Tin Soldiers and Bush Coming

Washington City Paper | October 20, 2006
This crisp, lively, but unsurprising documentary’s title refers to Ohio’s traditional position as a bellwether in presidential elections; no Republican has ever been elected president without winning the state. In 2004, however, that history was less important than Ohio’s position as the pivot that could have turned the election to Kerry, and as a place where Democratic votes reportedly were not just suppressed but stolen. ...So Goes the Nation skirts the latter subject, perhaps because the film was largely completed before the most recent allegations of vote-tampering, or maybe just because director-producers Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern are uncomfortable outside the media mainstream. The opening montage, which begins with the election-night remarks of then network anchors Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, and Tom Brokaw, sets the tone: This is a film that likes the sound of official voices. Although it presents the experiences and impressions of a few political grunt workers—both Ohioans for Bush and out-of-staters for Kerry—the movie proceeds mostly as a cut-together dialogue between such campaign insiders as Democrats Terry McAuliffe, Mary Beth Cahill, and Paul Begala and Republicans Mark MacKinnon, Ken Mehlman, and Ed Gillespie. Basically, they all agree: Kerry ran a lousy campaign, while Bush doggedly kept on message. Begala ruefully acknowledges that a president with a less-than-50-percent approval rating should have lost, while MacKinnon allows that Howard Dean “would have been a better candidate against us.” Such admissions will interest campaign-strategy buffs, and there’s some priceless footage, notably of a belligerently confused Bush supporter who insists that it’s Kerry, not Cheney, who has a lesbian daughter. Coming almost two years after Bush took Ohio’s electoral votes, however, the film seems a little late and a lot timid. Perhaps the accusations that the Republicans used computerized polling machines to steal votes are entirely unfounded, but it’s still bewildering that ...So Goes the Nation tells the Ohio 2004 story without mentioning the name “Diebold.”

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