September 28, 2004


Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry (A movie by George Butler, theatrical release 10/1/04)


Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry is a feature length documentary about character and moral leadership during a time of national crisis. Loosely based on the best-selling book Tour of Duty by Douglas Brinkley, Going Upriver examines the story of John Kerry and the key events that made him a national figure and the man he is today. The film places particular emphasis on his bravery during the Vietnam War and his courageous opposition to the war upon his return.

The film traces Kerry’s early life as a young man who chooses to enlist in the Navy and to go to Vietnam. The film reveals intimate, first person accounts of Kerry’s war service through his own private letters, his eloquent journal, and the vivid memories of the men who served at his side. When Kerry came home disillusioned by the war, he and his fellow Vietnam Veterans challenged Congress and the Nixon administration. As Kerry became a nationally known anti-war activist, the Nixon White House plotted to discredit his leadership, but significantly could find “nothing on him,” as Colson reveals via Watergate tapes. Despite Nixon’s attempt to undermine John Kerry’s political career during his 1972 unsuccessful run for US Congress, Kerry persevered, eventually winning election to the Senate and receiving the Democratic nomination for president in 2004.

Every once in a while, I go cruise through Democratic Underground because, first, I'm just slightly sadistic and, second, I want to make sure that I'm not the one with blinders on. The other day, I noticed a thread with the heading "October Surprise", leading to a discussion of this movie. Apparently, John Kerry was a war hero in Vietnam and then came back home to courageously oppose the war. Once the American people learn that, well, Katie bar the door, it's a Kerry landslide.

Obviously, the last thing the Kerry campaign (as opposed to the candidate) wants or needs right now is more time being spent on Vietnam. And yet its friends (Butler is apparently a good friend of Kerry's) and allies won't shut up about it. Mickey Kaus has pointed to this type of mixed message as one of the benefits of McCain-Feingold: Rather than being beholden to contributers who allow him to craft his own message, Kerry is more likely to be annoyed at uncoordinated attacks that step on his message. The problem is that, if Kaus is right, this ought to be symmetrical. Bush should be having the same problem. But the Bush campaign is self-evidently in control of its message and is simply not engaging with hostile or friendly 527s. The difference is that John Kerry doesn't have a message; he has only a muddle.

The real lesson of this campaign is that McCain-Feingold is irrelevant: voters see a consistent message coming from the well-run campaign and confusion from the campaign that has lost its way. If McCain-Feingold is irrelevant, why are we limiting political speech?

Posted by David Cohen at September 28, 2004 12:48 PM

Apparently, John Kerry was a war hero in Vietnam and then came back home to courageously oppose the war. Once the American people learn that, well, Katie bar the door, it's a Kerry landslide.

Gee. Couple a' weeks ago, the DU-ers were pointing to the Kitty Kelly book as the magic bullet that would bring on the Kerry landslide . . . and before that, it was the 60 Minutes report on the Killian memos . . . the convention bounce from the DNC . . . Farenheit 9/11 . . . the ad blitz . . . .

Poor deluded devils.

Posted by: Mike Morley at September 28, 2004 12:59 PM


Are you sure you didn't mean to use "masochistic"?

The Left likes (and relies upon) "magic bullets" because otherwise you'd have to work and demonstrate that your candidate and his policies are superior.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 28, 2004 1:12 PM

I'm struck by the reference to Kerry's journals as a source of the movie's narrative. I thought the Kerry campaign refused to release the journals because Brinkley had a proprietary in same.

Butler, by the way, directed 'Pumping Iron,' and claims that he predicted Arnold's election as governor years before the fact.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 28, 2004 1:37 PM

Raoul: They're so far gone (or I am) that it's amusing rather than painful -- and putting in the time now, before their bubble bursts, will make November all the sweeter.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 28, 2004 1:47 PM

Kerry was in 'Nam? Who knew?

Of course the DU'ers believe in magic bullets. It's all part and parcel of their fanticist belief systems.

Magic bullets, the missing plane at the Pentagon, Afghan pipelines, Osama in a secret holding cell until late October, what's the difference?

Posted by: H.D. Miller at September 28, 2004 1:52 PM

even if McCain-Feingold wasn't or isn't irrelevant, why are we limiting political speech?

Posted by: JonofAtlanta at September 28, 2004 2:04 PM

Jon of Atlanta:

I agree, why? I can conceive of no other answer than the one OJ gave to this very question: A law can, to all appearances, contradict the plain reading of the Constitution yet be declared "Constitutional" by the Supreme Court.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at September 28, 2004 2:17 PM

The best part is that the film trumpets JFK's "courageous opposition to the war," the details of which most Americans find reprehensible. It's bizarre that the left for some reason doesn't understand this...

Posted by: brian at September 28, 2004 2:32 PM

Professor Miller: But isn't it sad that they keep reloading this particular Magic Bullet? It hasn't worked and there is no reason to think it should work, but here they go again. This is worse than Bob Dole, who was convinced that the next drop of evidence that Clinton was scum was going to be the drop that broke the dam.

JofA: Sure, let's get rid of all campaign finance regulation other than disclosure. It is nice, however, when you can show your opponents that, even given their premise, the proffered solution is irrelevant.

Bruce: This is one of those circumstances in which the Constitution just torpedos good policy. Rather than ignore the First Amendment and just have a discussion of what policy on political speech and finance works best, the argument degenerates into what will the First Amendment let us get away with. Also, regardless of the Constitution, there should be a natural law prohibition on politicians regulating political spending.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 28, 2004 2:40 PM

Bush has a message, which it makes it easy for the Republican-leaning 527's to base themselves off of. Kerry does not have a message, so the Democratic-leaning 527's have only ABB to base their message off. Not helpful if your purpose is to get John Kerry in.

Posted by: Mikey at September 28, 2004 2:53 PM

Bush also never planned to use an ad blitz by 527's, et al (not coordinated with his campaign, of course, whatever gave you that idea?) to get around campaign spending restrictions.

Posted by: Chris B at September 28, 2004 5:33 PM

So for those who remember the '88 campaign is Kerry a better or worse candidate than Dukakis or Mondale?

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at September 28, 2004 6:58 PM

CBR Chris?

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at September 28, 2004 7:03 PM

Re: Mccain-Feingold. The law was not about speech, it was about guns. McCain-Feingold was targeted (sic) at the NRA, no more, no less. Does it work? Does it make a difference? Just about as much as the defunct so-called "Assault Weapons Ban."

There is something about the gun issue that makes gun-grabbers very, very stupid. They always screw themselves up with poorly conceived and poorly drafted proposals.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 28, 2004 9:12 PM

re: sadism

Well, okay. I can't stand the hate contained in those sites, so better you than me, and I'll trust you on the contents.

In years past such vitriol would have been accompanied by mob violence, arson, vandalism, bombings and the occasional assassination, so I guess we should be thankful the worst they seem capable of doing is defacing bumper stickers and building giant puppets.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 28, 2004 11:10 PM

M Ali:

Of the three, Mondale was the worst, although at least he was more honest than Kerry is.

Like Kerry, Mondale ran on the platform of raising taxes, but unlike Kerry, Mondale made it the centerpiece.

It's pretty rare to see a politician at the national level who hasn't yet learned that the American public says that they want someone to tell them the truth and make tough decisions, but they vote for candidates that pander and dissemble.
Mondale hadn't learned.

Dukakis was just a run-of-the-mill candidate, stiff and uninspiring on the stump, with a mediocre staff that couldn't get the poor guy into the right photo op's.
If Clinton had run in '88, he probably would've beaten George H.W. Bush, IF he could've gotten the Dem nomination - It was a "seven dwarves" primary season for the Democrats.

About Dukakis: If he'd been photographed driving the tank, in the center of the beast, active and having fun, instead of perched stiffly on top, would it have been as badly perceived ?
I suspect that it would have humanized him.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 29, 2004 2:56 AM