It's been said that "Fahrenheit 9/11" is the left's "The Passion of the Christ" -- red meat for true believers. Except that it's George W. Bush who sacrifices others on his behalf. Except that Michael Moore's version would have the Sanhedrin in league with the Romans and the aqueduct construction brigades, and it would all be about water.
The question now is what the Democratic establishment will do with this film: embrace it, ignore it or triangulate their way to a position that satisfies the party's reasonable majority while placating the angry loons who want to truss Bush up in his flight jacket and hang him from his heels.
For the constituency that wants John Kerry to wear an "I Like Mike" button for the rest of the campaign, look no further than Al Gore. But keep your distance: The man breathes fire these days. Aides have to print his notes on sheets of asbestos. He's a new man, it seems.
In power, he told us that Saddam Hussein had WMD programs and terrorist connections. Out of power, relying on The Nation instead of those silly CIA briefings, he decides that Iraq was slightly less dangerous than Monaco and certainly not as dangerous as the jackbooted gang that runs Gulag America today.
In a recent speech Gore accused the administration of working with "digital Brownshirts" who pressure the media to conform. You remember the Brownshirts, don't you? Those were the ones who kicked the Jews into cattle cars. Street-thug Nazis.
Well, that's the GOP, you say. Fine. But please understand how "digital Brownshirts" ups the ante. Gone is the sober Al of the Clinton years or the populist of the 2000 campaign. Gorebot 2004 has reprogrammed himself to make Noam Chomsky sound like a Bircher raving about fluoridation.
Why? Does he think that planting a fishhook in the soft palate of the Democratic Party and yanking it hard to the left will land him victory in the future? Is he content just to hold his own tent revivals, basking in the hot waves of applause?
Who knows. But he's done something quite unnecessary here. He's compared the right to Nazis, the gold standard for evil. Lots of yammering moonbats have done that before, of course. But this isn't the rhetoric you expect from party elders. It's like Bob Dole comparing the Dixie Chicks to "musical Mensheviks," or Bush 41 calling Michael Moore a "cinematic Stalinist." At a certain level, you're expected not to engage in nuclear rhetoric.
But hey, everybody does it. Don't they?
Just the other day, the Kerry campaign sent out an e-mail alert accusing the Bush team of calling them Nazis. The Bush-Cheney campaign, losing any last sense of decency, had placed a disgusting ad called "The Faces of John Kerry's Democratic Party" as the main feature on its Web site. Bizarrely, and without explanation, the ad put Adolf Hitler among those faces.
"The Bush-Cheney campaign must pull this ad off of its Web site. The use of Hitler by any campaign, politician or party is simply wrong," the Kerry people wrote.
Nice to know they feel that way. The ad actually referred to Kerry supporters who have called the president the equivalent of Hitler, or used Nazi comparisons like, you know, Brownshirts. Here's the logic: One side says the other is acting like Nazis. The other says, "Hey, don't call us Nazis." The other side responds, "Are you saying we're like Nazis? How dare you!"
The way the fringe is swamping the rhetoric of the Democratic Party, you don't know which might be worse: what they'll do if they win or what they'll do if they don't.
A few words from Kerry might help calm things down. Does he believe in the digital Brownshirts? Does he think that's an improvement in our national discourse? Does Moore's movie make some good points, and, if so, which ones? Is Bush really a stupid Saudi-Nazi cyborg paving the globe to hasten the rule of evangelical Christian oil executives eager to herd us into Wal-Mart-branded sweatshops?
Is Gore-Moore the future of your party or not?
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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.