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MAKING ELLEN MAD (PART 2)! Goodman listed Moore’s “cheap shots.” We puzzled at what makes her mad:

MAKING ELLEN MAD (PART 2): It can really be an education when we see what riles our “liberal” pundits. According to Ellen Goodman’s column last week, George Bush misled the nation into war—a war in which almost a thousand U.S. soldiers have died. And Bush played around with those terrorist warnings, treating the alerts as a “toy” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/6/04). But that isn’t what has the liberal scribe mad! No, Ellen Goodman got upset when a bunch of young movie-goers seemed to be “rooting” for Fahrenheit 9/11, the Michael Moore film. By the way: Why wouldn’t people “root” for a film which correctly attacks such astounding misconduct? Goodman didn’t bother explaining. She was too busy wringing her hands at the “cheap shots” Moore’s film aimed at Bush.

But what exactly were those cheap shots? Just what were the “ad hominem” attacks that had poor Goodman deeply distressed? Surprisingly, the scribe made little effort to say (although she takes the prize for “cheap shots” herself—more on this tomorrow). Despite calling Moore every name in the book, Goodman’s specific criticisms of Fahrenheit 9/11 are stated in one lonely paragraph. Here’s the only part of her piece which details Moore’s “shots” against Bush:

GOODMAN: I agreed with the filmmaker that Bush didn't exactly win the 2000 election, that we were misled into Iraq, and that the White House has used the terrorism alerts as a political toy. So add my review to the marquee: I laughed! I cried!

But at some point, I also began to feel just a touch out of harmony. Not even this alto believes that the Iraq war was brought to us courtesy of the Bush- Saudi oil-money connection. Not even the rosiest pair of my retro-spectacles sees prewar Iraq as a happy valley where little children flew kites.

According to Goodman, Moore maintains that “the Iraq war was brought to us courtesy of the Bush-Saudi oil-money connection.” And he says that “prewar Iraq [was] a happy valley where little children flew kites.” These are the two sins she lays off on Moore—the only specific complaints she makes. But given Goodman’s concern about “cheap shots,” these charges strike us as odd.

Does Fahrenheit 9/11 really claim that “the Iraq war was brought to us courtesy of the Bush-Saudi oil-money connection?” To tell you the truth, we can’t find it. Moore does seem to suggest that Saudis were allowed to leave the U.S. post-9/11 because of Bush ties to the House of Saud. But does he say or suggest what Goodman alleges? Sorry—we can’t really find it in the text. Granted, much of Moore’s text is jumbled and hard to parse. But Goodman, ever-helpful, reinvents it.

But the liberal scribe’s second complaint seems odder. Yes, scripted pseudo-cons have rushed to complain about the part of the film to which she refers—a short segment in which Moore shows children playing in Baghdad just before the war started. Moore’s attackers have routinely hammered the film-maker for showing this vile, corrupt footage. Goodman recycles this tedious complaint. But, aside from standard copy-cat scripting, we’re not all that sure why she does.

After all, what does this footage actually mean? Are we really supposed to think that pre-war Iraq was some sort of “happy valley” where all was clean and shiny? In our view, it would take a real cinematic illiterate to draw this conclusion from the short segment in question. (Moore says the scene lasts “twenty seconds.” See below.) But Pundit World is full of such people, so it’s lucky that Moore has had several chances to answer questions on this topic. In a June 26 interview with Moore, for example, ABC’s Jake Tapper questioned this footage. Here’s the first of three questions on the topic:

TAPPER: Discussing pre-war Iraq, your films shows many tranquil scenes of the country, kids flying kites, smiling Iraqis, but knowing what we do know about the brutality of Saddam’s regime, which you do mention at one point in the film, are those pictures a fair representation of pre-war Iraq?
In fact, the film does not show “many” such scenes; as noted, Tapper (and Goodman) seem to refer to one short segment of Moore’s film. At any rate, here was Moore’s explanation of what this scene represents:
MOORE (continuing directly): They’re a fair representation of the civilians that were killed by our bombs. And I wanted to spend just 20 seconds so that the people in the United States could see what human beings look like in Iraq. Children flying kites, a kid getting his hair cut in a barber shop, a couple getting married—these were human beings.

And we bombed and we bombed in an indiscriminate manner and according to The New York Times two weeks ago, 50 air-strikes—we were zero for 50 in hitting our targets and what we did hit were a lot of civilians. And that is what I show in this movie. The ABC News and the other networks did a very good job and have done a good job in showing what a brutal dictator Saddam Hussein was. But we rarely got to see images of everyday life in Iraq and I wanted to show that, just as one human being that thought that we should see these human beings and not have them dehumanized as statistics in a war.

“These were human beings,” Moore said. Indeed, you’d almost think Goodman might see it this way, given her well-known “liberal” outlook. After all, she herself says, in this very same column, that Bush misled us into this war. That would suggest that the war was unnecessary—and everyone knows that innocent people died in the bombing of Iraq. Given her liberal bleeding heart, you’d almost think she might want to know what happened to the people seen in those fleeting scenes—to that beautiful boy in that barber chair, for example. Is that boy alive today? Or did he possibly die in the bombing—the bombing which Bush misled us into, Goodman says? You’d almost think a good liberal scribe might want to know how this turned out. But Goodman is too busy reciting silly claptrap—claptrap which started with pseudo-con hacks. Instead, when Moore devotes twenty seconds to human faces, Goodman says that he’s taking “cheap shots”—cheap shots at the poor, abused man who “misled” us into this war in the first place! Go ahead, readers—spend a few moments wondering at the scribe’s puzzling outlook.

In our view, the footage to which Goodman refers is one of the film’s most interesting segments. As Moore notes, it only lasts about twenty seconds—twenty seconds in which we visit a city few of us have ever seen. Did Moore mean to say, in that short twenty seconds, that Saddam’s Iraq was a “happy valley?” To us, his answer to Tapper seemed fairly obvious. Everyone knows that Saddam was a “brutal dictator,” he said. But he wanted us to see the face of a nine-year-old boy—and wonder about what happened next.

Was the U.S. wrong to bomb Iraq? That, of course, is a matter of judgment. But Goodman has an odd reaction to this twenty seconds of film. She says we were “misled” into this war, by George Bush. Then she has a major cow when Moore spends a tiny bit of time on those who might have died in the bombing. What makes Ellen Goodman mad? Not the fact that we were misled. Weirdly, Goodman gets mad at a “cheap shot” aimed at the man who misled us! Goodman gets mad when she’s asked to gaze in the face of a 9-year-old boy.

But then, today’s “liberals” get mad at the darnedest things! Last week, Richard Cohen had a cow because Moore’s film includes a single sentence about Bush’s cousin—a single sentence which is perfectly accurate! And Ellen Goodman is very upset because we were shown the face of a boy. Do these strike you as troubling “cheap shots”—indecent attacks on the man who misled us? No, they don’t strike us that way either. Which leaves us marveling, day after day, at the things which make “liberal” scribes mad.

KATY DID: Who else asked Moore about that footage? On the June 21 Today show, Katy Couric did! Moore’s explanation of that short scene was hardly unknown or mysterious:

COURIC: You use images of Iraq before the invasion. And if I recall, you have pictures of, film of children playing in playgrounds. You sort of hear the sounds of children laughing.

MOORE: Yeah.

COURIC: You have people eating in outdoor cafes. But even people, Michael, who are vehemently opposed to the war would tell you Saddam Hussein was a tyrannical despot—

MOORE: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: who killed people—

MOORE: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: for absolutely no reason.

MOORE: That’s correct.

COURIC: A murderer.

MOORE: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: And wouldn’t your movie have been better balanced if you had at least included some about Saddam Hussein’s own reputation?

MOORE: You guys did such a good job of telling us how tyrannical and horrible he was. You already did that. What—the question really should be posed to NBC News and all of the other news agencies: Why didn’t you show us that the people that we’re going to bomb in a few days are these people, human beings who are living normal lives, kids flying kites, people just trying to get by in their daily existence? And as the New York Times pointed out last week, out of the 50 air strikes in those initial days, the—we were zero for 50 hitting the target. We killed civilians and we don’t know how many thousands of civilians that we killed. And nobody covered that. And so for two hours, I’m going to cover it. I’m going to—out of four years of all of this propaganda, I’m going to give you two hours that says here’s the other side of the story.

Moore’s explanation was quite well known—if anyone wanted to bother knowing it. But out in the leafy suburbs of Boston, Ellen Goodman was very disturbed. Surrounded by proles who were rooting for Moore, she’d been forced to look at a boy in Iraq. Why would that make a liberal scribe mad? We’ll continue to ponder all week.

From the annals of phantom Times headlines

THE PHANTOM STRIKES AGAIN: In Gotham, The Phantom has struck once again! Here’s the front-page lead headline in today’s New York Times. It concerns Kerry’s choice of John Edwards:
Weird! Could that really be what Kerry “cited?” We scanned the text of David Halbfinger’s report. And what we feared turned out to be true. The Phantom had struck once again:
HALBFINGER (pgh 2): “I have chosen a man who understands and defends the values of America,” Mr. Kerry told a roaring crowd at a morning rally at Market Square here, minutes after an announcement of his choice had been e-mailed to hundreds of thousands of supporters.

(3) “A man who has shown courage and conviction as a champion for middle-class Americans and for those struggling to reach the middle class,” Senator Kerry added, citing the themes that Mr. Edwards had made his own in the Democratic primaries. “A man who has shown guts and determination and political skill in his own race for the presidency of the United States.''

(4) In the 51-year-old Mr. Edwards, Senator Kerry, who is 60, chose a relative newcomer to American politics, and a man who was his longest-lasting major rival in the Democratic nominating contests.

Weird! The first thing Kerry actually cited was Edwards’ embrace of the “values of America.” But The Phantom picked through Halbfinger’s list, finally finding one final trait—a trait that didn’t sound flattering. No, that headline doesn’t reflect what Halbfinger really reported. But it does take a wack at the Dems.

So there they go again, dear readers! This headline reflects the silly games the New York Times just won’t stop playing. But don’t feel bad—The Phantom could have struck even harder. “KERRY CHOOSES EDWARDS, SAYING LAWYER IS SLICK” would have been even less flattering.

NOTE: That’s pretty much how the Times’ page A15 reads. Is John Edwards a richwealthylawyer? The Times seems to want you to know:

Headline on Eric Lichtblau piece: THE WEALTH FACTOR/Well-Heeled Running Mates

Sub-headline on Sheryl Gay Stolberg piece: Very wealthy, but coming off as a regular guy

Headline on Richard Oppel piece: Kerry Gains Campaign Ace, at Cost of Anti-Lawyer Anger

If you don’t know that Edwards is a richwealthylawyer, you haven’t yet read A15.