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Byron York: Why Does HBO's 'Game Change' Focus All Its Fire on Sarah Palin?

Byron York: Why Does HBO's 'Game Change' Focus All Its Fire on Sarah Palin?

Only a small portion of the book “Game Change,” the political best-seller covering the 2008 presidential campaign, is about Sarah Palin. And yet, all of the HBO movie is. You could write a book about all the important people, fascinating stories, and events the movie chose not to cover, and someone did — it’s called “Game Change.”

Even so, the book’s extensive use of “deep background sourcing” has come into question by no less than Howard Kurtz

The book, which had its debut on “60 Minutes,” relies on interviews with more than 200 people conducted on “deep background,” meaning the information could be used without identifying the sources. This enables the authors to describe unvarnished versions of heated and often profane arguments involving the candidates and their staffs, but it is also a recurring weakness. The most cooperative sources may have gotten to spin the narrative their way, and no one — such as Steve Schmidt, the former McCain aide who has publicly criticized Palin — was pressed to be on the record. …

Deep background means that you can describe someone’s thinking or reconstruct verbatim dialogue when you’re writing about events involving that person. As an author who has used the technique, I don’t believe it entitles you to directly quote what someone said to you, which effectively puts it on the record, and several other journalists have said they agree.

…and the New York Times:

The resulting chatter can be more sudsy than substantive, and has at times reduced the 2008 election — one of urgent issues, historic precedents and profound consequence — into a mean-spirited (and possibly sexist) farce[.]”

So, what we have here, is a movie based on a questionable book that extensively used unnamed sources (well, at least until rabid Palin-hater Steve Schmidt decided to come out of the closet), and a movie that chose to only grab the small portion of that book that has nothing to do with the sitting President of the United States.

Why would HBO do such a thing? 

Well, when the film was first announced last year, Governor Palin was still a likely 2012 challenger to Barack Obama. So a hit-job movie based on a hit-job book that would target the likely GOP front-runner in the heat of a campaign, must’ve seemed like the perfect in-kind contribution to Obama’s reelection effort — especially for director Jay Roach and writer Danny Strong. After all, both men contributed the maximum amount to Obama in ’08, and that probably just didn’t feel like enough.


And so with millions at their disposal from a “SuperPAC” called HBO, and a complicit left-wing media that for years has been desperate to find a silver bullet that might finally take Palin down for good, we get a major television “event” surrounded by unbelievable media hype, that chose to “speak truth to the out-of-power,” as opposed to offering any insight on the most powerful man in the world and his current Secretary of State.

The Washington Examiner’s Byron York:

The book, by journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, focused equally on the bitter contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, and the troubled McCain-Palin ticket that went down to defeat in November ’08.

But the movie is about just one topic: Sarah Palin. Director Jay Roach jettisoned most of the book’s riveting political story so he could focus on the tumultuous period in which John McCain chose the then-governor of Alaska as his running mate.

Despite a few positive touches, no one will be surprised to learn that “Game Change,” the movie, will present an overwhelmingly negative portrait of Palin. Roach — he also directed the one-sided, pro-Gore “Recount” about the 2000 election — even goes beyond the book to throw in some new material from his own research. Roach also compressed some events and turned descriptions of conversations into dialogue that may or may not have actually happened.

But put that aside. Why did Hollywood focus on only one-half of “Game Change”? The other half would have made a great movie. …

The alternate “Game Change” could have featured white Democratic party elders torn over the Clinton-Obama contest, loyal to Mrs. Clinton yet impressed by Obama’s ability to speak “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one” (in the infamous words of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid).

And then there was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. What a great role the fiery preacher from Chicago would have made! “Game Change” — the book — reported that Obama and his top aides knew all along that Wright would be a problem, and yet did nothing about it until Wright’s “Goddamn America” sermon burst into the news.

The alternate “Game Change” could have featured top Clinton aide Harold Ickes’ suggestion that the campaign hire a private investigator to probe Obama’s connections to Wright. “This guy has been sitting in the church for twenty f–king years,” Ickes is quoted in the book as saying. “If you really want to take him down, let’s take him f–king down.” Screenwriter Danny Strong — he also worked on “Recount” — couldn’t have written it better himself.

You’ll want to read the whole thing.

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