Fahrenheit 9/11: Thumbs Up
Condemns Attempted Censorship
Rep. Charles B. Rangel
Friday, June 25, 2004; 11:30 AM
Filmmaker Michael Moore's documentary,
"Fahrenheit 9/11" is causing quite a stir.
The 112 minute film reflects Moore's take on what happened to the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks and how the Bush administration used the tragic events to push its agenda.
Is Moore using the film as a political campaign to defeat President Bush?
Buzz Around Moore's Movie May Be Able to Shake the Election
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), doesn't think so and held a press conference on Thursday at the Capitol "in support of the fundamental right to criticize an administration in time of war and the importance that citizens have access to such criticism."
He attended the Washington premiere at the Uptown Theatre on Thursday night.
Rangel was online Friday, June 25 at 11:30 ET, to discuss why he gives a thumbs up to the Michael Moore film.
The film opens in 900 theaters nationwide on Friday.
A transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Congressman Rangel, thanks for joining us today on washingtonpost.com. the movie, Fahrenheit 9/11 ... you've seen it. What did you think? Do you think it's a threat to Bush's presidency? And has Michael Moore violated campaign election laws, as conservative group Citizens United claims?
Rep. Charles B. Rangel: I certainly don't think it's a threat to the Bush presidency. It does put the president physically and politically in a very awkward position as relates to war. I really think if you support the president, then you can walk away from the movie believing that the movie made the president look awkward and stupid by taking things out of context. On the other hand, if you are against President Bush as I was and most of the viewing audience was, then you would say either the president lied or distorted the truth as relates to the war and he oft times makes statements that are not very right. What is making this movie so successful is that people who have never seen it started to attack it and that's it made it more popular than I think it ever would have been.
If this is considered violating the Federal Election Commission laws then nobody would be able to create a movie and have in it any sitting president. So this, too, is an action that is going to contribute to the further success of the movie. We have to remember that 1.) President Bush is a sitting president and everything he does can be considered political and 2.) the president has defined himself politically as the war president, so that means that anybody that's critical of his position on the war could be considered as violating the FEC. So I think that all of these criticisms and actions are frivolous and bring more attention to an already successful movie.
Will it help to elect John Kerry? If so, how?
Rep. Charles B. Rangel: I really think it will do more to discredit President Bush since it was not a pro-Sen. Kerry movie. It's a documentary and it shows the president's position on the war, the conduct of the war and his statements on the war. The truth of the matter is that more than bringing new information about how the president distorted the truth; how the president said he knew there were WMDs in Iraq; that he knew that Saddam Hussein was connected with al Qaeda; that he knew Saddam Hussein was connected with 9/ll ... all of these things that are reported in Fahrenheit 9/11 was not new information. It merely reinforced the truth and causes people to wonder what motivated President Bush to put our men and women in harm's way, to have a preemptive strike against Iraq merely to get Saddam Hussein
Do you think that the combination of this film and other efforts to involve more Americans in the campaign and election process will have the effect of increasing voter turnout in November?
Rep. Charles B. Rangel: I really, truly believe that movies like this, the turnover of Iraq to Iraqis on June 30, the stories that are coming home from the military, the atrocities that are being committed in the prisons, the stories about Wolfowitz, Cheney and Rumsfeld having met and decided in 1999 that Saddam should be removed by force; the fact that Rumsfeld has said that he doesn't know whether we're winning or losing the war; he doesn't know if we're creating more terrorists than we're killing; the fact that we're involved in a slog in Iraq; the fact that we cannot get our European friends to join forces with us as relates to the military; the fact that over 50 percent of the American people believe that they were deceived by the president and thought that Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for 9/11; the fact that over 800 men and women have died and over 5,000 have been wounded; the fact that we have exhausted and broken the morale of our reservists and National Guard; the fact that the president has no plan as to when the military will be able to withdraw from Iraq ... for all of these reasons, Americans truly believe that President Bush has lost credibility.
I've read the movie depicts our brave troops in Iraq as, "stupid, testosterone-enraged mindless killers, like a bunch of barbarians."
Is this true? If so, as a proud veteran yourself, do you feel our troops deserve to be treated better?
Rep. Charles B. Rangel: I don't really think that it shows that all of our troops have really conducted themselves in an uncivil and unmilitary manner but I do believe that journalists have a responsibility to expose wrongful conduct when it has been discovered. And we have to remember that these young people that conduct themselves in this way do so at the direction and support of their superiors. Some may say, "Well, look what the terrorists are doing when they behead a captive." I say, that's the way terrorists behave, but not Americans.
Didn't the right-wing push anti-Clinton videos and such during his presidency? Were federal campaign finance laws in effect then? If not, do people really believe that the right wing wouldn't be pushing anti-Gore films right about now if he were president?
Rep. Charles B. Rangel: I can't speculate about what people would or would not be doing with Gore. All I can talk about is what is actually taking place right now.
I have asked several conservatives who are protesting against this movie this question, and not a single one will answer it: Why are they so threatened by free speech? How can they reconcile their so-called patriotism with their attempts to control what movies the American people can see? Congressman, do you have any insight into what is so darn threatening about exercising free speech?
Rep. Charles B. Rangel: A very good question but I don't have an answer.
Do you think that the democratic challenge is so weak that they have to rely on Michael Moore to make any kind of headway?
Rep. Charles B. Rangel: My friends in London have enough to worry about with Tony Blair rather to be so involved with U.S. politics.
Sherman Oaks, Calif.:
Michael Moore hopes the film will bring more voters to the polls. Do you think that will happen?
Rep. Charles B. Rangel: Yes, but I really think that the voters are so polarized that we should expect that the normal 50 percent participation by Americans will dramatically increase. It's not just the film that's going to do it, it's going to be what happened in Florida which is in the film; the Iraq war which is in the film; how our military is being treated, which is in the film. But more important than the film itself, the publicity surrounding those people who are trying to prevent the film from being shown.
Rep. Charles B. Rangel: If it wasn't for the critics that are trying to prevent the screening of this movie, you and I would not be talking now
What would your reaction be to a movie with the opposite political view, i.e., supportive of the President and focusing on the more positive aspects of the war with Iraq? Wouldn't the left call it propaganda?
Rep. Charles B. Rangel: I guess we would but we would not try to prevent it from being shown.
Do you feel that the world will really be any different if Bush is not re-elected? Will anyone, with any politcal view, be able to change the hatred of us in the world or will it only grow stronger through the years?
Rep. Charles B. Rangel: One of the tremendous political shortfalls that President Bush has is his inability to admit that he's made a mistake. I really think that most people around the world know how well-intended Americans are. Once we have a president that is willing to admit that we meant well but we made a mistake and ask for help and direction in eliminating this cancer of terrorism that we can regain the goodwill that's been lost in the last four years.
Rep. Charles B. Rangel: I think that as Americans we should never forget that when we tamper with freedom of speech, it is a very sensitive issue that affects all of our consitutional rights and privileges. So whether you are Republican or Democrat or liberal or conservative, we should never, never, never allow ourselves emotionally to interfere with another person's right to express themselves.
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