Michael Moore makes a casual entrance into the green room at the Arlington Theatre last Sunday night – minutes before he’s to take the stage before a sold-out crowd. Earlier in the day, his new book, Dude, Where’s My Country?, debuted at number one on the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post best seller lists.

Wrapped in a black sport coat over a green polo shirt and pair of jeans, he sports a UCSB cap atop his curly hair.

Artsweek is a little nervous. Moore has been selling out every seat in every venue he’s visited on his 39-city speaking tour. Last year, only J.K. Rowling’s latest Harry Potter installment sold better then Moore’s Stupid White Men.

Did we mention he’s also the director of the critically acclaimed “Roger and Me,” in addition to “Bowling for Columbine,” last year’s Academy Award-winning documentary?

The green room is very small, with only a handful of reporters. Artsweek can’t lurk in the corner looking smug as usual. Moore sits on the room’s lone couch and amuses some foreign reporters by greeting them in French.

He claims ignorance of the event’s high student ticket prices and appears dismayed.

He answers questions about left-wing American politics, the reasons for his success, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s conquest of the capital and the kickoff of his 12-month campaign to remove George W. Bush from office.

Moore Success

Moore credits his successful penetration of mainstream politics to his ability to relate to everyday people.

“I don’t act like a snot; I don’t think I’m a know-it-all,” he said. “I think I’m a highly flawed person. I have a high school education. There’s a lot of things I don’t know.”

He credits his appeal to college students, like the many in the audience tonight, with the fact that he hasn’t changed a lot since he was 22.

“I exist in that same place where I have a healthy disrespect for authority,” Moore said. “I think people who are 18 to 22 share that disrespect for authority. I’m a baby boomer, and we were supposed to get things right, we did a few things, we didn’t quite turn it around, but now it’s really going to fall on you to save the world.”

Moore Schwarzenegger

“It’s always good when you have an angry mob of voters wanting to get rid of elected officials,” Moore said. “It tends to do a lot of collateral damage. This is bad for Bush.”

Anything bad for George Bush is good for Michael Moore.

“Bush stayed away from the recall,” Moore said. “He can’t validate the right of the people to remove elected officials when he’s not even an elected official.”

Moore said that if there is a silver lining to the dark cloud of the California recall election, it’s that Republicans were forced to shift their views to the left to appeal to voters, rather than the other way around.

“Eleven months ago, the people of California had a choice between a governor they despised and a right-wing Republican,” Moore said. “They would rather have the governor they despised then a right-wing Republican.”

“People should not be too depressed about what this all means,” Moore said. “It’s an acknowledgement on the Republicans’ part that the state and the country have become liberal. They know it, and they need to shift.”

Moore Bush

Moore believes he’s doing his part to save the world by campaigning to remove George W. Bush from office. He said he’ll be using his entire Bush tax cut – which he estimates will be about $40,000 this year – to help defeat Bush’s re-election campaign next November.

“I’m not going to rest until this criminal is removed,” Moore said. “And that’s what he is, a criminal. He’s violated our Constitution. He’s lied to take the country to war. I don’t know if there’s a worse lie than to lie to people in order to convince them to go to war – to give up their kids so his oil company friends could come and get wealthy.”

Within what seemed like only minutes, Moore has already hurried backstage since the hour has already rolled up to show time. Eager journalists and even a French film crew mob Moore as his assistants flank him. Before hustling on stage and dazzling the Santa Barbara audience, his final oh-so-wise gem of advice to Artsweek is that “you need to leave America to get the truth about America.” *sigh* So true, Mr. Moore. So true.