Michael Moore brought his “Slacker Uprising Tour” to the Liacouras Center on Thursday night. Moore has been touring the country, visiting cities in 20 swing states to encourage young people to get out and vote on Nov. 2. Philadelphia was his 39th stop of the 60 cities on his tour.
People from across the Greater Philadelphia and suburban region were in attendance. Media outlets from around the world were there as well, including TV Tokyo, Swiss TV and a South African magazine called This Day.
Despite Moore’s hour-late entrance, the crowd inside the stadium gave him a warm and enthusiastic welcome. Moore joked that he was late because George W. Bush’s plane was leaving Philadelphia when Moore’s plane was trying to land.
Moore opened the show by talking to the audience and joking about the high level of security.
“Is there something I don’t know? Something I should know?” Moore asked. Moore also expressed his optimism about Nov. 2, a statement that drew loud screams and applause from the crowd.
Moore noted that students are historically the largest non-voting group in presidential elections.
“The 50 percent who are the non-voters are never called by pollsters and are usually ignored by candidates. Should just a few percentage points of the 100 million non-voters decide to show up on Nov. 2 – watch out,” Moore said in a press release. Moore’s goal is to get over 56 percent of the eligible population to vote in November’s election, something that hasn’t happened since 1968.
After a brief banter session with the audience, Moore launched into an informal speech that took a decidedly anti-Bush tone. He first ridiculed the President for his performance during the three presidential debates, poking fun at George W. Bush’s repeated statement that being President is “hard work”.
An audience member chimed in and yelled out, “How would he know!?”
Moore replied by saying that Bush wouldn’t know, because he has been on vacation 40 percent of the time, echoing a line from his film Fahrenheit 9/11.
Moore then made a distinction between Republicans, whom calling them “the minority” and Democrats, whom he called “the majority.”
“The majority of Americans” support the assault weapons ban, stronger environmental laws and they believe that “the government has no business with its hands on the reproductive organs of women in this country,” Moore said.
Moore was confident that John Kerry will be the victor in November, and said that “when President Kerry takes his oath of office and we’re in power…we won’t treat them [the Republicans] the way they’ve treated those without power for the last four years.”
Moore also criticized the Bush administration’s decision to go to war with Iraq saying that President Bush deceived the American people by asserting that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, a claim that has been disputed among Bush administration officials.
The assault against Bush continued with a series of mock campaign ads that poking fun at the negative campaign George W. Bush and such groups as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have waged against John Kerry. The first ad featured Max Cleland, a Senator who served with John Kerry in Vietnam. Cleland lost both of his legs and an arm in Vietnam. The mock ad, which was produced and narrated by Moore, chastised Cleland because “when duty called, Cleland was unwilling to give his last limb to his country.”
Another ad asked, “When the bullets were flying all around them in Vietnam, what did John Kerry do? He ducked. Do you want a President who will duck? Vote Bush.”
The event also featured six minutes of footage that Moore and his crew shot in Iraq a few weeks before the war. The audience saw images of Iraqis living their day-to-day lives: of people shopping, children playing and citizens’ concerns about the impending war.
In Fahrenheit 9/11 there was a segment where Michael Moore went around the U.S. Capitol trying to get legislators to enlist their sons in the army, accompanied by a veteran of Iraq Abdul Henderson.
Moore welcomed Henderson, dressed in a dark suit and bright red tie not the army formal dress he sported in the film, to the stage amidst a standing ovation.
Henderson pointed out that the first building Marines secured upon invading Iraq was the Oil Ministry, even though the country was in rubble and had “no social infrastructure.” He asked the audience to question what they are being told about the reasons for invading Iraq and “the priorities of the administration.” He also encouraged people to vote for the reason that the next President will be able to appoint “one to two Supreme Court justices.”
Next to speak was the mother of a National Guardsman from Wilkes-Barre killed in Iraq. Fighting back tears, she described her son as a “brave and decent man.” Her son Dante was part of a survey group looking for weapons of mass destruction. She also said that the Bush administration has betrayed soldiers like her son. She urged the audience to “take responsibility” as citizens and patriots of this country and vote on November 2.
Mike Hoffman of Bethlehem, PA fought in Iraq and is a member, along with Henderson, of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He spoke of the weeks before he was deployed to Iraq, when his battery first sergeant told him and his unit that they were “going to Iraq for one reason and one reason only, and that’s oil.”
Hoffman also asked the audience to spread the word about “what’s really going on in Iraq” and to help get the troops home. He said that most of the people committing violent acts in Iraq are not foreign terrorists but “average, ordinary Iraqis” who feel they have been invaded and are fighting to defend their country.
He also said that Bush is creating a whole new generation of disabled veterans while simultaneously cutting veterans’ benefits.
Moore closed the show by saying that “voting is not going to be enough this year” and asked they audience to do everything they can to encourage their friends and family to vote too.
“[The Republicans] are organized, they are dedicated, they are well-funded and they will be on their knees at 5 a.m. on Nov. 2, praying to the almighty who has ordained George W. Bush to lead this country,” Moore said.
Brendan I. Keegan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.