It’s amazing what can happen when someone actually watches a film before reviewing and analyzing it, no? Yesterday afternoon, at an event for an organization called “Got Your 6,” the First Lady offered her recommendation for the film American Sniper, which has just become the highest-grossing war movie of all time. The organization promotes positive portrayals of American service members and veterans in the media, and Michelle Obama emphasized that the the Clint Eastwood film fulfills that mission with “a complex, emotional depiction of a veteran and his family”:
“I had a chance to see ‘American Sniper’ this week on that long flight we took,” the first lady, who just returned from a trip to India and Saudi Arabia, said Friday.
“While I know there have been critics,” Obama continued, “I felt that, more often than not, this film touches on many of the emotions and experiences that I’ve heard firsthand from military families over these past few years.” …
The star of “American Sniper,” Bradley Cooper, also appeared at Friday’s event with Obama. Cooper plays late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in American history.
“Now, I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it,” Obama told the audience, “but this movie reflects those wrenching stories that I’ve heard — the complex journeys that our men and women in uniform endure. The complicated moral decisions they are tasked with every day.”
Maybe Howard Dean should have checked with Mrs. Obama before shooting his mouth off about the film earlier in the week. Dean didn’t bother to see the film before dismissing the audiences flocking to see it as “very angry” and mostly Tea Party supporters during an appearance on Bill Maher’s HBO show. Gary Sinise, who did see the film, fired back:
“To Howard Dean, I saw American Sniper and would not consider myself to be an angry person,” Sinise wrote.
“You certainly have a right to make stupid blanket statements, suggesting that all people who see this film are angry, but how is that helpful sir? Do you also suggest that everyone at Warner Brothers is angry because they released the film? That Clint Eastwood, Jason Hall, Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and the rest of the cast and crew are angry because they made the film?
“Chris Kyle’s story deserved to be told. It tells a story of the stress that multiple deployments have on one military family, a family representative of thousands of military families. It helps to communicate the toll that the war on terror has taken on our defenders. Defenders and families who need our support. I will admit that perhaps somewhere among the masses of people who are going to see the film there may be a few that might have some anger or have been angry at some point in their lives, but, with all due respect, what the hell are you talking about?”
Dean made an appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball a few days later, only partially contrite for his comments. He told Chris Matthews that he would only apologize to veterans, but not the audiences he insulted:
FMR. GOV. HOWARD DEAN (D-VT): I’m going to do something which I almost never done in politics. I’ll apologize to the veterans. I haven’t seen the movie, and I think it was wrong. I talked to a lot of people about this. I make no apologies to the thousands of right-wing nut jobs who have twittering me with nasty language, but I do apologize to the veterans. We owe them a lot and I think this movie was much more nuanced than I thought.
MATTHEWS: But you’ll not take the word nutbags back?
DEAN: No. For the people who tweeted me all weekend and used a lot of bad language, they’re chicken hawks and I have no respect —
MATTHEWS: Well, we don’t like chicken hawks.
DEAN: I do have respect —
MATTHEWS: Like Dick Cheney.
DEAN: I have a lot of respect for the people who served this country and I apologize.
Because the real victim here is Howard Dean, y’all. Maybe after the First Lady urges Dean to see the film before shooting his mouth off about it, she can offer him a badly-needed lesson in graciousness.