to talk about why he liked it so much.

By Washington Post editors  |  December 27, 2007; 9:48 AM ET
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To dssmith1119

If "Edwards then went into a lengthy discussion of the health care shortfalls described in 'Sicko'", then he clearly remembers seeing it. In fact if he talked at length about it, I see no reason to believe he didn't love the film.

It seems like the movie he thinks he saw was "Bowling for Columbine". The sentence in the article appears to be worded strangely.

I have seen all of Moore's films, except Canadian Bacon, and recommend that everyone make some time to watch them. That said, I think that given the substance of Edwards' proposed health care reforms he can be forgiven for not remembering if he saw "Bowling". He has certainly been busy and no doubt had other things on his mind.

Posted by: evereye3 | December 27, 2007 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Michael Moore did not the way the Bush administration lead our country. Michael Moore is a man I believe said or did things that he knew was not fair. The war happened because we were misled, and if our own president said so, and all the misleading events and evidences presented, whoever voted such war I knew that they thought for the safety of our country. I cannot condem anyone who voted for the war since they did it because they were misled. All they need to do is do something about it and correct it. I believe Michael Moore knew then that it was misleading facts tha't was why he did everything he could to show to the whole world how he felt about the Bush Administration and the war. Few of the candidates did not vote for the war because they may either not there to vote or intentionally did not vote to be cleared. Those who voted for the war, have their own of them, they were misled..........second........for the love of the country and their people........they wanted to protect us. I don't see it to be against them. But it will be against anyone who did not even try to be there to vote. Washy-washy.......

Anyway, all I can among the candidates, one person is surpassing them........Hillary.

Posted by: lianette_steele | December 27, 2007 1:25 PM | Report abuse

zukermand: I don't know Alec MacGillis' record, but I wouldn't be so quick to criticize him. He did a terrific transcription job, and I'm sure he got every word of the question and the response correct. It's not easy to go to a strange state and then be forced to stand in a room and take notes! Rather than being chided for not asking about the huge gaps in Edwards' policies, MacGillis should be congratulated for just showing up in the first place.

Posted by: LonewackoDotCom | December 27, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

This piece had little to do with whatever may be considered the "Michael Moore vote" in N.H. or elsewhere and more to do with how cowardly most politicians are as they distance themselves from Moore or any controversy that might be associated with him. I figure if the candidate cannot take that sort of pressure, he or she probably isn't quite strong enough to lead this nation.
I remember seeing John Edwards leaning out of a campaign bus window (as video recorded and as was posted on the front of he proclaimed that he "loved" SiCKO. Now he "thinks" he saw it?
Too bad his memory is faulty.
My husband and I are subjects in the Moore film, SiCKO, and I can promise Sen. Edwards and all of the other candidates that the horrors unfolding in health care are very real for millions of Americans. We cannot ever forget.
We go to sleep worried, and we rise worried. Our memories retain it all.
I'd like just one of the candidates to show real courage and real compassion and honesty -- including memories of films seen or not seen. Then I'll know the fiber of which they are made.
Otherwise the primaries are simply full of the candidates' courting behavior soon to be forgotten as the blush of romance fades -- haven't we had enough of that?

Posted by: dssmith1119 | December 27, 2007 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Given Mr MacGillis' track record, one may safely assume this was the least substantive and relevant exchange of Mr Edwards' campaign appearance. What did we do to deserve this worthless press corps?

Posted by: zukermand | December 27, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I like the part reminding everyone that Edwards went on Turner Classic Movies to introduce "Dr. Strangelove" as one of his favorite movies, even though he had not ever watched it -- someone had "briefed" him on the movie -- Edwards then went on the air to talk about why he liked it so much.

We all remember that Chief Justice John Roberts's favorite movies are "Doctor Zhivago" and "North by Northwest". Did anyone else see "National Treasure 2" yet?

Posted by: JakeD | December 27, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

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