Friday, January 7, 2005

Sen. Barbara Boxer says Michael Moore’s film “Fahrenheit 9/11” had nothing to do with her challenge of Ohio’s 20 electoral votes, but she nevertheless regrets not challenging the Florida electoral votes four years ago.

Mr. Moore’s Bush-bashing movie “had nothing to do with what I’m doing now,” she says.

At one point in the 2004 film, Mr. Moore scolded Senate Democrats for remaining mute as members of the Congressional Black Caucus contested the assignment of 25 pivotal Florida electoral votes to President Bush in the 2000 election.

But Mrs. Boxer said “Fahrenheit 9/11” gave her guilt feelings about her deference to Vice President Al Gore’s request that his Democratic colleagues not contest the Electoral College count over the disputed 2000 race in Florida.

“It did make me, again, think about the fact that I didn’t stand up those years ago, because I was relying on Vice President Gore, and I felt I should have stepped back and looked at the bigger picture in retrospect.”

“Looking back on it, I wish I had,” she said.

The California Democrat specifically credited her change of mind on challenging the Ohio votes on a fellow Democratic lawmaker.

She had “no intention” of protesting until she spoke with Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio, and became convinced that an opportunity to force a debate on election reform was looming.

Mrs. Boxer attended the “Fahrenheit 9/11” premiere in Washington in the summer with other top Democrats, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and South Dakota’s Tom Daschle, who at the time was Senate minority leader. She says the film “made me think about the fact that I didn’t stand up” against the Florida vote.

Some, however, found a Moore connection on Capitol Hill.

In a speech before the House yesterday, Rep. Deborah Pryce, Ohio Republican, said Mrs. Boxer and other Democrats “cast themselves as Michael Moore, spinning conspiracy theories to distract the American people.”

Mr. Moore, in the meantime, sent an open letter to the 109th Congress this week, urging Democrats to do him “a favor” and force a debate over the Ohio vote.

In a missive posted at his Web site Tuesday, Mr. Moore tried to rally Senate Democrats.

“Something isn’t right in Ohio and more than a dozen members of the House of Representatives believe it is worth investigating,” Mr. Moore wrote.

He referred to the sight of passive Democrats shrugging off the Florida controversy four years ago — a scene caught in his film — as “a very embarrassing moment.”

Mr. Moore scolded in his letter, “Remember that? You thought no one would ever notice, didn’t you? You certainly lucked out that night when the networks decided not to show how you shut down every single member of the Congressional Black Caucus.”

Mr. Moore framed his challenge to Senate Democrats as a shot at redemption. “Here is your one shining moment of courage. Will you allow the gavel to come down on our black members of Congress once again? Or will you stand up for their right to object?” he asked.

• Amy Fagan contributed to this report.

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