Tempers are hot in the capital over Michael Moore's anti-Bush production, "Fahrenheit 9/11" -- and not just in the White House. Now one of the filmmaker's old friends on the far left is accusing Moore of being . . . fat?
On Thursday, Moore was the recipient of an open letter from independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, who seems stung that his former friend and supporter has parted ways with him and gone to the Democrats. Miffed that he was not invited to the Washington premiere of "Fahrenheit 9/11," Nader, whose 6-foot-4 frame is a lean 190 pounds, said Moore's former Naderite friends are "trim and take care of themselves. Girth they avoid. The more you let them see you, the less they will see of you."
It was but the latest unsolicited advice offered by the consumer advocate. Earlier in the week, it was Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry's turn to hear from adviser Nader. "I want to urge you to select Senator John Edwards as your vice presidential candidate," Nader wrote, praising Edwards's support for Americans' right to sue. It's not clear what Kerry's incentive is to heed the advice, though; Nader said he will remain in the race -- playing a potential spoiler -- even if Kerry picks Edwards.
"My interest is simple," Nader said in a phone interview Friday. "If I was in the Abolition Party in 1840, I'd want a vice president in the Whig Party against slavery." The consumer advocate has also provided helpful advice to President Bush in the past on homeland security and tax matters, including a suggestion to "give your tax windfall to Iraqi children."
Still, none quite compares to his offer to help Moore with his weight. "We are more saddened than angered by this," a Moore associate said, noting the particular pathos in Nader's missing invitation to the movie premiere. "It is just sad."
But the advice continues to flow to Moore from candidate Nader. "I've been at him for years, saying 'you've got to lose weight,' " Nader said in the phone interview. "Now, he's doubled. Private exhortations aren't working. It's extremely serious. He's over 300 pounds. He's like a giant beach ball."
With that, Nader offered free advice to the Sunday Politics column: "Don't you have better things to write about?"
Nader may be on the outs with his old pal Moore, but he is finding new friends this campaign season. The conservative group Citizens for a Sound Economy, co-chaired by former House majority leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.), called its Oregon members to attend a Nader state convention in Portland yesterday. The goal: Get Nader on the Oregon ballot in November and thus draw votes from Kerry in hopes of securing a Bush victory. The phone script: "Ralph Nader is undoubtedly going to pull some very crucial votes from John Kerry, and that could mean the difference in a razor-thin presidential election. Can we count on you to come out on Saturday night and sign the petition to nominate Ralph Nader?"
Democrats say that Oregon is not an isolated case and that at least 17 of the 92 people who have given Nader $2,000 contributions are regular GOP donors. Citizens for a Sound Economy spokesman Chris Kinnan said the group's chapters will help put Nader on the ballot in other states "if they see an opportunity."
Swing Low, Sweet Candidates
America remains the land of the swingers, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. The nonpartisan polling outfit sought to debunk the notion that this is a "base election" in which candidates try to mobilize partisans because undecided voters are scarce.
Pew found that 21 percent of registered voters are undecided or have a preferred candidate but might change their minds -- compared with 32 percent at this time in 2000 and 27 percent in 1996. "There are considerably fewer swing voters now than at this point in the previous three presidential campaigns," the group concluded. "But the swing vote, while smaller in relative terms, is still substantial and certainly large enough to propel either of the presidential candidates to a big victory."
Shady Second Chances
America Coming Together, the "527" group working to defeat Bush in November, gave new meaning to its name last week when the Associated Press reported that the group had hired people convicted of burglary, assault and sex offenses to go door to door in Missouri, Florida and Ohio. The organization has since ordered background checks on all 1,300 canvassers and any future hires, and those with violent felony convictions will be dismissed.
But while Republicans are chortling, ACT is not retreating quietly. "Given that the president and the vice president have three DUI arrests between them, we assume that they both believe in forgiveness and second chances," said the group's spokesman, Jim Jordan.
Political researcher Brian Faler contributed to this report.