Game Change

The New York Times predictably loves the HBO fantasy about the 2008 campaign and Sarah Palin. As expected, the HBO wet kiss to liberalism paints Governor Palin as vapid, inexperienced and unprepared for her role in the campaign:

You just can’t get good help anymore.

That was the lesson of the 2008 Republican presidential campaign, and it could be why “Downton Abbey” is such a hit. There is something so old-fashioned and romantic about servants, or aides, who put loyalty above their own self-interest.

“Game Change,” an engaging HBO docudrama on Saturday night, is told through the eyes of the advisers who developed the losing strategy of Senator John McCain of Arizona and Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska. In this iteration Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson), the senior adviser, is the war hero, and Senator McCain (Ed Harris) comes off as a crusty old soldier who follows orders but can’t help grousing.

There are some cracks in Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Governor Palin: she leaves out the sexy sassiness. But considering the challenge — not to mention the incomparable Tina Fey parody — Ms. Moore plays the candidate with surprising finesse. This is a sharp-edged but not unsympathetic portrait of a flawed heroine, colored more in pity than in admiration. Ms. Palin’s detractors will consider it generous, and her advocates have already dismissed it as a liberal smear job.

The real tribute is that it exists at all. It’s been four years, and the country is now enmeshed in a volatile and impassioned Republican primary fight that does not include Ms. Palin. This moose-hunting Alaskan hockey mom was polarizing in 2008, but few would argue that she cost Senator McCain the election; the economy and his own miscalculations did the trick.

“Game Change” is based on a best-selling campaign book of the same title by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, but it leaves out often juicy material about John Edwards, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama to focus on the behind-the-scenes efforts to train and contain Ms. Palin…

The film shows how she is rushed to instant fame without preparation, kept away from her family and mocked continually on television, while stern Republican staffers in suits overwhelm her with facts and numbers.

But not every vantage point is included. Many scenes depict Ms. Palin struggling with basic facts and her own sentences. The film doesn’t show McCain aides leaking those damaging tidbits to the press.

Senator McCain, though convincingly played by Mr. Harris, is a secondary character, decent and sympathetic to his running mate’s plight but preoccupied with his own problems. Ms. Palin dominates as a disarming egotist whose presumption is balanced by charisma and animal cunning — and in this film, as in life, she has the last smirk.

At the end of “Game Change” top aides watch Senator McCain deliver his concession speech with Governor Palin at his side. “Still think she’s fit for office?” Mr. Schmidt mutters bitterly to Mr. Davis.

“Who cares?” Mr. Davis replies. “In 48 hours no one will even remember who she is.”

Any questions about accuracy or whether or not the book by two liberals, Mark Halperin (the senior political analyst for Time magazine,, and MSNBC) and John Heilemann (a writer for New York magazine, where he mainly covers US politics. He previously was a staff writer for The New Yorker, Wired, and The Economist), might just have a political angle?

None. It is a fact. It agrees with the conventional liberal wisdom that Sarah Palin is basically a character creation of Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey.

Compare the review of Game Change to that of another historical pic – The Kennedy’s in January of 2011:

A promotional trailer for “The Kennedys,” a multimillion-dollar mini-series prepared for the History channel, suggests it will offer a sweeping inside look at the backrooms and bedrooms of that political clan. There are stylized re-enactments of the life of President John F. Kennedy and his family, and a title card that reads, “Behind the public image lies the story of an American dynasty.”

But concerns about the accuracy of the story presented in “The Kennedys” led to a decision by History not to show it. That decision seemed like a sudden reversal, but it came after an unsuccessful yearlong effort to bring the mini-series in line with the historical record. That effort raised questions about the boundaries between dramatic license and documented fact, a particularly fraught issue given enduring sensitivities about the Kennedy legacy.

The cryptic statement from History seemed to reflect criticism that dogged the project for months, even before it started production. In February a group of historians organized by a liberal filmmaker, Robert Greenwald, issued a condemnation based on early drafts of scripts obtained by Mr. Greenwald. These historians said the scripts contained factual errors, fabrications and more than a dash of salacious innuendo. Among the critics was Theodore C. Sorensen, the longtime adviser and speechwriter to President Kennedy. (Mr. Sorensen died in October.)

Three people who have viewed “The Kennedys” say the filmed episodes still have scenes of questionable factuality. In an episode set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, for example, Jacqueline Kennedy gathers her children and tells President Kennedy she can’t tolerate his behavior and is leaving the White House.

Richard Reeves, a journalist whose books include “President Kennedy: Profile of Power,” said those events most likely never occurred. “It was just the opposite,” he said: the first lady remained with the president during the standoff at his request.

The three viewers said the mini-series also portrayed a sexual relationship between President Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, which Mr. Reeves dismissed. “There are a thousand books on Kennedy,” he said. “But I don’t think there’s a debate about it among serious historians.”

Mr. Reeves said there was a factual basis for scenes that showed the president and his wife taking pills, prescribed and not, for a variety of ailments.

Mr. Dallek said that in contrast to recent presidencies that had “a desultory quality” and “demoralized” the country, President Kennedy’s was still remembered by many for its optimism and Kennedy’s inspirational speeches.

“These are the kinds of things that give people the feeling that, ‘If only Kennedy was still president,’ ” Mr. Dallek said.

As Drudge headlined: “NYT Shows Cards: Raves…”

Unfair to Palin yet very predictable.

Remember – for leftists, there is no bourgeois truth, there is only truth that advances the revolution.


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