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5.4.2. Michael Moore's Cobb County Diary


This article is from the Michael Moore FAQ, by Edward Champion edchamp@slip.net with numerous contributions by others.

5.4.2. Michael Moore's Cobb County Diary

The following is a diary kept by Michael Moore during the
taping of the Cobb County segment. It appeared in TV Nation
newsletter #3 and it's a fascinating, behind-the-scenes glimpse
into the making of TV Nation:

JULY 3, 1995 10:30 am.

I am flying down to Cobb County, Georgia, the Atlanta suburb
which is represented by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. These
people who elected him are the true patriots of the "Republican
Revolution." They want to cut federal spending and get "Big
Government off our backs.

But our crack research department at TV Nation has come up
with a curious statistic: Other than Arlington Co., VA (which
houses the Pentagon), and Brevard Co., FL (where Cape Canaveral
sits), Cobb County has received more federal funding than any other
county in the U.S! This seems a little ironic to me -- they want to
cut government spending, just not their own.

So I've decided to go down to Newt's district and help those
good people get the big, bad federal bogeyman off their backs. And
if I'm lucky, I may get to meet Newt himself.

2:05 PM

I've only been in Cobb County an hour and I am opening the
headquarters to my new organization, "GOBAC" -- The Committee
to Get Government Off the Backs of Cobb County (I know, the
acronym is missing a few letters, but it sounds cool). A few dozen
people have shown up to hear what I have to say. "Each year, you,
the citizens of Cobb County, receive nearly four billion dollars in
federal aid, 60 times more than the average U.S. county. I feel
your pain -- having to put up with all that free cash from
Washington! Having the feds coming down here to build your
highways, your airport, your schools, and -- dare I say it -- your
senior citizen centers! Not to mention the 10,000 federally-funded
jobs at Lockheed! How can you stand this intrusion!!"

I asked the people to join with me in reciting the 12-step
pledge to kick the "Fed Bread" habit. Step One: "I admit that I am
addicted to federal funds and, as a result, our federal budget has
become unmanageable." Step Two: "The problem is not welfare
mothers, the "urban" areas, food stamps or the N.E.A. The problem
is me." And so on. Most seemed reluctant to join me in a group hug.

5:50 PM

As part of my first mission for GOBAC, I have come out to Lake
Allatoona, in northern Cobb County. This lake was built and is
maintained by the federal government. I hop in a boat and, with my
bullhorn, ask all supporters of Newt Gingrich to "LEAVE THIS LAKE
one pays much attention to me. I drive my boat up to a big
houseboat and the owner tells me to get off "his" lake and
go get rid of "those people on welfare." I explain to him that
welfare (AFDC payments) amounts to less than one per cent of the
money Cobb gets each year from D.C. Perhaps the taxpayers building
him this lake is the real form of welfare.

He goes back inside to radio the police.

6:22 PM

The lake police arrive, but, seeing our cameras, keep their
distance. Attempted arrests by police of our TV Nation
correspondents is up over 300 per cent over last year's run on NBC.
I'm not sure if the FBI keeps statistics on this, but our network
executives have pointed out to me that there is no bail money in
the budget.

We decide to leave the lake.

JULY 4 9:30 AM

It's Independence Day and the crew and I have gathered at the
kick-off site for the Fourth of July Parade. We have heard that
Newt may be marching in the parade, but no one seems to know for
sure. I send our segment producer, Patrick Farrelly, out ahead to
see if he can spot him. Ten minutes later Patrick returns in a cold

"He's here."

I send the cameraman over to where Newt is waiting so they can
get set up. We may not have much of a chance to talk to him and,
in fact, we are told that his Secret Service contingent is with him
(he is third in line to the Presidency). I walk down to where I can
see the Speaker and notice the crew is in place. As I head toward
Gingrich, his guards spot me, so I do an end run around them (I
learned to do these a lot during the filming of "Roger & Me") and
come up behind Newt.

"Mr. Speaker," I said, and, as he turned and noticed who it
was, I was already into my first question about how why his
district gets more federal money than virtually anybody else when
he himself is leading the movement to cut spending.

"Well, we're cutting everywhere...all across the board...even
here...wherever there is waste..."

Dearest diary, I will spare you the rest of that multiple
sound byte, you have heard it all before. I ask Gingrich if he
could tell me where specifically he would cut money in Cobb. How
about Lockheed?

"Oh, no!" he replied."

Senior citizens center?"

"Absolutely not."

"School lunches?"

"I favor increasing those!"

I keep going down the list: $76 million for the sewage system,
$22,000 for the Cobb library, $286,000 for handicap access.

No, nope and no way.

"And besides," he chided, looking around for his handlers to
help him end this interrogation, "you've got your facts wrong."

"Well, I got them from your office." I pressed on. "Where, Mr.
Gingrich, can we cut the spending? How about the federal grant of
$600,000 given to your former employer, Kennesaw State College, to
study marijuana."


"Look, I'm working seriously on these problems, not taking
cheap shots like you."

With that, his guards hustled him away. But because this is TV
NATION, we're not going to let that stop us.

10:15 AM

Newt is marching with his group "Friends of Newt." I am
marching in the last row. Slowly, I move my way up through the
blue-shirted Newt supporters. Finally, I make it up to where Newt
and I are marching side by side, smiling and waving at the crowd.
Well, at least one of us is smiling and waving. The other is
calling for security. I hand Newt a copy of the 12-Step Pledge
("Step 8: I trust in God to give me the courage to stop the federal
spending I can, accept the federal spending I can't, and help me to
know the difference"). He takes it, and his Secret Service detail
shows me the way to the sidelines.

I spend the rest of the parade marching with the Flag Girls,
getting hosed by the fire department truck when I ask them to give
up their federal block grant, and tossing Tootsie Rolls out to the
kids along the parade route, thanking them in advance for taking
care of the zillion dollars of debt we'll be leaving them.

12:10 PM

I am at the entrance to I-75, asking motorists not to use this
federally-financed highway. People just drive right on by, even
after I explain to them how not using the road will help advance
their Revolution. No matter.

Everywhere I go here, everyone complains about high taxes and
wasteful government, but no one want to be the first to set an
example. I tell them that "you gave the nation Newt Gingrich -- now
show us how to stop big government!" But the people here told me
that the $74,000 in federal monies for the warning lights at that
railroad crossing in town was money well spent. College students
who voted for Newt swore to me they would never part with their
federal student loans. The Cobb police pointed to the big new
bumpers they have on their squad cars, compliments of Washington.
No, they, wouldn't take them off and let me return them. I
understood their dilemma.

3:45 PM

The crew and I have gone to the Cobb County Republican
Bar-B-Que. The word is out about what we've been up to and some
people are actually starting to feel guilty. One man comes up to me
and says he's going to do his best "to stop spending so much tax
money." I tell him to quit taking books out from the library and
not to drink any more city water. He didn't seem like he was
willing to go that far.

Suddenly, a hush goes through the crowd -- the Speaker of the
House has arrived and taken the platform. Could we be so lucky as
to have three encounters with Newt in just one day -- and a
federally-authorized day to boot!

As Newt steps down, I and the camera guy mosey over to him.
This time, he sees me coming and holds his hand out in front of his
face, shaking his head. No way, not you again!" he exclaims. At
that moment, this man, whom so many fear, seemed so beaten down, so
hapless, so... victimized. He was not the bulldog I expected -- he
was more like a cream puff, with the cream squished out. I honestly
felt sorry for him. I held out my hand.

"I'm sorry for coming on so hard earlier," I told him in one
of those rare love-your-enemies moments that will surely help my
passage into heaven some day.

He immediately relaxed. "Well, gee," he said with frustration,

What did that mean? That you are better than that poor schmuck
of an auto executive I followed around for three years? I don't
think so. In an instant I knew what I had to do.

"Just stand there while I do this," I told him. He smiled a
nervous smile, looked into the camera like his was my Ed McMahon
and I did the opening to our show:

"Hi, I'm Michael Moore, and no, you are not hallucinating.
This is Newt Gingrich and tonight, on TV Nation...NEWT AND MIKE

Newt didn't know whether to bolt or kiss me so he took the
safe route -- he joined right in.

"Be sure and watch, Mr. and Mrs. America!" said the Speaker
into the lens of the TV Nation camera. Just like a pro.


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