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.
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