You may have read about the Al Franken/Bill O'Reilly dust-up at BookExpo America on Saturday, May 31 (here's Newsday's account; here's some commentary from CalPundit and his readers) -- but Michael Moore was aapparently also quite entertaining the following day. Herean account of Moore's talk from an e-mail sent out June 1 from BEA by the folks at Publishers Lunch:
Fireworks from Saturday’s political lunch still resonated at this morning’s author breakfast, as moderator Walter Isaacson told the audience, "There won’t be quite as much heat as there was at lunch, but hey it’s breakfast." But it did begin with a rousing ovation before anyone even said a word, and clearly much of that enthusiasm was directed towards speaker Michael Moore—as underscored when Madeline Albright took to the podium later and declared, "What a blast to be here with Michael Moore."
More amusing than aggressive, Moore himself began by saying, "Now if you don’t mind I’d like to finish that Oscar speech…" He noted that "success has made me extremely grateful to Mr. Bush for the tax cut" and told the President he’s got a new plan "to spend my entire tax cut to help defeat you next year." (Interested candidates can go to spendmikestaxcut.com.)
Moore’s fall book is tentatively titled, DUDE, WHERE’S MY COUNTRY? (given a chance a vote by applause, the audience favored that title heavily over the alternate, LEAVE NO MILLIONAIRE BEHIND), and includes such helpful chapters as "How to Talk to Your Conservative Brother-in-law." Moore’s thesis is that most people in the country aren’t really conservative in all their policies, but that "They just don’t want to give up their tax money." By his reckoning, the key for liberals in prevailing is to "quit trying the moral argument. When you’re a conservative it’s all me, me, me. How does it affect me?" His notion is that humane policies towards issues like health care and day care make for a happier, more prosperous work force, and in turn will help conservatives make more money.
Other popular Moore one-liners included references to "the Fox Nuisance Channel" and a hunch that "Saddam found the same travel agent that Osama did." Later in the morning Moore drew long lines having his picture taken at the Warner booth, where at one point he was observed singing a duet of "O Canada." He quipped, "Just in case I have to move."
And, from the same e-mail, here's an account of Franken/O'Reilly/Ivins:
The MediaTalk lunch on Saturday was full of fireworks. Originally conceived as a "fair and balanced" presentation with two on the left, Molly Ivins and Al Franken, facing off against two on the right, Bill O'Reilly and Tucker Carlson, was thrown off-center by Carlson's absence. Former Democratic Congresswoman and AAP head Patricia Schroeder, who moderated, said, tongue in cheek, that it was perfectly fair and balanced to her.
Ivins, whose "BUSHWHACKED" is coming soon from Random House, kicked off the conversation talking about her new tool to analyze the health of the US economy, the Doug Jones Average (reusing some of her material from the book awards the night before). Doug Jones is the symbol of the "average American." And, no surprise, she found the "Doug Jones Average" falling, citing a host of failures of the Bush government, often in the field of environmental protection, to take the side of the average American against the powerful. She closed with a powerful, and inflammatory, quote from Mussolini defining fascism as "corporatism," when corporations wield government's power. "The bottom line is that old Doug Jones is getting screwed." (Ivins also won over booksellers with a story about Barnes & Noble that had shelved her book SHRUB in the gardening section.)
Bill O'Reilly, the fabulously successful author ("The O'Reilly Factor" and "The No-Spin Zone") and talk-show host whose "Who's Looking Out for You?" is coming soon from Doubleday Broadway, was greeted by smaller but still fervent pockets of applause. He said his book was "a very personal book, not a political book—I don’t really write political books…. It’s a personal book about you."
He immediately claimed separation from Rush Limbaugh by saying "I'm a problem solver." O'Reilly's prescription for a better world is about individual responsibility. He disdains government help as ineffective and counterproductive. Baiting the next speaker a few times, O’Reilly said "We name names—we don’t call names."
Al Franken was the last to speak. His new book, coming from Dutton, is "LIES, and the Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right". Franken started out, deadpan, saying "God asked me to write this book because he was so pissed off at George Bush" for claiming God was on HIS side.
It turned out, though, that Franken had a very pointed agenda, and O'Reilly was the target, which is hinted at by the fact that O'Reilly is the cover image of "LIES..." Franken told a lengthy story, the gist of which was that O'Reilly lied on C-Span about awards his TV work had earned, and persisted in the lies in the face of questioning and evidence.
Of course O'Reilly was operating at two distinct disadvantages. One was that the audience was, judging from the applause and outbursts, largely on the political side of Ivins and Franken.
But, perhaps even more telling was the difference in skills and attitudes of the participants. Franken is a skilled comedian: quick with his wit and sure with his timing. Ivins is a political writer with a caustic and humorous edge. O'Reilly seems to have almost no sense of humor at all, and certainly none when he himself is involved, since that is the subject he seems to take MOST seriously.
From this observer's point of view, that might for a very unfair fight, even before you get to who had the right side on the facts and merits.
Congresswoman Schroeder had her hands full keeping things on a relatively civil plane. The direct attacks by Franken on O'Reilly, and his shrill defense of himself, left Ivins where she almost never would find herself -- the person in "the middle." To a plea from the last questioner from the audience that we find ways to "come together," not much hope came from the platform. Franken said, basically, it is time for liberals to fight back, although he said he considered himself a "nice guy" and wanted to "promote civility." This brought a harumph from O'Reilly and, mostly, cheers from the floor.
Schroeder's closing appeal was that each of the speakers send their books to the others. I have a feeling that Ivins and Franken will enjoy the swap, Ivins will skip O'Reilly's and Franken will mine it for material for his next book.