MoveOn.org Voter Fund, affiliated with the online advocacy organization MoveOn.org, announced that entries for the contest -- called Bush in 30 Seconds -- will be accepted on the group's Web site between Nov. 24 and Dec. 5. Visitors to MoveOn.org will vote on the ads from Dec. 15-30, and a celebrity panel will choose one ad from a group of 15 finalists -- to air on TV in January, during the week of Bush's next State of the Union address.
The panel is largely dominated by filmmakers -- including Jack Black ("School of Rock"), Janeane Garofalo ("The Truth About Cats and Dogs"), Michael Moore ("Bowling for Colmbine"), Tony Shalhoub ("Monk") and Gus Van Sant ("Good Will Hunting"). The panel also features Donna Brazile, who managed former Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000, and James Carville, a top adviser to former President Bill Clinton.
Musicians Eddie Vedder ("Pearl Jam") and Moby will also judge the contest, which Moby helped design in response to what he called Bush's "ruinous" policies.
"I realized the creative community was this very large, sort of inherently left-leaning, community that the Democratic Party had largely ignored," said Moby in a conference call with reporters.
Eli Pariser, MoveOn.org Voter Fund's campaigns director, said the ads are intended to "expose the gap between President Bush's carefully constructed image and the reality of his policies." Pariser said the ads are necessary because mainstream media sources have not sufficiently examined the truthfulness of the Bush White House on Iraq.
"The president has done such an excellent job of cowing his opponents and the media," said Pariser, "that nobody calls him on it when he lies about it."
Authors including David Corn, Molly Ivins and Michael Moore are prominently featured in media appearances to promote current best-selling books that emphatically call Bush a liar on Iraq and other topics, but Pariser said having those writers on does not exempt the TV news divisions from criticism of their own reporting.
"On a basic level it's the job of the journalism establishment to check when the president says things and see whether it's true or not," he said. "We publish a daily e-mail on something that the president had said that turned out not to be true, and it's very rare that what we publish has been covered by any major news outlet prior to its being published there."
Investment banker Jonathan Soros, an organizer of the Bush in 30 Seconds campaign, was critical of Gore and the Democratic Party for not being more aggressive in challenging the president's credibility.
"Al Gore wasn't telling the truth about Bush during the (2000) campaign because he didn't want to seem too mean," said Soros. "After Florida, Democrats didn't tell the truth about Bush because they didn't want to seem too partisan. After 9-11 no one wanted to tell the truth about Bush for fear of being called unpatriotic, or worse."
Moby predicted the Bush in 30 Seconds campaign would touch off a visceral reaction among conservatives and others who support the president.
"I hope so," he said. "To be honest with you, if this didn't (tick) off the sort of reactionary right-wing media, I'd feel like we were doing something wrong. Hopefully, this gets them worked up into such a tizzy that we'll see them for the reactionary half-wits that we know them to be."
Moby acknowedged the possibility that the ad campaign might have the unintended consequence of energizing Bush supporters.
"That is something that I've been concerned about," he said, "but I don't know what our possible recourse would be."
Pariser said Bush supporters are already mobilized.
"They know if they lose this next election, the tax cuts and the corporate giveaways will end," he said. "I don't think they can be more mobilized than they already are. This is about reaching out to the vast majority of the public who may not know what the administration is doing."
Organizers said they did not know specifically when or where the winning ad will be aired.
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