The man who centrist Dems love to blame for November’s defeat (and everything else) held court at a lunch in New York City today. Organized by the inimitable publicist Peggy Siegal to celebrate Fahrenheit 9/11 receiving the New York Film Critics Award, the lunch featured placecards with sparkly flags and a “God Bless America” invocation. At the private event Moore offered his spirited two cents on, well, almost everything.

(And by the way, buzz at the lunch had it that if Mel Gibson had agreed to pose with Moore, Time magazine would have ditched Bush as Person of the Year.)

“I’m heading to LA this weekend for the Peoples’ Choice Award for Best Picture. We’re up against ‘Shrek,’ ‘Spiderman.’ and ‘The Incredibles.’ I love that the people voted for these films. So, maybe you’ll see me on CBS this Sunday. I haven’t been allowed live on an award ceremony for a while. Maybe I’ll get to finish my last speech. And this time I’ll thank my wardrobe person and my Pilates instructor. Hated to forget them last time.

Some of you asked me ‘Where do we go from here? What should the Dems do? How do we survive whatever mayhem these people are going to bring down on us? Well, everyone who voted for Kerry should feel good about what you did…Lots of young people came out. Lot of good work was done to get more young people to vote–MoveOn, ACT, Springsteen. Don’t let the pundits get away with saying more young people didn’t vote.

Okay, here’s one thing we need to do now: Find our Arnold. Who is our Arnold? Yes. The Dems need to embrace Hollywood because they don’t know how to tell a compelling story that people connect toin a visceral way. The Republicans love Hollywood. They run to it (and they run it). The Republicans discovered that America loves Hollywood, loves actors, and when given a chance they vote foractors. Reagan, Arnold, that guy from the Love Boat, Sonny Bono.

The Republicans run professional actors and really good amateur ones, like the one in the White House. That bumbling Gilligan, the genius at his craft.

If I hear the word Evan Bayh one more time (and, hey, I don’t have anything personal against the guy)–or anyone from that pool…well, we’re not going to win with that kind of candidate.

I’m not saying we need an actor from Hollywood, but someone who connects with people.

How about Caroline Kennedy?

Or Obama? What got me thinking about Obama was at one of my holiday gatherings, a relative who’s never said the words civil rights, if you know what I mean, suddenly said ‘I liked the story Obama told.’

Obama knows how to tell a story.

The irony is that most of creative people, the writers, are on our side. But then the Republicans seem to know how to tell better stories. Listen to Bush’s story: ‘out of the ashes of 9/11, astride the rubble, stood one man and he said, I will protect you, and the people were never attacked again and they lived happily ever after.’

What was Kerry’s story? (Several people shout from various tables–“I’m better than a Bush, I’m not an asshole.’) Yea, that was about it. So we got 57 million votes on a tagline–and not a very good one. Amazing we did as well as we did. We shouldn’t feel defeated. Bush doesn’t have a mandate. Seventy million people didn’t even vote and they’re the poor and the working class and we should spend the next four years giving them reason to vote next time. The majority of Americans are not with Bush. On virtually every issue, with the exception of the death penalty and gay marriage, Americans take liberal positions–though they may not call themselves liberals–because their heart is a good one, open, liberal.

Think back to Roosevelt. He had the Capras, Sturges, Steinbecks and they moved millions, the nation, with their art. That brought popular support to a radical agenda. Don’t need to make polemical documentaries.

There’s nothing wrong with running someone who is our Arnold. It doesn’t need to be a professional actor. Let’s start looking for our Arnold, and stop listening to pundits who say Americans hate Hollywood.

And let’s move on and figure out how to connect with 70 million. Those are our people.

Moore then took some questions from assembled lunchers.

Q: Who’s our Arnold?

MM: Well, ask Caroline Kennedy. And who wouldn’t vote for Tom Hanks? We need someone who’s beloved and trusted by American people. May seem facetious but it’s true.

Q: What about Hillary? John Edwards?

MM: Well, she’s a star. Edwards is not a star. And nothing wrong with discussing Obama. Sure, they’re people who say ‘well, he can’t win.’ I’m not so sure. Americans are not so closeminded. Give Americans some credit for rising above their own personal prejudice and bigotry. Democrats become weak-kneed so easily. Be proud of who you are—have the courage of your convictions. Why are we still listening to 200 members of the DLC. They’re Republicans posing as Democrats.

Q: What do you think of those who say Americans don’t trust Democrats on national security?

MM: Think it’s a problem. The country was brutally attacked. People were afraid. In those conditions, understandable that people want a crazy motherfucker on their side, the guy who will kick ass. Americans need to believe that person in that chair will kick some ass. Dems should have been asking, right away, where’s Osama bin laden, where are the special forces to track him down. Not waiting for Richard Clarke to write a book.

Q: What’s the one-liner for Dems?

MM: Hmmm. Maybe, ‘We’re Going to Kick some Ass.”

Q: What’s next?

MM: May make a sequel to Fahrenheit. Gathering footage. But my next film is about the health care industry, the HMOs, the pharmaceuticals. The shared American horror story. Don’t want to say more. The drug industry is already aware of me. Pfizer sent out some memo warning their people about me showing up. They’re even running training sessions on how to deal with me. Pfizer even sent out a Michael Moore hotline number to call if I show up. But there are good people, pissed off employees sending me memos. I actually had a fantasy. What if we just put out that we’re making this film and then sit back. Might just change the behaviour of these companies, and then we can watch football.

Q: Tomorrow, the vote will be certified. You had that extraordinary scene in Fahrenheit from 2001 showing members of the House being gaveled down, out of order, with not a single Senator rising in support. What do you expect tomorrow?

MM: I’m hoping that one Senator will join with John Conyers–just to investigate the vote so we stop this from ever happening again and send a strong message to some of these hack Secretaries of State.