Michael Moore, Triumphant?
Dokoupil, Tony, Newsweek
Byline: Tony Dokoupil
In a new memoir, the controversial filmmaker opens up about his life. He talks about the vitriol he faced after 9/11, and why he thinks the last decade has proved him right.
To read Michael Moore's new memoir, Here Comes Trouble, is to realize that the lefty filmmaker has--for all his opposition to it--had a very good war. Before 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, he was a localized nuisance, a spur in the flank of corporate America, and a Pied Piper of far-left activists. That began to change the moment he won an Oscar for his anti-gun documentary, Bowling for Columbine. Rather than the usual curtsy and wave, Moore seized the spotlight, damning President Bush from the podium as a "fictitious president" who won a "fictitious election" and was now taking the country to war for "fictitious reasons." Just four nights after the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, with most of the country in lockstep with its commander in chief, the speech bombed. Even Hollywood booed.
"What I didn't understand then," Moore writes in a book of two dozen personal vignettes, including this first detailed account of his odyssey after 9/11, "was that it had to start somewhere, someone had to say it." Moore credits himself with launching the backlash against President Bush--firing "the first small salvo" in what would later become a national fusillade--and a few other triumphs besides. Since 9/11, he has published two bestselling books, released four of the 10 highest-grossing documentaries of all time, and barnstormed College Town U.S.A., signing up droves of enraptured young voters.
Now he is directing his outrage at President Obama, a man he helped win office in 2008. "I don't understand why he's chosen the path he's chosen, why he did not come in fighting for the working people of this country," Moore tells Newsweek. "He could have been a great president. He could have pulled us back from the abyss." Instead, "he came in more as Neville Chamberlain, wanting to appease Republicans." Moore hasn't even decided whether he'll vote for Obama again in 2012; he likes Jon Huntsman on the Republican side, saying "it's crazy time over there" and Huntsman is the only "sane candidate." "If the Republicans were smart, they would nominate [him]."
But Moore is also showing signs of mellowing. Now 57, he is looking back over his years, and smiling. Aside from the 9/11 story, all the anecdotes in this volume cover Moore's birth through his mid-30s, the years of his greatest political awakenings, including a misguided campaign for Richard Nixon, run-ins with Ronald Reagan and Bobby Kennedy, and a surprising amount of prepubescent sex talk. He is planning a second volume to cover the period up to the present day. But politically he feels like a lot of the work is already done.
"I think I've been successful in changing people's minds," he says. "If you look at the positions I held a decade ago, when I was out on a limb, I still hold them, but I'm not out on a limb anymore. …