We’ve got to repudiate, you know, the most strident and insulting anti-American voices
out there sometimes on our party’s left… We can’t have our party identified by Michael Moore and
Hollywood as our cultural values.
CEO, Democratic Leadership Council
You know, let’s let Hollywood and the Cannes Film Festival fawn all over Michael Moore. We
ought to make it pretty clear that he sure doesn’t speak for us when it comes to standing up for our
Will Marshall, President of the Progressive Policy Institute,
the think-tank of the DLC
THE FIRST THING I thought when reading these passagesboth taken from a “soul-searching”
roundtable held by the Democratic Leadership Councilwas this: Who the hell is Will Marshall?
I couldn’t remember seeing his name at the top of anybody’s ballot. I didn’t
remember which, if any, elections he had ever won. I was a little mystified, in fact, by the nature
of his popular supportwho he meant, exactly, when he used the word “we” to talk about whom
Michael Moore does and does not speak for.
According to the last data I could find, Moore recently made a movie that
was seen by tens of millions of people around the world and has grossed nearly $120 million in the
U.S. alone. Furthermore, it was, according to exit polls, a much better demographic success than
the actual Democratic party. A Harris poll conducted in July found that 89 percent of Democrats
agreed with Fahrenheit 9/11, along with 70 percent of independents. That means Moore outperformed
John Kerry among independents by about 19 points, if we are to go just by the data presented by bum-licking
power-worshipper Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times at the DLC roundtable.
Moore’s revenues come from millions of ordinary people paying 10 bucks
a pop to see his film. In contrast, only about 200 people a year visit the DLC at the box officeonly
they pay thousands of dollars per ticket, and they all have names you’d recognize: Eli Lilly, Coca-Cola,
Union Carbide, Occidental Petroleum, BP and so on.
Like Moore, Marshall is a media figure. He is one of the chief contributors
to Blueprint magazine, the flagship publication of the DLC. Despite the fact that subscriptions
to this magazine are included free with membership in the DLC, its annual circulation still lags
slightly behind the gate for Fahrenheit 9/11, with about 20,000 readers per year.
An unfair dig, you say: Blueprint is a trade magazine. Seen in
that light, it indeed appears a much better market performer, with only about six times fewer readers
than the industry bible for horror makeup artists, Fangoria.
While it is not exactly clear who else Marshall is talking about in this
quote, it is fairly clear that he means that Michael Moore does not speak for him personally. Which
makes sense, of course.
In addition to his duties as the president of the PPI, Marshall kept himself
busy in the last few years. Among other things, he served on the board of the Committee for the Liberation
of Iraq, an organization co-chaired by Joe Lieberman and John McCain whose aim was to build bipartisan
support for the invasion of Iraq.
Marshall also signed, at the outset of the war, a letter issued by the
Project for the New American Century (PNAC) expressing support for the invasion. Marshall signed
a similar letter sent to President Bush put out by the conservative Social Democrats/USA group
on Feb. 25, 2003, just before the invasion. The SD/USA letter urged Bush to commit to “maintaining
substantial U.S. military forces in Iraq for as long as may be required to ensure a stable, representative
regime is in place and functioning.”
One of just a handful of Marshall’s co-signatories on that letter was
Bruce Jackson, who also happens to be the head of the PNAC (whose letter Marshall also signed) and
the founder of the aforementioned Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Jackson is not only a neo-con
of high rank and one of the chief pom-pom wavers for the war effort. He was also a vice president in
the weapons division of Lockheed-Martin between 1993 and 2002meaning that he was one of
the implied targets of Bowling for Columbine, which came out in Jackson’s last year with
Clearly, Marshall was thinking about the good of the Democratic Party,
and not the integrity of his grimy little network of missile-humping cronies, when he and Al From
made the curiousand curiously conspicuousdecision to denounce Moore, Hollywood
and France at the DLC meeting in early November.
There were a number of things that were strange about the release of this
obviously coordinated series of sound bites from the DLC heavies.
For one thing, people like Al From, Donna Brazile and DLC president Bruce
Reedevent speakers who are all high-level political heavyweights whose instinct for
spontaneity died with their souls 100 years ago, and would never say anything without first calculating
its potential impactwould seem to gain very little by mentioning Moore’s name at all in
To say openly in front of a roomful of reporters that the party has to disavow
Michael Moore is to remind a roomful of reporters that the Democratic party is still currently linked
to Michael Moore. This would be like George Bush Sr. using the word “wimp” in public, or John Kerry
using the word “effete” or “snob.” No alert political operative would recommend it, under normal
Furthermore, as both Marshall and From surely know, there was no effort
whatsoever even this time around by the Democratic Party to associate itself with Michael Moore.
Excepting the brief and mostly unrequited love affair between Moore and Wes Clark, most of the party
candidates recoiled from the fat director as from a diseased thing throughout the entire campaign
season. They’ve already kept him at arm’s lengthwhy talk about the need to do it again? Why
bring him up at all?
Well, that’s easy. It’s one thing to avoid public appearances with a
Michael Moore, and to accept his support only tacitly. But it’s another thing entirely to openly
denounce him as anti-American, which is what Al From did last week.
What From, Marshall and the other DLC speakers were doing last week was
not just ruminating out loud about the need to shy away from certain demonized liberal icons. They
were, instead, announcing their willingness to embrace the other side’s tacticI hate
to lean on this overused word, but it is a McCarthyite tacticof branding certain
individuals as traitors and anti-Americans. What they were doing was sending up a trial balloon,
to see if anyone noticed this chilling affirmative shift in strategy and tactics.
Well, I noticed. I also noticed that unless something is done about it,
this unelected bund of corporate pawns is once again going to end up writing the party platform and
arranging things to make sure that no antiwar candidate is allowed to compete for votes in the primaries.
It will push one of its ownprobably Harold Ickes, or Brazilein next year’s election
for the chairman of the Democratic Party. And when that person wins, the tens of millions of Democrats
who opposed the war will have to get used to people like Will Marshall referring to them as “we” in
front of roomfuls of reportersMarshall, who this year wrote, in Blueprint, an
article entitled “Stay and Win in Iraq” that offered the following view of the progress of the war:
“Coalition forces still face daily attacks but the body count tilts
massively in their favor.”
Uh-huh. And Michael Moore and Hollywood are the problem with the Democratic