NEW YORK — First, a confession: I haven't seen Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11." It's not that I haven't wanted to; it's just that I have not been able to tear myself away from the real show - the political theater playing out in full sight right before our eyes. Who needs a movie when you have the news?
Michael Moore's weird all right, but not as weird as Michael Powell, our cartel-loving chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, whose idea of the press seems to be channeling William Randolph Hearst.
Michael Moore is outrageous, but not as outrageous as George W. Bush and Tom DeLay conspiring to let the ban on killer assault weapons expire. Bush says he doesn't like all that loaded hardware lying around, but it's up to the House of Representatives to vote. The aptly named Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, on the other hand, says - wink, wink - he can't let a vote happen because Bush hasn't asked for one. After you, Alphonse; after you, Gaston - and will the last man out please turn on the lights?
Michael Moore has a keen eye for the absurd; I know that from his earlier wickedly funny films. But we don't need a seeing-eye absurdist to understand how wacky it is for Ralph Nader to get on the ballot in different states with the help of a conservative outfit that's a front group for all those corporate interests Mr. Nader has spent his life trying to cut down to size. Imagine 43,000 Michigan Republicans suddenly seized by the vision of "Nader the Savior," putting their names on a petition urging him to run for president. "Save us, Ralph, save us!" Politics makes strange bedfellows, but this is a ménage à trois, as John Kerry might say, that would shame the Marquis de Sade.
No, I don't need to shell out $9 for a movie when I can watch the Democrats in Boston this week piously pretending to be taking seriously a homily on values from Al Sharpton, or when I have C-SPAN to watch Congress in action (or not).
In fact, there was to be a congressional hearing this week into the safety of antidepressant medicine. It seems some pharmaceutical companies are suspected of keeping secret the bad news about their products. The hearing was abruptly canceled when word spread that the committee chairman is under consideration for a big-paying job representing - are you ready for this? - the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.
You think I'm kidding. But believe me, I couldn't make this stuff up if I wanted to. Unfortunately, I don't have to.
• Bill Moyers is the host of the weekly public affairs series 'NOW with Bill Moyers,' on PBS. He read this essay on last Friday's show.