More 'Game Change' Fallout: 'Staffers talk just to save their asses'

By my count, including Governor Palin, who's gone on the record with various statements and her own fact-checked-to-death autobiography, "Going Rogue," we now have 11 people -- 10 of them on the record -- who were there during the campaign and who vigorously and openly dispute the malicious way in which the Governor is portrayed in HBO's "Game Change."

The most important thing to remember, is that a few of these individuals did speak to the "Game Change" authors and screenwriter, but rather than take the word of those willing to speak out in the open, those writers CHOSE instead to take the word of those who refused to go on the record.

If you have nearly a dozen people, either telling you or willing to tell you the same story openly, why then would you choose to go with bomb-throwers living in the shadows.

That's a rhetorical question.

Well, now we know who one of those bomb-throwing cowards is, Steve Schmidt, who HBO portrays as the calm, cool, reasonable hero of the film. In real life, however, it's no secret that he was the "super-genius" behind ("Schmidt pushed for going all in") the moment polls prove really lost the 2008 election; when Senator McCain foolishly decided to suspend his campaign and run back to DC to save the economy. Yes, it was Steve Schmidt who "pushed" to have McCain charge off on a white horse without having any idea as to where he was charging off to. McCain went to DC without a plan, looked feckless and reckless, and never recovered. "Game Change" blames the campaign's loss on Palin, but that's a total and complete fabrication.   


So you're Steve Schmidt and  you've lost a campaign through the stupidest move imaginable -- what now? Furthermore, among many, you have an awful reputation as everything Woody Harrelson's depiction of you covered up -- as a bully, a screamer, a foul-mouthed stretcher of the truth who isn't very competent. Suddenly it's hard to find a high-profile job on a campaign -- so what do you do?

Well, the only thing you can do; you offer up Sarah Palin as a sacrifice to the leftist wolves who hate her so much. You offer Hollywood and the corrupt media her head in exchange for a moment in the Tinseltown/MSNBC spotlight. Schmidt knows a rabid market when he sees one, so there was really no way his plan could fail. And at the end of the day, in a big, splashy HBO movie, no less than Woody Harrelson rewrote all of Schmidt's personal history and portrayed him as the calm, moral, competent center of the storm.  

It must've been especially gratifying for Schmidt to witness HBO portray his historic political bungle -- the suspending of a campaign with no exit strategy -- downplayed as nothing more than footnote.

In the New York Post today, this is probably what a $50,000 a month advisor to the McCain/Palin campaign meant when he or she strongly disputed HBO's portrayal of  Palin, and said when asked how such "folderol gets out:"

Whether there’s something to say or not, staffers talk just to save their asses.

"Game Change" portrays Palin as control-freak completely full of her own power and who breaks a promise about sharing the stage with anyone pro-choice. Well, we've already proven that a lie, and this advisor backs us up:

“There are inaccuracies. Julianne Moore as Sarah saying she won’t stand on the stage with anyone who was pro-choice? Please. I was on Sarah’s plane. Small plane. No first-class section or anything. I’d written the women’s rights speech the night before but couldn’t be with her or give it directly to her because, although she was in the next hotel room in Reno, it had first to be faxed to McCain’s people in DC before she even saw it.

“I was paid $50,000 a month to teach her women’s rights and craft the speech. She has a photographic memory. …

“This 30-minute Henderson, Nev., talk she scanned. It was on YouTube. And that stage held pro-choice women. Sarah carried the whole operation. No venue could hold the crowds — 10,000 trying to get into a stadium for 3,000 people."

This same advisor also gives us an insight into who we can assume is Steve Schmidt:

“McCain’s keepers, bald, smoking, hating her, couldn’t deal with a woman candidate. A Christian who needs to pray had no one to pray with. Separated from family, she was kept in her room. A runner who does five miles a day locked in a room!”

All of this fits the conference call a half-dozen current and former Palin aides held (on the record) with the media on February 22. Unlike Schmidt, who was hardly ever with Governor Palin during the campaign, many of these aides were either with the Governor almost constantly or in daily contact with her.

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HBO and their media allies pushed back against this conference due to the fact that no one on the call had seen the film. What most everyone failed to mention, though, was that HBO refused to show them the film, despite repeated requests Purposely kept in the dark, these advisors could only comment on the book, the trailer, and what those in the media who had seen the film were telling them. It's also worth mentioning that after seeing the film, these same advisors released a statement reaffirming every word of the February 22 conference call.

From that same call, let's revisit the on-the-record words of those who were there during the 2008 campaign and whose stories, recollections, and impression of Governor Palin and Steve Schmidt were completely ignored by the "Game Change" authors and screenwriter:

Jason Recher:

I was with Sarah Palin by her side at every event on every flight on every bus trip up until a week following the election when I departed Alaska, returned to Washington to resume my role at the White House. 

Game Change writer, Danny Strong, reached out to me as a pro-Palin person in early 2001 to get my help with his movie script.  We spoke briefly.  He asked me if the book Game Change accurately reflected my time with the McCain campaign.  I told him absolutely, unequivocally, it did not.  To this day, still my travel with Sarah Palin was one of the most positive, reinvigorating, moving experiences in my career.

By the record, Sarah Palin held 96 rallies in 19 states.  She traveled independently by bus or plane over 200 legs.  Steve Schmidt was not a daily presence on the Palin plane.  The manifests reflect that Steve was with us for only 5 of those 200 legs.  We poured through over 2,000 behind-the-scenes photos the McCain Campaign photographer, Shayla Craighead and see no evidence of a majority of the scenes, interactions from meetings portrayed in HBO’s film.

Randy Scheunemann (who is portrayed in "Game Change," but in a way he doesn’t recognize as truth):

As many of you know in 2007-2008, I was Director of Foreign Policy and National Security for the McCain and then McCain/Palin campaign.  I had several periods of intense interaction with the governor both in terms of two or three days at the convention, briefing her on John McCain’s foreign policy views and also in playing a role in debate preparation particularly in Sedona, Arizona in the four or five days before the debate where I played the role of Senator Joe Biden.

What we have here, and like Jason, I spoke to Danny Strong—I actually spoke to Mark Halperin over a couple of different periods, was very disappointed when I read the book, was reluctant to talk to Danny Strong figuring that if he was going to do a movie based on that book, it was likely to be as misleading.  Now, like Jason, I’ve not been able to review the screenplay or see the movie, but based on media accounts I’ve come to a couple of preliminary conclusions.

If the book was very misleading, the movie is going to be far worse.  This is not creative license.  This is not dramatic effect.  Frankly, it gives fiction a bad name to call this movie fiction.  It is deliberately misleading.  It is based on intentionally misleading lies and mischaracterizations.  Maybe that’s going to boost HBO’s rating, but it reflects the view of two or three discredited staffers who were in over their head in an unprecedented fashion engaged in character assassination of the vice presidential nominee picked by the presidential nominee that they purported to serve. 

[It's]fascinating to me that there are scenes in the movie from the briefing, the other individual was Steve Biegun, who actually traveled with her as foreign policy advisor, and myself.  Let me first make clear what these briefings were all about.

These briefings were not to explain the history of the world to Governor Palin.  What happens when you have a vice presidential nominee is you have to have a melding of positions between the presidential nominee/the vice presidential nominee.  There are often some awkward times.  I mean let’s remember all the way back to 1980 when George H.W. Bush called Reaganomics voodoo economics. 

We had nothing awkward like that overt criticism.  Governor Palin was completely conversant on a whole range of issues.  The purpose of my briefing wasn’t to say which side Germany was on in WWI or who the axis followers were in WWII.

The purpose of my briefing wasn’t to say which side Germany was on in WWI or who the axis followers were in WWII. The purpose of the briefings were to explain John McCain’s foreign policy view and I chose to do that by explaining John McCain’s view of America’s role in history going back to the Spanish American War, which Halperin characterizes … a book, appropriately, because that was really the emergence of America on the world stage as a great power, principally through naval power….

Did we use maps and visual aids? Absolutely. As I explained to Mark Halperin, I have briefed Senator McCain since leaving government literally on dozens of occasions and I almost always bring maps….

I use maps as a briefer and I do that and I’ve done that for presidential candidates, for numerous senators, numerous congressmen and so the idea that there was at any point—and let me just be categorical on this, the idea that there was at any point that Governor Palin expressed any uncertainty as to who were the various sides in WWI or WWII or the Iran/Iraq War or any other war, is absolutely untrue. She was incredibly intelligent; asked very informed questions. She was very interested and she wanted to understand John McCain’s view of foreign policy because she wanted to be the best possible vice presidential nominee for John McCain in a campaign where foreign policy was very important....

Meg Stapleton:

In 2008 I served as senior advisor and spokesperson to the McCain/Palin campaign and I remain in that position through my tenure with SarahPAC. 

Everyone on this call knows Schmidt and knows that Schmidt is proud to stretch the truth in his shoot-first style.  He has gone too far.  He went too far in 2008 but no one wanted to hear that because it was too good of a story and as Steve has known, the bullet fired at the wrong guy.  His circular firing squad just got a bit too small.  Schmidt is infamous for lining up and destroying.  He did so at 4 o’clock in the morning Alaska Time every morning during the campaign and then throughout the day. 

He is abusive.  He is abrasive and he is nothing short of a world class bully and his threats are just—they’re a mile long and deep.

Those are his well-known and often touted tactics and he didn’t know when to stop when he began to lose and that’s when he turned on his own party.

I have known Governor Palin longer than anyone here—certainly longer than anyone in the campaign.  We worked closely together for a number of years and during Governor Palin’s most stressful time, in her professional life and her personal life, whether it was creating an infrastructure for a natural gas pipeline, pushing oil and gas companies to their limits, scrutiny over the entrance to a national campaign overnight, the campaign itself, the debate, a book deal, numerous entertainment offers, a resignation of writing the book, we worked closely together.  Working together, sometimes living together, living with her family and hers with mine—never before, during or after that campaign, never, ever, did I see the kind of behavior described at the end of the 2008 election, in the Game Change book, or what we have seen, read, or heard about in this movie.  Like all the others, I’ve not been granted access to it and nobody with the book and nobody with the movie contacted me either. 

Tom Van Fein:

I was Governor Palin’s attorney from August, 2008 through December, 2010.  I was directly involved in certain campaign issues, most critically what’s been referred to as Trooper-Gate. 

Because of that, I had had regular and sustained daily contact with Governor Palin during the 2008 campaign.  I traveled on the plane with her, sat next to her at times, and I worked for hours with her.  We reviewed thousands of pages of documents in preparing for her deposition and in dealing with the accusations that were then being made and the person that I worked with and the person that I represented was very focused, diligent, and sharp.  She was motivated and enthusiastic about the campaign and enthusiastic and motivated to exonerate herself, which she did, from the false allegations that Mr. Wooten.

What you saw from her publicly at rallies and at other public events is essentially what you saw privately, if you got a chance to spend time with her privately the way we did.  She was engaged, optimistic, mastering the events and the facts of the day and all of my interactions with her, she showed leadership and resolve and was very much engaged in the entire process in a very optimistic manner exactly as you saw at the rallies and elsewhere.

So to the extent—and I have not seen the movie obviously or read the book, but to the extent there are any allegations that somehow behind the scenes she was not cogent or depressed or somehow lethargic or not responsive, I can categorically say that that’s false and whoever said that made that up entirely.

Also on the call and on the record were Andy Davis, Doug McMarlin, and Tim Crawford. But you get the idea.

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After seeing the film, Jason Recher told me this:

After watching HBO's "Game Change" I'm convinced that HBO stands for Helping Barack Obama. This fictional film is anti-fact and anti-history. Three of the 25 sources quoted by writer Danny Strong as "involved" with the 2008 campaign, are now on record now rejecting the film after seeing it.

A fourth "source" has privately apologized for their involvement. The others remain anonymous in role and name. HBO has not provided one fact or tangible piece of evidence that any of the slanderous charges they make in their propaganda piece are true. Not one. HBO profits from America's freedom of speech, but seems to reject another of her tenants - innocent until proven guilty. They fight fact with fiction, and should label this movie as such.

Those behind HBO's "Game Change" CHOSE to use the sources they did and CHOSE to ignore the sources listed above who are unafraid to tell their stories under a microscope.

What more proof does anyone need that "Game Change" was nothing more than a two-hour negative campaign commercial produced by Obama's Hollywood pals? At the time the film was announced and produced, Sarah Palin was considered a likely challenger, and so they set up HBO as their own personal super PAC and set out to destroy her.  

There simply is no other explanation.



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