Back-to-Back GOP Bashing

Posted June 21, 2004 at 6:56pm

Back-to-Back GOP Bashing. Hold your ears if you still have a headache from the impeachment years, ’cause partisan rhetoric is fixin’ to reach a fever pitch again.

Coinciding with the publication of former President Bill Clinton’s memoirs, “My Life,” two anti-Republican documentaries make their debuts in Washington this week — and along with them, expect some serious mudslinging from both ends of the ideological divide. [IMGCAP(1)]

Clinton-family pal Harry Thomason is holding a private sneak preview tonight at Indie filmhouse Visions Cinema of his film “The Hunting of the President,” a no-holds-barred attack on what the former President’s first lady dubbed “the vast right-wing conspiracy.” And premiering at the Uptown tomorrow night is Michael Moore’s highly publicized, highly charged “Fahrenheit 911,” which opens to the public on Friday.

Unlike the blockbuster, star-studded unveilings in Little Rock and New York, “The Hunting of the President” preview will be a small affair in Washington, in large part, Thomason tells HOH, because everyone who wasn’t driven out of town by Whitewater and the Kenneth Starr investigation has only recently regained their composure. “See, these are the people who will be least interested because they lived through it,” Thomason explained dryly.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), a former policy aide to Clinton, is hosting the event with Thomason. When asked what he thought of the documentary, Emanuel put a diplomatic spin on it, perhaps keeping in mind his constituents who are Reagan Democrats: “I’m sure it’s not a film for everyone.” When asked why he was hosting the premiere in the first place, he said, “A: Harry is a friend; B: I saw part of the movie; and, C: he needed some help. So I said I’d put my name on it.” And with that, Emanuel said he was out of time and had to go. (Gee whiz — just asking.)

While Thomason’s movie will surely stir controversy, it’s Moore’s film, the winner of the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, that is causing the real ruckus. Republican political activists, fresh off a full-court press to bash Clinton’s new book (with unexpected help from that well-known font of conservatism, The New York Times) are now doubly busy trying to discredit “Fahrenheit 911.”

Moore, whose film represents a scathing attack on President Bush’s response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and his administration’s subsequent policies, including the invasion of Iraq, has made no bones about his hope that the film will help oust Bush from the White House. And when the film hits Washington on Wednesday, GOP attack dogs will have their gloves on.

Already, critics have been all over the Internet urging people not to go see the movie, citing Disney’s and its subsidiary Miramax’s decision not to distribute the film. (The documentary is being released by Canada-based Lions Gate.)

Conservative hatchetman David Bossie calls Moore’s movie a “political ad,” a distinction Bossie says he’ll take to higher levels later this week when his group Citizens United launches what could be a legal attack on the film.

There’s also a new Moore-bashing book called — with a wink towards Moore’s best selling oeuvre — “Michael Moore Is a Big Fat Stupid White Man,” scheduled to be published by ReganBooks, a division of HarperCollins, which is owned, conspiracy-seekers take note, by Rupert Murdoch of Fox News fame.

In addition, at least one GOP candidate is trying to use the movie against his opponent Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D), who appears prominently in Moore’s documentary saying the Bush administration helped get U.S.-based relatives of Osama bin Laden to Saudi Arabia on 9/11 after the government shut down air transportation. Dorgan’s opponent, Mike Liffrig, calls Michael Moore, a “radical leftist.”

But Democratic activists are doing their part to defend “Fahrenheit 911.” When the film opens at hundreds of theaters this Friday, the liberal group MoveOn PAC plans to hold media events in several battleground states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Iowa, Nevada and Florida.

The group — the political action committee wing of MoveOn.org — says its goal is to “crush right-wing efforts to intimidate movie houses into now showing the film.” Furthermore, the group says, “It’s extremely important for every American to see this film and question why this administration has made the choices that it has, and why American soldiers are dying in Iraq.”

Bush’s New Golf Joke? OK, so Arnold Palmer, Doris Day, the Pope and Estee Lauder are teeing off on the 18th hole when all of a sudden, Gordon Hinckley, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Rita Moreno, the teacher from “Fame” show up.

Sorry, that’s where the joke ends. They’re not playing golf together, but what would you think these people have in common?

They’ve all been chosen by President Bush to receive the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award, this year. The ceremony will be Wednesday (which we hope to catch late-night on C-SPAN reruns).

Other recipients, according to the White House, include Edward Brooke (R-Mass.), the first black person elected to the Senate and former Brown University President Vartan Gregorian. Arnall Patz, a pioneer ophthalmologist and researcher, and Walter Wriston, a former head of Citibank, will also get the medal.

Pope John Paul II received his medal already during Bush’s visit to the Vatican.

New Reaganomics. They waited a full week and a weekend. But now Democratic critics are coming out of the woodwork to assail GOP efforts to put Ronald Reagan on the dime, the half dollar, the $10 bill, $20 bill, Mount Rushmore — and are we forgetting anything else?

Democrats for America’s Future — a “527” group whose board of advisers includes James Carville, former Labor secretary Robert Reich and former ambassador and Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) — are trying to keep Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the dime and John F. Kennedy on the half-dollar.

The group has set up a web site, www.SaveTheFDRDime.org (no space for JFK in the URL, it seems), that invites like-minded people to let it be known that they “do not want the images of the two American heroes removed from the dime and the 50-cent piece as an ill-conceived tribute to President Ronald Reagan.”

“It simply isn’t necessary to trash the memories of FDR and JFK to honor Ronald Reagan,” says Jennifer Petty, executive director of Democrats for America’s Future.

On the web site, Petty urges supporters to e-mail members of the Senate task force on Reagan’s commemoration and tell them that the images of FDR and JFK “should not be dumped on the ash heap of history in order to make way for any other President.”

A spokesman for Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), a member of the task force, says he’s never heard of Democrats for America’s Future and suggests they crawl back into obscurity. Furthermore, he says, to his knowledge, the task force hasn’t even discussed putting Reagan on any coins.

“Maybe they should flip a coin and go in some other direction,” the spokesman, Brian Hart, says.

Another GOP aide, on a more serious note, says the Democratic group has little to worry about. “The direction has been more toward bills than coins,” he says. (Beware, groupies of Alexander Hamilton and the first G.W.)

The task force — which, in addition to Brownback, includes Sens. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) after the deluge of bills trying to put Reagan’s picture and name all over the map. The task is supposed to report back with final recommendations later this year.