Michael Moore is an Academy-Award winning filmmaker and best-selling author
Yesterday I was fortunate to be a guest on The View and The Colbert Report. As time ran out on both shows while I was in mid-sentence (or, as in the case with The View, a change of topic) I was not allowed to complete my thought. Which is ok -- TV shows have a finite amount of time, and there's lots to discuss in the five to eight minutes alloted for my segment.
Many of you have written to me to ask, "What was it you were going to say?" Thank you. And now I will tell you:
BIN LADEN AND "PRO-LIFE"
The kindly conservative co-host on The View, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, was upset that I had said that if Osama bin Laden had been captured, he should have been put on trial. She, like the majority of Americans, believe he should have been shot dead like the animal he was. And if the SEAL who shot him had to act in self-defense, then I agree. But if he were to be captured, then I think even the most heinous of criminals must not only get his day in court, we, the public -- and the victims --- deserve to have that day, too. It also says to the world that we are still a nation of laws unless you work for a Wall Street bank or if you're a person of color (only one of those two groups fills our prisons). It also says, if you kill our people, we will hunt you down and bring you to justice.
After all, we put the Nazis on trial. Talk about heinous -- these guys murdered over 10 million in the concentration camps and started a war that resulted in the deaths of at least 40 million more. And yet, they got their day in court. That wasn't seen as coddling them. It was decided that the world needed a record of their atrocities and a trial would provide just that. Having a trial doesn't mean the guilty go free -- most of the Nazis were hung (or committed suicide before they could be executed). It sent a strong message: if anybody ever thinks of doing this again, this is how it ends for you.
My saying this (you can watch the video here) created a cluster bomb on the panel with five people talking at once. As the segment ended, Elizabeth asked me if I were "pro-life." I didn't know what that had to do with anything, but I knew what I wanted to say. I said, "Yes..." -- and at that moment they cut to commercial. That made it sound like I was anti-abortion -- when what I was going to say was "Yes, I believe in letting our soldiers live, letting the people of Afghanistan and Iraq live, etc. etc." But all the audience got to hear was "Yes."
I was asked about Obama and how I felt about the job he's doing. Here's the transcript:
ME: I think I'm like a lot of people who voted for him. First of all, I'm disappointed that the other party -- he came in holding an olive branch, and they just whacked it out of his hand, and he keeps holding the olive branch, and they keep whacking it out of his hand. And I think that's great that he came in that way. But after the 5th or 10th or 20th time of whacking it out of his hand, he should have just said, Look, I'm so sorry you don't want government to function. But I was elected with 10 million more votes than the other guy, by an overwhelming margin, and therefore this is the way we're going to do it, I'm so sorry.
CO-HOST JOY BEHAR: So why do you think he doesn't behave that way? Is it that angry black man thing that he's afraid of projecting?
ME: Wow, well, I'm not a shrink, so I don't know.
BEHAR: That was an issue during the campaign ... that if you get angry and you're a black guy in this country, people turn on you for that.
CO-HOST BARBARA WALTERS: When you read his book and you read his mother's book, she talks about how she trained him not to react and to stay calm.
To lighten things up I decided to repeat a Bill Maher joke (something Bill said recently about how he voted for the "black half" of Obama, and got the "white half.") Note to self: Tell your own jokes. Don't try to quote the material of trained professionals. I'll let Bill continue on in his own words when he made his point on his show:
BILL MAHER: Isn't Obama's big problem that he does everything half-assed? Maybe it's because he's only half black ... If he was fully black, I'm telling you, he would be a better president. There's a white man inside him holding him back because everything is half-assed. The stimulus was half-assed, healthcare is half-assed ...
I tried to explain on The View that Bill was a comedian -- but then I remembered you can't really explain comedy. Satire has been around for a long time. Jonathan Swift, in the 18th century, wrote a famous essay about how the Irish should solve their famine problem: Eat their babies. Of course, he didn't actually mean that. Quite the contrary -- he was attacking the policies of the British government that were allowing the Irish to starve to death. There were many that didn't understand he was employing humor to make a political point. It's the sort of thing you either get or you don't. If you take Maher literally, it sounds crass. But he's being crass to make the larger point: There are a lot of white people who hate Obama because he's black, and he has endured their hatred to the point of even having to prove he was born. Here. The history of black America -- and this is at the core of Maher's joke -- is this: Oppressor=white. Why Obama has chosen to continue Bush's wars and take positions as bad or worse than his predecessor's (delaying new EPA pollution standards that could save up to 12,000 lives per year is the most recent example) has baffled many, including Bill Maher and me. Why appease the white Republicans who hate you? Let's not forget, McCain won the white vote (57% of all white men, 53% of white women) and the ONLY white demographic that Obama won was among 18-29 year olds. (Allow me to point out again that, because the Democrats have been the party of Civil Rights for the past half-century, this has cost them the white male vote in nearly every election. The Dems who've made it to the White House have done it while LOSING the white male vote in their elections, with the exception of John F. Kennedy in '60 and Lyndon Johnson in '64).
Jokes, and certainly satire, exist to point out society's foibles and to give people a chance to laugh at the things they're uncomfortable about and to laugh at those who are abusing their position of power. I don't think that Bill Maher thinks that just because Obama is black (or "half-black") that means Obama's going to "kick ass" or be more sensitive to the plight of the oppressed. You need go no further than Clarence Thomas's seat on the Supreme Court to see just how naïve a thought like that would be.
THE NBA AND NFL
We ran out of time on Stephen Colbert (sorry, I can never stop laughing when I'm on his show), so what I started to say about the owners threatening to cancel this year's NBA season was this:
The billionaire owners of our professional sports teams are only allowed to make the profits they do because our taxpayer-funded PUBLIC SCHOOLS provided the teacher-coaches who developed and trained these young people, turning them into great athletes, and thus creating a comodity that sports owners can get rich off of. The sports owners didn't build the gymnasium at the high school where Michael Jordan became Michael Jordan. They didn't build the football field where Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers was able to practice his craft. The average working American paid for that. The rich like to talk about how the market creates wealth and that a privatized entity is better than one owned by the government. These sports owners would be NOWHERE without the public school teachers and facilities that provided the FREE training that now results in the money they amass in their taxpayer-backed stadiums and arenas.
So, where do they get off denying the average working person one of their few escapes -- which they, the working stiffs, provided all the seed money for?
That's what I was going to say.
(If you'd like to hear an interview where I spoke in long form yesterday, please listen to this from NPR.)
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