Moore propels anti-Bush cry

Hours before the presidential candidates verbally duked it out in the second debate, supporters of each candidate engaged in a back-and-forth yelling match outside the Milwaukee Theatre. Both sides turned out for a speech by a man who has fueled the partisan fire in this deeply divided race.

Michael Moore, the filmmaker whose recently released documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11," was critical of President Bush, stopped in Milwaukee Friday as part of his Slacker Uprising Tour. His visit drew about 40 of the president's supporters equipped with signs and a bullhorn. About 2,700 tickets were sold, according to Mary McCarthy, chief operations officer for Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, which organized Moore's visit.

Moore's plane was delayed, which pushed the speech back an hour and a half and allowed more time for slogan-chanting and sign-waving outside the theater, 510 W. Kilbourn Ave., despite the light rainfall.

Perhaps taking a cue from the candidates themselves, supporters also fought for media attention. As television cameras moved in to capture the Bush supporters, people rushed to make sure signs supporting his Democratic rival Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) were seen. Not to be outdone, when the cameras turned toward the Kerry folks, Bush signs were in motion.

"First off, I don't like Michael Moore," said John Heisel, a Bush supporter. "I think his movie, 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' was a disgrace and full of lies."

Inside the theater, the waiting audience was treated to the DVD of Moore's former Bravo series, "The Awful Truth."

Moore's speech itself was divided into three main themes: bashing the president, convincing liberals to vote for Kerry instead of Independent candidate Ralph Nader and urging people to get involved in the political process. Moore said he wanted to get the "slackers" — those who haven't voted in the past — to voting booths and told voters Bush would be re-elected unless people worked to bring Kerry votes.

"Republicans are not slackers," he said. "They eat red meat, and they will eat us on Nov. 2. We have to do the work."

Volunteers from Peace Action Wisconsin, registered voters and Moveon PAC, an independent liberal political group seeking to bring infrequent voters to the polls for Kerry, asked attendees to volunteer.

Moore's attacks on the president centered on the war in Iraq, something liberals have opposed from the beginning. However, he said, 70 percent of the country supported the war when it began, including Kerry, who voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq.

"Their only crime, these 70 percent, is that they believed their president," Moore said. "They should be able to believe their president … So to those of you on the pure left, we gotta give it a rest on Kerry's vote. He was no worse than the people we know and love."

Moore came out strong in opposing Nader's decision to run. He encouraged people not to vote for the Independent candidate in the election.

He acknowledged that for liberals, it felt good to vote for Nader. Doing an impression of a Nader voter at the polling place, he said, "I'm so good. I'm so pure. I'm better than those Kerry sheep.

"But didn't your parents tell you when you were teenagers, five minutes of feeling good has life-long implications?" Moore said.

Attendees seemed impressed with the speech, giving Moore three partial standing ovations.

"I thought it was well thought-out," Joy Sherard said.

Pat Hogan, wearing a shirt announcing himself as a "Proud Republican," said he wasn't surprised by the speech.

"Everything he said I was expecting," Hogan said.