Game Change: Movie Review

The HBO Original Movie, “Game Change” based on the book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann aired this weekend.  It focused on John McCain’s decision to choose Governor Sarah Palin has his running mate in the 2008 presidential race.  All in all, it was a very good film.  Obviously it was slanted, but it was made by Hollywood so I would expect nothing less.  I’ll endeavor not to spoil specific instances in the movie for those who haven’t watched it.

The most striking fact about the movie for those of us that have actually read “Game Change” is the fact that the book is mostly about the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama with the John Edwards affair playing out on the side.  Only one chapter of the book is dedicated to the rise of Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential nominee.  The fact that the producers determined to ignore the most compelling story of 2008:  a woman as the frontrunner and the rise of the first African-American president is, in-and-of itself telling.

However, the movie seems to be mostly factual.  Although I love Sarah Palin and view her as an important voice in the Republican Party.  I think most of us can now admit that she wasn’t qualified for national office.  The problem with the bias of the movie isn’t that they mislead us on the facts.  The movie reflects the stories told in the book.  Which are probably somewhat true.  The problem is that half of the film includes screen shots of Campaign managers Nicole Wallace and Steve Schmidt looking down their nose at a candidate that they never vetted.

The story does little to show Palin’s side of the story.  Palin was a highly successful politician in a small state and obviously couldn’t even comprehend what she was jumping into.  She is a politician and it is her job to do a good job and take greater opportunities when they present themselves.  She really did the best she could without hardly any knowledge and as the movie demonstrates, she did a heck of a job.

The movie also underlined what is so great about John McCain.  I can hardly think of a republican that angers me more than McCain on policy or on the fact that he never seemed to want to fight Obama to win the nomination.  However, as the film demonstrates, McCain never, to this day, blamed Palin for his problems.

On a certain level, McCain had to know that he was just so far out of sync with the base of the party that he had little chance.  McCain would likely tell you that the party left him behind.  The problem is of course he isn’t really conservative on any issue and thus, Ronald Reagan himself couldn’t of helped John McCain beat Barack Obama.

Obviously, a more balanced approach would have attempted to stay clear of making Sarah into a religious nutcase, instead every ounce of Palin’s religiosity was quickly followed with the judging eyes of a campaign staffer as if she was some sort of imbecile.

The film also portrays Palin as extreme for not supporting embryonic stem cell research and refusing to campaign with a pro-choice candidate onstage.  While these scenes were meant to paint her as strange, tt was these moments that reminded me of her backbone and the reason why we love her.

At the end of the film, McCain warns Palin not to be “co-opted” by the extreme fringe of the party, commenting that they would “destroy” the party.  The film focused on showing how angry, bitter and racist the republican base was.  On both the left and the right, it is easiest to demonize those that you can’t understand.  That seems to be the tone the movie sought to strike in showcasing republican voters.

All in all, the game change decision was a masterful one.  There was no one that was going to help McCain defeat Barack Obama, and a beautiful, gun-toting, pro-life woman with an 80% approval rating was a high risk/high reward decision that took guts.  In the end, it wasn’t Sarah Palin’s lack of knowledge that sunk McCain, it was McCain’s stunt in suspending his campaign that really demonstrated his complete and utter lack of knowledge on anything economic.  It was that moment when regular non-democrat voters began seeing Barack Obama as a man with presidential poise.

All in all, this was a very entertaining film that told a compelling story.  It focused on the worst parts of Palin while often failing to demonstrate the reason Americans continue to love her today.  While Sarah Palin is likely done with public office, I hope she will continue to speak out in endorsing conservative candidates in primaries and pushing conservative candidates in the right direction.