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Moore Takes Aim At Bush, Networks

For several weeks now, Oscar winner Michael Moore's new movie "Fahrenheit 9/11," has been creating controversy, especially after it took top honors at the Cannes film festival last month.

The movie condemns President Bush for the war in Iraq, and it was made, Moore says in a heated interview with The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm, to express his concern about the direction this country has been led to in the past few years.

In one scene, Moore goes back to the early months of the Bush administration, showing the president playing golf with a voiceover stating: "With everything going wrong, he did what any of us would do. He went on vacation."

He concedes some of these were working vacations and tells Storm he shows the president with British Prime Minister Tony Blair during a working vacation in Crawford, Texas.

"He's not at the White House, and by the way, on the weekend, he's still president. So, you know, you like to believe that he's sort of on the job all the time. At least I like to believe my president is doing that. And I don't think this is a debatable point. Most people know in the first eight months when he was in office, he spent an inordinate amount of time in Crawford, Texas, in Kennebunkport and Camp David."

Moore denies his movie is a boon for Democrats. "When we started making it we didn't know when it would be done and we certainly didn't know who the Democratic nominee would be," he says.

"So we made this movie because we love this country and are deeply concerned about the direction it's been taking in the last few years. And we wanted to present a different side to the story than the one that has been presented over, you know, since 2001."

Personally, he says he does not want to see President Bush win the election, but he notes at the same time with "Fahrenheit 9/11," he is not telling people what to do.

"I don't think that's really my role," Moore says. "Certainly, I'm not in the voting booth with people so I don't know what's going to happen."

But he does hope to galvanize the swing vote and get more people to the polls. "Fifty percent of the people in this country don't vote," he says. "So anything that I can do to help bring out more people to vote, I'm happy about that."

And though the film won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival and has gotten excellent reviews, Storm points out a lot of people are questioning whether it allows viewers to think for themselves. Some say it is propaganda.

She quoted Christopher Hitchens who called the movie "a synister exercise in moral frivolity cruelly disguised as an exercise in seriousness." For example, Storm mentioned the scene where the president is in a classroom in Sarasota, Fla., after he learned that the nation was under attack on Sept. 11. Moore puts a timer on the scene and uses a voiceover.

Asked if that is fair, Moore says, "Well, sure. First of all, it's satire. The thoughts I'm voicing in his head are my humor. Actually, I think it's very generous that I'm even assuming he had thoughts in his head."

As for his film being propaganda, he says, "No. I consider the CBS Evening News propaganda. Why don't we talk about the news on this and the other networks that didn't do the job they should have done at the beginning of this war, demanded the evidence, asked the hard questions.

"We may not have even gone into this war, had these networks done their job. I mean, it was a great disservice to the American people because we depend on people who work here and the other networks to go after those in power and say, 'Hey, wait a minute. You want to send our kids off to war? We want to know where the weapons of mass destruction are. Let's see the proof. Let's see the proof Saddam Hussein had something to do with Sept. 11.' There was no proof and everybody got embedded and everybody rolled over and everybody knows that now," he says.

Storm notes the one thing that journalists try to do is present both sides of the story and "it could be argued you did not do that in this movie."

"I certainly didn't. That's right. I present my side," Moore says. "Because my side, that's the side of millions of Americans, rarely gets told. And so this is just a humble plea on my behalf, not to you personally, Hannah, but I' m saying to journalists in general that instead of working so hard to tell both sides of the story, why don't you just tell that one side, which is the administration's. Why don't you ask them the hard questions?"

Moore points out at the beginning of the war there was a lot of "cheerleading going on. A lot of cheerleading that didn't do the public any good to have journalists standing in front of the camera going whoopty-do, let's all go to war. It's not their kids going to war. It's not the children of the news executives going to war."

The film is not just an attack on the president and his policy, it also points out how the networks failed at the beginning of the war, Moore says. Perhaps his next film should be on the networks, Storm suggests. "I know. I think I should do that," Moore responds

As for reports that Moore now has to have a group of bodyguards around to protect himself from the death threats he is getting, he says that is not true. "I get offers of candy on the street," he says.