As the night wore on, one thing led to another, and I suddenly found myself coughing up the $7.50 for a ticket to Michael Moore's appearance at the GEC.
Tonight's event, sponsored by the Music Row Democrats, was kicked off by the head of the Kerry campaign in Tennessee. He introduced a theme present throughout the evening: Kerry could still win Tennessee.
This being music city, there was also a strong musical presence. MRD unveiled Takin' My Country Back a new song produced by Honky Tonkers for Truth. [MP3], and "Bob Something" of Monkey Bowl weighed in with two songs, including Al Gore, featuring a taped cameo by none other than Al Gore, who lives down the street from him in Belle Meade.
The musical headliner, however, was a short acoustic set by Steve Earle, who said he turned down a gig in Arizona to be in Nashville because "we're not giving up on winning Tennessee."
Earle then introduced Moore, who I believe had been watching the opening acts from a seat a few rows in front of mine. He donned his trademark red baseball cap and arrived onstage as disheveled as ever. The crowd, while certainly not a sellout for the arena, was surprisingly large -- and clearly in Moore's corner all the way.
I'll be up front with you about Michael Moore. I don't agree with everything he says. I think in some ways he is to the left as Rush Limbaugh is to the right -- a rabid ideologue with a tendancy to assume the worst about his opponents. That said, I think by-and-large he makes valid points about many things, especially the war in Iraq. And if nothing else he helps stir up debate important issues and balances out the culture of right-wing talk radio television.
The speech was mostly the same schtick that has already made news elsewhere (including the infamous giveaway of ramen noodles and underwear to folks who didn't vote in the last election.) There were, however, a number of interesting factoids buried in the rhetoric. For example, he drew a contrast between the $18 million or so spent by the 9/11 commission to investigate how to prevent future terror attacts and the $75 million or so spent by the Office of the Independent Council to investigate Bill Clinton's personal life. Moore also predicted that if US foreign policy doesn't change, the country will be forced to reinstate the draft simply because there will no longer be enough volunteers to sustain our military commitments abroad. A bold statement, but perhaps plausible given the manpower problems being encountered in the military as the Iraq quagmire drags on.
Moore said that his next film is going to be about the pharmaceutical industry. Word has leaked out, he said, and Pfizer -- the company that brought you primetime impotence commercials -- is worried. Moore read from a memo that he said was distributed within the company warning staff to be on the lookout for a "a bearded, heavyset man with rumpled clothing and a microphone." If Moore began asking questions, the memo continued, staffers should immediately call a hotline number to report it. This got a good laugh, and the entire arena simultaneously whipped out their cell phones to program in the number for the Pfizer "Michael Moore Hotline." (For reference, it's 212-573-1226, which a Google search reveals as the the number of one of the company's PR flacks.) Moore suggests giving them a buzz on Monday and saying in a whisper "He's heeere... Inside the house....!!!"
After the event, I wandered around downtown for a bit and then strolled back across the bridge to East Nashville. On the way I chatted with a (possibly homeless) man who was headed in the same direction. He says that he's been back in Nashville for six months and has been looking for work, but that the temp agencies and day labor places where he used to be able to get work are now mobbed with unemployed jobseekers.
During our conversation, he tossed off the standard line that Bush and Kerry are just two sides of the same coin, and that neither of them would make the economy better. I retorted that while Kerry might not be ideal, could he really do any worse than Bush? That brought a snort of agreement. Perhaps this isn't the best criteria for choosing a president, but one I'm pretty comfortable with at this point.