Republican professionals were too chivalrous to do it alone. So, they collaborated with Hollywood to produce an HBO film about that terrible woman from Alaska who wrecked John McCain’s chances to be President of the United States.
Certainly, her briefings on foreign and monetary policy, debate preparations, and the glib vice-president vetting interviews with experts from all appropriate fields—carefully verified with on-hand witnesses—were cringing. She was play-acting from Wasilla. But, for screaming out loud, they were play-acting from Washington.
The film is burdened by a rather obvious if subtle contract between its inside McCain consultants and its producers: if the insiders help the producers portray Sarah Palin as being as truly bad as she was, they will be portrayed as intelligent professionals who, at worst, made that once-in-a-career mistake that interesting professionals are prone to make.
Consequently, the conversations with the presidential candidate are worthy of Disneyworld. McCain’s brilliant strategist Steve Schmidt’s first words of advice are “to put country first.” McCain visibly swoons.
Schmidt has acknowledged, after the campaign, that the idea of Vice President Sarah Palin is “frightening.”
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However, on every occasion in Game Change that Sarah merely survived, he and his campaign (with the honorable exception of media advisor Nicole Wallace) were elated because, for a careless moment, he felt he was getting Palin and McCain that much closer to the White House. The only thing that truly frightened him was the possibility that that during the campaign itself the general public would be privileged to find out that Sarah Palin was an ignorant phoney surviving entirely on memorized one-liners provided by pointy-headed snobs.
The closest the film gets to raw male hostility toward Barack Obama is the use of the word “celebrity.” The film notes their use of the snide slogan “Real America” and McCain’s constant rhetorical question: “What does Obama plan for America?” It doesn’t bother, however, to explore why and how they must wear him down in their overall campaign, not just in Palin’s pitch to the evangelical base.
That’s merely air-brushing history. But, it’s pure distortion to create the impression that Sarah Palin single-handily stirred up the “dark side of American populism.” She was the amateur in a bigger game.
In truth, the Republican Party still hasn’t come to grips with Obama or what to do in a general election with the slogan the "Real America.” This week, Pew Polling reported that a majority of Mississippi Republicans still think Barack Obama is a Muslim. Game Change may rehabilitate a few careers in Washington, but it won’t teach the Republican Party how to beat a popular Democratic president.