EASTON, Md., March 8, 2012—Time to dig into the Jujubes, break out the Milk Duds, and wrap your tongue around some Gummy Bears. Saturday night is movie night with Sarah Palin.
Love or loathe the former Alaskan governor, this is the movie everyone will be discussing around the proverbial water cooler come Monday morning. It promises to be an evening that will undoubtedly thrill the hearts of Liberals and raise the blood pressure of Conservatives. “Game Change” (see video trailer below), based on one segment of the nonfiction account of the 2008 campaign, will air this Saturday, March 10 on HBO at 9 pm.
With a movie star cast headed by Julianne Moore as Governor Palin, Ed Harris as Senator John McCain, and Woody Harrelson as Steve Schmidt, who was McCain’s Presidential campaign manager, “Game Change” tells the story of Sarah Palin’s rise from relative obscurity to superstar celebrity and her ultimate fall from grace. Like a solar storm, Palin played havoc with politics as we had known it up until 2008.
The movie, based on the nearly 450 page book of the same name by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, purports to tell how that happened, but it also tells the story of an America hungry for someone to make them feel good about themselves again and filled with hope. Palin’s aggressive optimism and quirky downhome charm gave them that.
Palin and Obama Both Electrified Crowds
Not unlike Barack Obama, Palin seduced the electorate with her message and fired up the base. Half of the book is devoted to the McCain-Palin campaign and half to the Obama-Biden campaign, but the movie makers concentrated on the McCain-Palin story because, as the film’s director explains it: “What was happening behind the scenes [at the McCain campaign] was 10 times more amazing than what was happening in the public eye. No one changed the game more than Sarah Palin.”
“Game Change” becomes a story of a woman way in over her head politically. Her famous gaffes and her mushrooming ego were ultimately her undoing. And the campaign handlers who thought they had found the perfect running mate for Senator McCain found that like Dr. Frankenstein they had fashioned a creature they could no longer control. And we all know how that story ended.
People who have seen “Game Change” say it is a sympathetic portrayal of Palin’s rise and fall and it doesn’t hold back in depicting both her strengths and weaknesses while avoiding a Tina Fey parody. Outside of Sarah Palin herself, who says she has not seen the movie and won’t see it, those players in the Palin drama like Schmidt or Nicole Wallace, who was the senior advisor for the McCain-Palin campaign, say the characterization of them and the 2008 campaign year are accurate. That may not make some Republicans happy when they see these two GOP insiders aghast at what they had wrought.
According to Republican pundit David Frum, scenes that are sure to set Conservative teeth on edge and verify what many Liberals suspect include Sarah Palin acting like a “loose cannon, ignoring instructions from advisors and going off-message when the urge strikes her. Her swelling ego has also made her forget about her home state (where she would resign as governor the following year). Pulling McCain (Ed Harris) aside, she whispers conspiratorially: ‘We have to win this thing — I so don’t wanna go back to Alaska!’”
McCain’s reaction to his running mate as time wore on? Frum reports that McCain says wistfully: “This is not the campaign I wanted to run.”
When Ignorance Wasn’t Bliss
Her ignorance left the campaign staff flabbergasted, especially her not knowing such basics as what the Federal Reserve is, much less of its existence, or knowing why there are two Koreas. But Palin was glib, feisty, and lovable on the stump and knew how to rip the rafters from the roof when she gave a speech like the one at the Republican National Convention.
Towards the end of the campaign, Sarah found her own message, one that resonated with the Party base and became the theme song of the Mama Grizzly as she pursued her new career of being Sarah Palin after the election: The battle for America is between real, patriotic Americans and the despised, weak-kneed coast dwellers. It’s still a universal refrain of the current presidential debate: the elites vs. real America.
But anyone who has followed the meteoric trajectory of Sarah Palin knows that she is not going to take “Game Change” lying down. After all she is the Mama Grizzly. She has come out with her own video “Game Change We Can Believe In” (see video below) which is part parody and part setting the record straight from her point of view. It even included scenes of Schmidt and Wallace giving TV interviews during the campaign praising Palin as an outstanding campaigner and a major asset to the ticket.
Palin told Sean Hannity on Fox News this past Saturday that the movie is from the “pro-leftist, pro-Barack Obama machine. Hollywood lies are Hollywood lies.”
Schmidt and Wallace say no, not true, “Game Change” is accurate. In fact, Wallace, who served in the White House as President George W. Bush’s communications chief for eight years, admits she could not bring herself to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket.
So when are Schmidt and Wallace to be believed? Now or then? Was Palin misled by the McCain team? Was that the source of what they felt was her rogue behavior?
When Palin was recently on Chris Wallace’s Sunday talk show on Fox News, she brushed aside the movie, saying “Goodness gracious, I’m really not concerned about an HBO movie based on a false narrative when there are so many other things to be concerned about… I’m sorry that millions of people are going to waste their time. I’m sure they have more productive things to do.”
Wallace then asked her if it was true as depicted in the move that Palin fell into a “funk” as the McCain campaign tried to prepare her for her debate with Senator Joe Biden.
“I was never in a funk,” she said. “Thank god, I have the right perspective on what really matters in life and there is no reason to be in a funk when you know what the right priorities are and what really matters.”
For now, the former governor has said she will just grit her teeth and bear it. That might be easier said than done as the movie’s debut gets closer and closer.
First come the columns like this one, then the barrage of questions from the Right and Left, then comes the movie, and then the reviews. And if the movie wins any awards down the road like an Emmy for Julianne Moore, then it will start up all over again.
For Sarah Palin there is no escaping Sarah Palin.
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