- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 4, 2004

Excited about “Fahrenheit 9/11”? It’s the Palme d’Or-winning and doubtless soon to be Oscar-winning “documentary” from average blue-collar multi-millionaire Michael Moore. I saw it last weekend with an audience comprised wholly of informed, intelligent sophisticates.

I knew they were informed, intelligent sophisticates because they howled with laughter at every joke about what a bozo George W. Bush is. They split their sides during the patriotic ballad — eagles soaring, etc — composed and sung by John Ashcroft, the famously sinister attorney general.

Mr. Moore reveals — and if you feel knowing the plot would spoil the movie, please skip to the next paragraph — that Mr. Bush is a privileged simpleton under the control of war-crazed Big Oil interests who arranged to have the 2000 election stolen for him. I hadn’t heard that before, had you?

Once Mr. Moore gets past his recounting of the Florida recount, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I agreed with in the movie. For example, he is very hard on the Saudis, and the unique access to the Bush family enjoyed by their oleaginous ambassador in Washington, Prince Bandar.

He is also very mocking of the absurdities of post-September 11 airport security, alighting on a poor mom forced to drink a beaker of her own breast milk in front of passengers before boarding to demonstrate the liquid wasn’t incendiary.

As we left, the couple ahead of me said they thought Mr. Bush would have a hard job responding to these shocking revelations. I didn’t like to point out they could have heard about all this stuff years ago just by reading yours truly.

I mentioned the breast-milk incident in a column on Aug. 10, 2002. I called for Prince Bandar to be booted back to Saudi Arabia in November 2002, and I have been urging the dismantling of the kingdom — Washington’s out-of-control Frankensaud monster — for almost three years now, since within a month of September 11.

So in theory I ought to welcome Michael Moore as a comrade-in-arms. But the trouble with “Fahrenheit 9/11” is you don’t come away mad at the Saudis or America’s useless bureaucracy, you come away mad at Mr. Bush — or, if not mad, feeling snobbishly superior to him.

If feeling snobbishly superior to the president isn’t your bag, what’s left is an incoherent bore. Mr. Moore follows his GUT, by which I mean his Grand Universal Theory: Mr. Bush is to blame for everything. Because of Mr. Bush, the Saudis secretly run U.S. policy. Because of Mr. Bush, the Taliban were in bed with Texas energy executives. Because of Mr. Bush, the Taliban got toppled … .

Whoa, hold up a minute, I thought he was all pals with the Taliban. The Saudis certainly were, which is why they opposed the liberation of Afghanistan.

But by now Mr. Moore has moved on to pointing out that Mr. Bush’s Afghan stooge Hamid Karzai used to work for the Texas energy company panting for that big Afghan gas pipeline.

But hang on, I thought the Texan energy guys already had the Taliban in their pockets and were funded by the Saudis … “Connecting the dots” is all very well, but not when you’ve got more dots in your picture than Seurat.

Mr. Bush has always been the issue for Mr. Moore. On September 11 itself, his only gripe was that the terrorists had targeted New York and D.C. instead of Texas or, indeed, my beloved New Hampshire: “They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who did not vote for him. Boston, New York, D.C. and the plane’s destination of California — these were places that voted against Bush.”

The fellows at the controls of those planes were training for September 11 when Bill Clinton was president and Al Gore was ahead in the polls, and they would have still been in the cockpit had Ralph Nader been elected.

Though Mohamed Atta took flying lessons in Florida, he apparently wasn’t as worked up about its notorious hanging chads as Michael Moore. Mr Moore is guilty of what I believe psychologists call “projection”

The “Why didn’t you terrorists kill the Bush voters?” line is not reprised in the movie, but the strange preoccupations it betrays drive the entire picture. Here’s the way it works: If George Bush is wearing the blue boxer shorts, they’re a suspicious personal gift from Crown Prince Abdullah. If George Bush is wearing the red boxer shorts, it’s a conspiracy to distract public attention from the blue ones he was given by Abdullah. If he’s wearing no boxer shorts, it’s because he’s so dumb he can’t find his underwear in the morning.

So, shortly after September 11, Mr. Moore wrote footage of one of the World Trade Center planes showed it was trailed by an F-16 — ie, the government could have shot it down but chose not to, so it could hit all those Al Gore voters. Imagine if, on September 11, 2001, the U.S. Air Force had blown four passenger jets to kingdom come. Mr. Moore’s film would be filled with poignant home movies of final Christmases and birthday parties and exploitative footage of anguished parents going to Washington to demand the truth about what happened that day and an end to the lame Bush spin about vague “threats” to public buildings.

Midway through the picture, a “peace” activist provides a perfect distillation of its argument. He recalls a conversation with an acquaintance, who observed, “Bin Laden’s a real a … for killing all those people.” “Yeah,” says the “pacifist”, “but he’ll never be as big an a … as Bush.”

That’s who Michael Moore makes films for: those sophisticates who know that, no matter how many people Osama bin Laden kills, in the a … hit parade he’ll always come a distant second to Mr. Bush. Why, even Saddam Hussein, at his arraignment on Thursday, sounded awfully like he had just seen “Fahrenheit 9/11” at the Loews Baghdad Roxy: “This is all theater. … The real criminal is Bush.”

I can understand the point of being Michael Moore: There’s a lot of money in it. What’s harder to figure out is the point of being a devoted follower of Michael Moore. Apparently, the sophisticated, cynical intellectual class is so naive it’ll fall for any old hooey peddled by a preening opportunist burlesque act. If the Saudis were smart, they’d have bought him up years ago, established his anti-Saudi credentials, and then used him to promote the defeat of their nemesis George Bush.

Hmm. Maybe they don’t need to. Stick him in a headdress and he looks like King Fahd’s brother.

All I’m saying is connect the dots … .

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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