By Brooks Boliek and Paul Gough
NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - It didn't take long for prominent Republicans to take their shots at the entertainment industry as party members gathered in Madison Square Garden for the opening night of the GOP's four-day presidential nominating convention Monday.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., lashed out at filmmaker Michael Moore for his popular documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" during one of the convention's first major addresses. McCain told the party faithful that the picture's scathing critique of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq is a sham.
"It was between war and a graver threat. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise," McCain said to thunderous applause. "Not our critics abroad. Not our political opponents. And certainly not a disingenuous filmmaker who would have us believe that Saddam's Iraq was an oasis of peace when in fact it was a place of indescribable cruelty, torture chambers, mass graves and prisons that destroyed the lives of the small children held inside their walls."
McCain's remarks were interrupted by applause and chants of "four more years." Moore, who is attending the convention as a commentator for USA Today, briefly doffed his red baseball cap and laughed after McCain's remarks, which came in the middle of a speech during which the senator stressed the strength of Bush's leadership and that the United States had no choice but to act forcefully in Iraq.
McCain's speech was not the only source of harsh words for Hollywood from Monday night's lineup of speakers. Earlier in the evening actor Ron Silver was also critical of his colleagues in the entertainment industry.
"Even though I am a well-recognized liberal on many issues confronting our society today, I find it ironic that many human rights advocates and outspoken members of my own entertainment community are often on the front lines to protest repression, for which I applaud them but they are usually the first ones to oppose any use of force to take care of these horrors that they catalog repeatedly."
As evidenced by the comments from McCain, Silver and other speakers, Republicans are seeking to energize the party's conservative base with rhetoric critical of Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, while they reach out to moderates who remain undecided. Most of the prominent convention speakers, including McCain, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, are popular among moderates and independent-minded voters.
Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat, delighted delegates by telling the opening session, "This year, I'm voting for the re-election of President Bush." Koch was mayor from 1978-89.
Schwarzenegger was scheduled to fly here Monday night aboard his private jet, ready for a turn on the platform the following night. His turn at the podium is certain to bring some flair to the sequence of staid political speeches that is traditional GOP convention fare. It is hoped that his speech will help establish Schwarzenegger as a legitimate political figure and add star power to a party that trails the Democrats in celebrity endorsements.
Schwarzenegger, however, is keeping a low profile. He reportedly has booked no interviews with network anchors and plans to stay off the late-night talk shows.
Aside from his speech, he will appear before the public only twice this week: Wednesday at a Harlem elementary school to promote after-school programs for inner-city children and Thursday in Times Square at a red-carpet arrival luncheon for the California convention delegates at Planet Hollywood, part of a restaurant chain he once held a stake in.
The Austria-born former bodybuilder and actor is not forsaking his entertainment roots, however, as he is to be honored at a party sponsored by the Recording Industry Assn. of America and the Motion Picture Assn. of America at the Central Park boathouse.
Fox News Channel has scored one of its biggest exclusives for the Republican National Convention, a guest who is neither Republican nor American. U2 singer Bono, who appeared at the Democratic National Convention in Boston last month, will spar with Bill O'Reilly on the Wednesday show.
Republicans roared voice-vote approval of a party platform that rallies behind Bush's agenda while endorsing positions dear to conservatives, including constitutional bans on abortion and gay marriage.
"Our platform highlights the principles that unite our party," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the platform chairman, told delegates.
The party platform also includes a pair of planks of interest to Hollywood as it touts the administration's free trade and market-access policies -- goals long sought by an entertainment industry that increasingly gains more of its revenue overseas.
Republicans also approved a get-tough-on-obscenity plank that supports "vigorous prosecution of obscene materials." The debate over what materials are appropriate for dissemination has become a part of the political debate since the Super Bowl when a "wardrobe malfunction" caused singer Janet Jackson's breast to be exposed and radio shock jocks have been hit with ever-larger fines for indecent speech from the Republican-dominated FCC.
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