The biggest surprise in HBO's Game Change is how well John McCain comes across. Unlike liberal caricatures of him during the 2008 campaign, McCain appears as a reasonable centrist -- a warmongering flag-humping centrist, but hardly the crypto-fascist of Obama loving imaginations.
I always wondered why liberals so brutally turned on McCain. Before that campaign, he was the liberals' favorite Republican. Yes, it was election-year politics, where reality takes a long vacation. But McCain was scarcely the worst of the GOP field. Hell, on some issues he was probably to the left of Bob Dole, and Dole wasn't all that right wing. Not compared to Bush and Cheney. Not even close.
Sarah Palin, on the other hand, appealed to the reactionary base. Which is why she was chosen. That, and being a woman. Running against the first Black presidential nominee necessitated something radical on McCain's end. And cousin, was it ever.
I don't know if Game Change wants us to hate Palin all over again, but it had the opposite effect on me. I actually sympathized with her. Not that I agree with her politics or think she'd make a great communicator. I simply shared her revulsion for her campaign managers.
Palin got a front row view of how corporate politics is played. Image, perception, and the lies that tie them together knocked Palin to her knees. She was deeply in over her head. She had no business being on a national ticket, not if you believe in the system. That stage is reserved for serious players. People who have no problem with ordering death. Or catering to elites. Or further marginalizing and criminalizing the populace.
I'm sure that Palin was and remains down with all that. Potentially being a heartbeat away demands fealty to imperial rule. But the system is bigger than one person, and Palin would be limited in her reactionary reach.
If the system can reduce Ronald Reagan to being "a useful idiot for Soviet propaganda," as right wing activist Howard Phillips called him (with George Will tsk-tsking Reagan's "appeasement" with Gorbachev), then Sarah Palin had no chance to usher in a pro-hunting theocracy. Still, she served as a handy villain for liberals to boo and hiss.
Julianne Moore's Palin flirted with Tina Fey's impression -- inescapable, as were the SNL clips in the film -- yet Moore lent Palin more humanity than did her detractors. Looking back, it's amazing how much misogyny was tolerated by liberals. We briefly saw it again with Michele Bachmann, but nothing close to what Palin received.
Ed Harris' McCain was breezy and diverting, traits that are rarely applied to the actual man. Harris made McCain look better than he did Jackson Pollock. But then artists are moody and temperamental.
Game Change is clearly meant to influence the upcoming election. It's pro-Obama all the way. Not that it's necessary. Compared to McCain, Mitt Romney is an inflatable party doll, synthetic with the same dull stare. Barring some major catastrophe, Obama will roll right over Romney to a second term.
I doubt that Romney's running mate will be as polarizing as Palin, but you never know. I hold out hope for an entertaining choice. It's the least we deserve.