What Have We Done? New Film Shows McCain Camp Angst Over Making Palin a Star
Ok, I guess I have to watch Game Change on HBO. David Frum's review makes it sound irresistable. I have reservations because I found the book to be rather breathlessly patronizing and cruel toward all the women in the 2008 campaign, from Clinton to Elizabeth Edwards to Palin. It was just too much to take in the wake of that intense campaign and I put it away half way through and and haven't picked it up since. Maybe I should.
My criticisms of the coverage of Palin in general were not so much about her intelligence, which I agreed was egregiously inadequate to the task, but rather the creepy stories about her running around in a bath towel in her hotel room and the unnecessary discussions of her pregnancy and "mothering" habits. As much as I loathe her as a politician and political figure, that stuff was too much for me. But Frum highlights something more interesting in the film which I think is well worth exploring:
By luck or by some deep political instinct, Palin launched her attack on the credentialed urban elite at exactly the hour that this elite was discrediting itself as at no time since the urban crisis of the 1960s.
It was the mighty brains of Wall Street who first enabled the financial crisis—and then escaped scot-free from the disaster, even as ordinary Americans lost their jobs, homes, and savings. Palin was speaking to and for constituencies who had steadily lost ground through the previous decade—and who now confronted personal and national disaster. Meanwhile, the people asking for bailouts—and the people deciding whether to grant bailouts—boasted résumés that looked a lot like Obama’s private school/Columbia/Harvard Law School pedigree. That is, when they weren’t outright Obama supporters and donors.
And at the same time, the position of America in the world—and of the white majority within America—seemed in question as never before. There, too, Obama could be made to represent every frightening trend: the flow of immigrants (12 million of them between 2000 and 2008, half of them illegal); the rise of non-Western powers like China and India; the deadly threat of terrorism emanating from people with names like “Barack,” “Hussein,” and—give or take a consonant—“Obama.”
Game Change shows Palin gleefully exciting all these fears—and a dismayed McCain overwhelmed by them. “Who is the real Barack Obama?” McCain, as played by Ed Harris, asks a campaign crowd. “A terrorist,” shouts a man in a red gimme cap. Later, other voices from the crowd shout in reply to that same question: “A Muslim! A socialist! He hangs out with people who hate our country! Kill him! Send him back to Africa!” McCain recoils—but Palin is shown leading angry crowds in chants of “U.S.A., U.S.A.”
“This is not the campaign I wanted to run,” Harris’s McCain wistfully laments. But it’s too late.
Now that's interesting and if the films captures some of it, it will be worth watching.
Also, too, this:
The professionals soon discover their mistake. “I don’t even like to say this, but has it occurred to you guys that she might be mentally unstable?” asks one staffer about the woman the McCain campaign proposed to put next in line to America’s nuclear codes. As they come to know Palin, the campaign professionals begin to feel an awakening of conscience: first qualms, then fears, and finally revulsion—not for the campaign, not for their careers, but for their country. They supported McCain because they saw him, in Schmidt’s words, as a statesman and national hero running against a celebrity with no major life accomplishments. In hopes of reversing adverse poll numbers, they yoked a great man to a running mate who was not merely unworthy, but dangerous.
Some of the best acting in the film is in the looks of unspoken dread that flit about the faces of Sarah Paulson’s Wallace and Harrelson’s Schmidt as they react to Palin’s wilder and wilder provocations. What have they done? And if this campaign somehow wins—and Palin is put within reach of the presidency—what might they have done?
In the end, Wallace confesses she could not bring herself to vote for the ticket—and Schmidt is left to wrestle with his conscience before the 60 Minutes cameras, gallantly casting aside all self-excuse and self-deception. “You don’t get do-overs in life,” he says in the anguished voice of a man who wished one did.
It's hard to believe now that Palin was once considered the frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2012. And I'm not entirely convinced she couldn't have competed quite well against the clown show ended up with if she had even the slightest ambition to be a real politician. Her status should have been everyone's first clue that the GOP had already flown over the cliff.
Frum's review discusses the huge costs to the Republican party and the country of her special brand of resentment politics. But she's not the progenitor of them --- there have been a slew of attractive right wing women selling that message for years.
He should look to Roger Ailes, the man behind the GOP Girls Gone Wild Fox culture. He didn't personally groom Palin. But he certainly created the prototype.