Will Michael Moore cash in on the second Bush term?

By Patrick Burke

Although George W. Bush may be Michael Moore’s greatest enemy in an ideological sense, there is no doubt that his term in the oval office has made life a little more comfortable for America’s favorite malcontent. For as much as he portrays himself as a stoic crusader for the politically alienated, Moore’s films, books, and books to accompany his films are hardly free. It is unlikely that Moore appears on The Daily Show or any cable news programs charitably either. This is not to say that Michael Moore is a complete fraud. There is no reason Moore cannot capitalize on his beliefs without sacrificing his sincerity. Nevertheless, there is some tension in the fact that, while Moore’s art is overtly revolutionary, Moore the artist has flourished off the status quo. The question becomes: How will Michael Moore’s highly lucrative, mildly parasitic relationship with President Bush evolve in the latter’s second term? What would Michael Moore’s response be to a potentially more liberal Bush presidency?

John Aschcroft’s potential replacement, the yet-to-be confirmed Judge Alberto Gonzales, hardly seems to be the typical plutocratic, uber-conservative politician vilified in Michael Moore’s works. Gonzales has been notoriously liberal in rulings on matters of abortion and has criticized Bush’s neglect of the U.N. regarding Iraq. The fact that President Bush, a cliché Moore villain, has appointed such a man as his attorney general hardly means that he is seeking to mold a more liberal White House for his second term in office. However, Moore’s work, most notably the documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, is dependent on the ostentatious extremism of the first Bush White House. If the presence of a man such as Alberto Gonzales were to tone down or obfuscate the politics of the Bush White House, Moore could be in trouble. A work such as Fahrenheit 9/11 is largely dependent on its villains voicing their strong positions publicly. Moore’s main method in discrediting the Bush White House throughout the documentary is to underscore the ridiculous nature of its key figures’ public appearances, actions, and discourse. Even if the Bush White House portrayed in Fahrenheit 9/11 were not to change at all in Bush’s second term, the absence of men like Ashcroft could render it rather difficult for a man like Michael Moore to ridicule. As a common citizen and more so as an incendiary journalist, Moore’s access to President Bush has its limits. If the appointment of men like Alberto Gonzales, who is rather invincible to the rhetoric and judgments of Moore, is to become a trend in the second Bush term, Michael Moore could find himself unable to unearth the villainy.

There is the possibility, of course, that the appointment of a man like Gonzales is a sign of an increased liberalism in the second Bush term. Hypothetically, such a phenomenon would put a man like Moore in an even more interesting position. Fahrenheit 9/11, in many ways, is the pinnacle of the artistry of a man like Moore. In his earlier films Moore simply criticizes elements of the establishment. Fahrenheit 9/11, however, attacks the very essence of the establishment itself. After making such a film can Michael Moore reasonably return to exposing the petty tyranny of corporate moguls and celebrities? In other words, would a more moderate Bush White House or, rather, a less openly conservative Bush White House serve to trivialize Michael Moore? Only time will tell if the second term of the Bush presidency is another four-year jackpot for perhaps the richest muckraker alive.