PEMBROKE — The whole crew came out to stump for General Wesley Clark at a rally this Saturday. Enron whistle-blower and former Time “Person of the Year” Sherron Watkins was there, as were Civil Rights Commissioner Mary Frances Berry, former Clinton assistant secretary of state James Rubin, JFK speechwriter and conspiracist Ted Sorensen, former senators Dale Bumpers and David Pryor, filmmaker Barry Levinson, and Cooter Davenport — er, Ben Jones, a Dukes of Hazzard alum and former representative from Georgia.
But the star of the show was clearly leftist hero, filmmaker, and author Michael Moore. The newly christened American icon stalked up to the podium in his own trademark uniform: a worn, oversized black sweatshirt and faded blue jeans. The applause was deafening. When he mentioned his speech at the Oscars, it got even louder. Aside from Wesley Clark, he was the only speaker allotted any significant time to make his pitch, and when Clark got up to speak, Moore was the only one on the panel thanked by name.
“You are proof,” Clark gushed, “that a man with a conscience and a camera can move this nation. Michael, you have moved this nation.”
And moved Clark’s poll numbers. Moore’s endorsement has clearly done something for the General. Upwards of 2,000 people turned out, dwarfing the crowds of 800 Dean attracted a couple months back. Some supporters parked two miles away and hiked the distance to the auditorium through a dense winter chill.
There was a difference in the kind of people who came out to this event, as well. Until Saturday, Clark events had been for the clean-cut, well-dressed set. Now, petrouli-soaked hippies, disheveled punk rock kids, and peaceniks were all improbably cheering a General’s bid for the presidency.
MOORE THREW HIMSELF into the speech with obvious relish, devolving at the end of a few anecdotes into something like the shrill voice of a WWF announcer. Really important lines he would speak once and repeat in a manic shout.
The mockcumentarian told us he first decided to support Clark’s candidacy when the General defended Moore’s “right to dissent” in an interview with CNN’s Aaron Brown. “There wasn’t a lot of support for that in the national news media because they were embedded, embed, in bed with the Bush Administration,” Moore quipped to the audience’s amusement. He said that Clark was the real “peace candidate” who would get us out of the quagmire of Iraq.
Unsurprisingly, Moore also is a huge fan of Clark’s proposed 5 percent tax hike on those making one million dollars or more. “He socked it to the rich,” Moore screamed at the crowd. “He stood up for the poor. He didn’t have to do that. HE DID NOT HAVE TO DO THAT.”
Moore eventually dialed it back and got down to brass tacks. He praised all the other candidates, and said he thought they were all right on the issues. The Dems have “improved considerably” since 2000, he said. In fact, “We have an embarrassment of riches in this Democratic primary this year,” leaving only one consideration: “Who stands the best chance of removing George W. Bush?”
And, wouldn’t you know it, “We already know the answer. WE ALREADY KNOW THE ANSWER…Republicans are scared to death of this candidacy.” A thousand Clark signs shook at once. Moore called the General a “gift” to the Democratic Party. He listed off his attributes — four stars on his helmet, head of his class at West Point, Rhodes Scholar — ending with “captain of the debate team.”
“You’re thinking what I’m thinking: I want to see that debate,” he continued. “Oh my, that’s right, the General versus the Deserter.”
MAKING ONE OF THE most sensible points of the evening, Moore touted Clark’s past votes for Ronald Reagan as an asset. “I love it that we have a candidate who voted for Reagan,” Moore said. “A majority of America voted for Reagan and I want a majority of America voting for Wes Clark.”
Then it was time for a little ego stroking. Moore praised all the special interest groups who had come out in force that day for Clark. “Greens for Clark, let me hear you,” he shouted. And so on down the line. We heard from Independents for Clark, Labor and Union for Clark, Veterans for Clark, Women for Clark, Kids for Clark. A dog next to me was wearing a doggy shirt that read “Another dog for Clark.”
Moore wrapped up the list up with Enron Whistle-Blowers for Clark. He said that Sherron Watkins was “corporate America’s worst nightmare, and she wants Wesley Clark in the White House.” The crowd erupted ecstatic cheers. Corporations for Clark are going to have to get their act together.
He was such a hit that some in the audience couldn’t help voicing support for another candidate. “We want Moore!” rowdy youngsters began chanting. To his credit, the man with an ego big enough to compete with his stomach, moved to quickly quash the idea.
“No, no, no,” Moore entreated them. “Please. That is a disgusting idea. This is not something you want to see rolling around in the White House.”
After a few moments of silence, a single voice shouted plaintively, “But we want Moore!” Well kid, I wanted to say, sometimes you can’t get what you want. Sometimes you just have to take what might beat George W. Bush.