Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wicked game

“Game Change” is a movie that does the impossible. It made me feel a little sorry for Sarah Palin. I know – inconceivable! Like many a political junkie this week I watched HBO’s “Game Change,” the big-screen adaptation of the book by the same name about the rise and fall of the McCain-Palin ticket. And it was equal parts fascinating and frightening, entertaining and empty. While I’m sure certain liberties were taken by both the writers and filmmakers (p.s. Did you know Danny Strong, a.k.a. Jonathan from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” wrote the script?), the film’s dishy details are less troubling than its broader implications. Namely the sad truth that all too often in the political arena potentially world-altering decisions are made based solely on cavalier and craven reasoning.

Make no mistake, Sarah Palin was not picked for her record as a less-than-one-term governor of Alaska. She was not picked for her foreign or domestic policy expertise. She was not picked for her name recognition. She was not picked because of her capabilities or intellect or ambition. She was picked because she was a woman. Which, if we’re going to talk sexism, hello there.

Which brings me back to the feeling sorry for Palin stuff. Not for long, mind you. But for longer than I ever imagined. Much of this – heck, probably 99.9 percent of this – I credit to the wonderful Julianne Moore. Her portrayal is richly nuanced and delicately layered. This is far more than mimicry, this is an attempt to understand exactly what is ticking under that Bump-It. And through her we watch Palin transform from a folksy deer in headlights to a savage political powermonger. Did Palin know she was in over her head? Almost certainly. Do I feel bad someone so out of her element was thrown into the deep end of national arena? Sure, some. Do I think McCain comes off too scott-free in the campaign’s collapse? Pretty definitely. Do I think Palin got a taste for the spotlight and decided to hold onto it at all costs? You betcha.

Which is not to say that I have a problem with Palin’s ambition. I do not. Women should be allowed to be ambitious, and nakedly so, just like men. All too often we talk differently about women’s ambition than men’s ambition. Women are pushy. Men are bold. Women are nags. Men are particular. So on and so on. God, it’s tiring.

What I have a problem with about Palin is her basic lack of competency, willful zealotry and calculating use of divisive politics. One of the biggest problems with politics today is we tend to demonize the opposition. Our side is all good, their side all bad. One side is right, the other wrong. Side of angels, side of devils. And so on and so forth. It’s a lousy way to run a country. Without compromise, two opposing sides will never agree to do anything. How can they – when the other side is evil. Or at least they want you to believe the other side is evil. As a strategy. As a way to distract us from what matters.

So when the McCain-Palin ticket says Barack Obama pals around with terrorists, it’s not much of a leap is it for whipped up crowds to call him a terrorist himself. Or when Palin draws imaginary borders around what she considers “the real America,” it’s not hard to paint the rest of us as simply un-American. And that, that’s what I despise about Sarah Palin. Not that she’s an ambitious woman. Not that she’s found some degree of success. It’s that she’s making our political discourse worse, not better.

That’s why a movie like “Game Change” really matters. It’s not the gossipy backstabbing and musical blame-game. It’s peeling back the layers to see what makes a person tick, and what makes our politicians work. It shows us real American politics – and no matter how pretty it smiles, it’s all-too-often ugly underneath.


Anonymous said...

I worked in government, and unless you have also then you are unaware of how cutthroat and ruthless it is.

From the top down to bottom up there are only two ways you can survive in Washington, D.C. in any administration: Be ultra prepared as if everyday is a battle of intellect, or behave as subserviantly [Sp] as possible and hope that the plantation overseer misses you.

I am very serious, it's really bad. Now as far as Palin is concerned. I don't feel one iota of sorrow or empathy for her. She doesn't get a pass merely because she was overwhelmed.
Palin REFUSED to prepare herself and then when asked a simple question like: What Do You Read? She couldn't answer it.

One would think then that she would say: "Hey since I am in the big leagues now, how can I better prepare myself?" She refused for whatever reason she refused to even educate herself independently of McCain.

To mak matters worse, I swear that white people and the misguided that were supporting her and McCain merely because they didn't want an African American president. They would ridicule Obama for using a teleprompter [something done by every American president] but excuse Palin for reading talking points written on her left hand, On Camera!

Palin's supporters would denigrate First Lady Michelle Obama whose level of education exceeds Palin's. Hell my education exceeds that of Sarah Palin.
So do I feel sorry for Sarah Palin? Uh Hell No, you know how you people are. A person could be a crack addicted whore but as long as she is whit she is handed the world on a silver platter. Oh get over it you know I don't lie

Willow Rosenberg said...

God, DS, you are a wonderful writer. Sometimes I forget and then when I realize it I get in awe of you all over again...

egghead said...

"What I have a problem with about Palin is her basic lack of competency, willful zealotry and calculating use of divisive politics."

Oh yes indeed, "willful zealotry" got'em whipped up, oh yes indeedy.

I generally like your articulation of this movie.

Yes, Julliane did us (liberals/progressives) a big favor humanizing this woman. No one on either side bothered to keep her human, btw. (I've always thought of we liberals being able to transcend meanness - not becoming what we most despise.) It was a literal free for all on her during that campaign. Liberal men, in fact, were the worst. The other side were just gaga out of their minds.

She evoked such rage among lib women with her blatant divisive-fest of lying. She was an absolute embarrassment to us of the ovary kind. She would not represent US as the first woman VP we cried! During that campaign I tried my best to focus on her obvious lack of facts and other worldly ways of ridiculously contradicting herself in one single sentence. lol! Did Sarah even know what sentence structure was? (Oh, I have to stop now - I'm having PTSD flashbacks from campaign, 2008) . . .

Anonymous said...

I read recently (can't remember where) the term for Palin, TeaParty-ers, etc. is "aggressive ignorance". About sums it up.

Your friend, Rusty said...

I can never feel sorry for her because I remember how furious I was during her acceptance address at the RNC. Smug and vile.

And also, she is a "Stump Turtle" - originally applied to Dubya but it fits Palin just well if not better.

"When you drive along a long Texas road and come upon a turtle on a fence post, you stop because it's such a strange thing. You realize the poor thing did not get up there by himself, he does not know how he got there, you just know he does not understand what he's doing there, and you know he doesn't know what he's going to do next. Then you realize you have to do what you have to, to help the dumb bastard down."

AT said...

In complete agreement with this fabulous post. I must also add that her ascendancy to the possible VP position was such an affront on so many levels. As a woman, I was particularly angry that they GOP operatives seemingly thought so little of women that they assumed any figure in a skirt could fill the spot and, therefore, be cutting edge, appease voters, etc. I understand the allure, at that time, of putting a woman in that place. However, the fact that they couldn't even be bothered to vet a suitable woman for the position was ridiculous. Was it a supply and demand problem? Laziness? Stupidity? Regardless, it would have been better to not have a woman on the ticket than try to sell SP to the general public as a viable player at the table. It was demeaning on so many levels to choose this woman and, to me, showed the real feelings toward women inhabited by the majority of that party - the current anti-women legislation only supports this assertion. Additionally, it opened the door to the ridiculousness of women like Michelle Bachmann to the political stage.

AT said...

Pss. I also saw Julianne Moore discuss the film on John Stewart and she mentioned that this was not necessarily a movie about SP but also an interesting look at how we now pick our candidates. I see SP as an extension, or maybe even further caricature, of this folksy persona that George W. ushered in - this idea that the public wants to vote for the guy/gal they'd most likely want to have a beer with at the end of the day. I find this so ridiculous on so many levels. a. these people are hardly everyday folksy types b. why would we want them to be? I have no desire for my president to have a beer with me but I do have a desire for her/him to lead us out of economically desperate times, negotiate often tenuous foreign relationships, etc. I want my president to know more than me, be better educated than me, work harder than me, and be generally more invested than me...that's the job description and qualifications as I see it...not joining me for a drink in the pub. SP and the lot created a very dangerous mockery of the whole idea of a public servant and, certainly, of the most important public servant in the country.

Anonymous said...

I love how politics get such long winded comments!