Ed Harris as John McCain and Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin in HBO’s Game Change, which premieres March 10.
Over at ThinkProgress, Alsyssa Rosenberg is speculating about why HBO’s adaptation of Game Change, John Heilmann and Mark Halperin’s book about the 2008 Presidential campaign, focuses on John McCain and Sarah Palin, a story she says:
…that’s both been done to death and is essentially irrelevant: Palin is a PR phenomenon and McCain will never be president. They’ve both returned from whence they came.
By contrast, the story of how President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarded each other in the buildup to and during the 2008 campaign, and how they came to be partners rather than enemies, is both directly relevant to ongoing events and a much richer story than that of John McCain’s taking a flyer on his VP selection.
Rosenberg thinks it might have been due to how hard it would have been to cast a compelling and convincing Barack Obama. Could be. Although, off hand, I think if they’d asked Denzel he’d have been glad to give it a shot.
My guess why Palin and McCain rather than Clinton and Obama? Ratings. Soap opera outdraws a civics lesson.
Also, Julianne Moore in a short skirt and boots vs Meredith Baxter in a pants suit.
Let’s leave aside the fact that by the time Sarah Palin prompted her first, “Sarah Who?” Hillary had been long out of the picture. It would have been hard to do the whole book and it makes sense that the producers would have chosen to focus on the most crucial part of the election campaign---the election.
As a pure story, what went on in the McCain campaign is just far more dramatic and filmable.
It’s stunning on the face of it that Palin could have been placed that close to becoming President. (Which, by the way, wasn’t really that close. McCain picked her because he was desperate and he was desperate because he knew he was going to lose.) It’s horrifying to realize just how unsuited she was for any public office, never mind the highest in the land.
But here’s the thing. Last year, when the project was greenlighted, Sarah Palin wasn’t irrelevant. Far from it. There was still the real possibility that she would not only run for the Republican nomination but win it. Game Change could have been airing at about the time Palin was wrapping up the nomination. All those supposed Not-Romneys who have come and gone, were really We Want Sarahs. The Radical Right is deciding the nomination and she is still their darling or she would be if she hadn’t jilted them. It’s astounding how quickly she made herself irrelevant to this election season.
And that fall from grace is part of a fascinating story.
It’s a story that might be better told in a novel, and it’s too bad Sinclair Lewis isn’t around to write it.
But here’s the other thing. Sarah Palin will never be President, now. But she is still relevant and will be relevant for a while longer (a short while, I hope), not in herself, but because of what she represents.
Liberals and the very few sane conservatives who are left can’t believe anyone could think Sarah Palin was fit to be President. But no one was going to vote for her to be President. They were going to vote for her to be their hero-queen.
She was their anger embodied. Their bitterness, their hatreds, their resentments revenged. She was to be their righteous rage let loose upon all those Others who made them feel afraid, insecure, cast aside, and irrelevant.
They weren’t going to vote for her to govern the country. They were going to vote for her to get even on their behalf.
They being mostly middle-aged white men and youngish white men feeling themselves slipping into premature obsolescence and impotence.
And they haven’t gone away.
And they’re not going to go away, not before November at any rate. They’re in the process of deciding the Republican nomination and with it the Presidential election---even if Romney runs off Santorum, they’ve so crippled Mittens by making him pander to them, at the cost of his losing the independents and even more women, that they’ve effectively ensured the re-election of the Other they most fear, loathe, and despise. But that’s the only good news. They are still going to decide the make-up of the Senate, the House of Representatives, and a whole bunch of state houses and the insanity is going to continue and get worse wherever they win.
Sarah Palin is terribly, terrifyingly relevant to their story.
To tell the truth, I don’t think I’d be interested in a TV movie about the Clinton and Obama campaigns. Two hours of scenes of Barack Obama strategizing with David Axelrod and David Plouffe alternating with scenes of Hillary Clinton strategizing with Mark Penn? No, thanks. I’m just relieved there isn’t one about John Edwards’.
As far as casting goes, I don’t know who’d have made as good an Obama as Moore is said to be a Palin and Harris a McCain. But I get a real kick out of the fact that they cast Austin Pendleton as Joe Lieberman.
Morning update: Robert Reich doesn’t mention Palin in this post, As Santorum and Romney Battle for the Looney Right, the Rest of Us Should Not Gloat, but he’s making a similar point. Palin herself may not be relevant to this election, but what she stands for most definitely is and that’s scary. (via Brad DeLong.)