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Jewish World Review Nov. 17, 2003 / 22 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Mark Goldblatt

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Moore to America: Dude, Where's My Brain? | Dude, Where's My Country? by Michael Moore, Warner Books, 249 pages, $24.95

IF Michael Moore has an intellectual predecessor it's probably Jethro Bodine, Jed Clampett's hopelessly dimwitted nephew who thought that his "six grade edjeecashun" qualified him as a double-naught spy. Likewise, Moore, whose resume includes the ironic documentary "Roger & Me" and the bestseller "Stupid White Men," operates under a basic misconception - i.e., that being a professional wiseass qualifies him as a political analyst. To say he's out of his depth misses the point; he shouldn't be in the water.

Moore's new book "Dude, Where's My Country?" begins with a dead-serious, footnoted attempt to link George W. Bush with Osama bin Laden via the Saudi royal family in order to suggest - as best I can tell - that the attacks of 9/11 were sponsored by Enron, Unocal and Halliburton.

After claiming he's "not into conspiracy theories, except the ones that are true or involve dentists," Moore constructs a case so rife with innuendo that Oliver Stone would roll his eyes.

Moore's hard evidence consists of Osama's kidney disease - which, in Moore's mind, nixes him as prime suspect; the fact that Bush took off in Air Force One after the attacks - "any dunderhead knew that if hijacked planes are being used as missiles, the last place you wanna be is up there flying around," and, most tellingly, the expression on Bush's face when informed of the attacks - "maybe, just maybe, you were sitting there in that classroom chair thinking about your Saudi friends . . . people you knew all too well that might have been up to no good."

By Moore's methodology, O.J. Simpson might well have been convicted - of the Lindbergh kidnapping.

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The remainder of the book doesn't live up to the first chapter's logical rigor. It's a muddled mass of hyperbole and bad prose, rife with split infinitives, exclamation points and cringe-inducing metaphors. Occasionally, the blather is interrupted by a genuinely disturbing allegation - for example, Gen. Wesley Clark's claim that he received calls from the White House asking him to tie Saddam Hussein to 9/11. Except Moore fails to note that Clark later recanted.

Writing about the War on Terror, Moore makes the incisive point that wars "are fought against countries, religions and peoples. They are not fought against nouns . . . and any time it has been attempted - the 'war on drugs,' the 'war on poverty' - it fails." Except this passage, which isn't sourced, turns out to be a bastardized version of the opening of an essay by Grenville Byford in Foreign Affairs. How it trickled down to Moore's cognitive level is anyone's guess.

Later, Moore writes in the voice of the Divine himself, lecturing us on who the good guys and bad guys really are. It's the kind of gimmick that generally comes off as either cute or pathetic. Moore's effort doesn't quite rise to the latter.

That could be said for the entire book.

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JWR contributor Mark Goldblatt teaches at SUNY's Fashion Institute of Technology. His new novel is "Africa Speaks". Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Mark Goldblatt