Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Moral Game Change

Tomorrow’s water-cooler topic at work will be the HBO Sarah Palin movie, with riffs on the performances, accuracy and political meaning. It’s not likely there will be much talk about its morality.

In 1962, an Eisenhower aide, Emmett J. Hughes, published “The Ordeal of Power,” revealing internal debates during his White House years. It was a first, and when JFK heard about it, he told his staff, “I hope nobody around here is writing that kind of book.” Nobody did.

In our era, everybody tells everything in memoirs or self-serving interviews with journalists. The public’s right to know, you know.

Fair enough, especially about what manipulative political campaigns are hiding, but within “Game Change” and Julianne Moore’s amazing performance, another movie is struggling to be seen—-not about Sarah Palin’s total lack of qualifications to be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office but the incredible irresponsibility of John McCain and their handlers once they discover it.

By giving her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, they manage to hide Palin’s ignorance in her debate with Joe Biden and then high-five one another over the accomplishment, but not once is there even fleeting consideration of replacing her on the ticket, as George McGovern did with Thomas Eagleton in 1972 when news about his mental-health history leaked.

In 2008, says the author of a book about Palin, she “was picked by McCain's all-male pack of senior advisers not because of her experience and statesmanship, but because of a political calculus that placed a higher value on her flash than her substance. They were looking for a ‘game-changer’--and they treated the political future of this country as though it were, indeed, a game.”

“Game Change” is less a movie about Sarah Palin than a cautionary tale about today’s politics in which there is potentially more profit in disloyalty rather than loyalty:

“We already don’t write things down for fear of having documents subpoenaed. Now, in a meeting, you’ll have people staring at each other afraid to say anything—-for fear that it’ll end up in a book.”

Will anybody be talking about that at the water cooler?

Update: A couple of days late, the “hero” of “Game Change” gets the point by telling an interviewer “the experience on this campaign is that there are worse things than losing.”

Pressed by a TV interviewer, Steve Schmidt admits that “the notion of Sarah Palin being President of the United States is something that frightens me, frankly. And I played a part in that...because we were fueled by ambition to win. And I think that ambition to win, to victory is what drives people in we got there is something that troubles me a lot.”

Thank you, Dr. Frankenstein.

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