Saturday, June 8, 2013

Stranger than Fiction

Mad Dog would never have chosen to watch a movie about Sarah Palin, especially a docudrama in which an actress portrays Ms. Palin in a bio docu drama politico thriller, but sometimes it is best Mad Dog finds himself over ruled.

In "Game Change," Julianne Moore plays Ms. Palin with such uncanny verisimilitude Mad Dog had to keep telling himself he was watching an actress, not the real thing. 

The story confirms what the average citizen could have concluded on his own, that Ms. Palin was astonishingly ignorant when she was chosen to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. 

The great parallel, subtly drawn in the film, between Palin and her hero, Ronald Reagan, is that they were both empty shells, but great actors, who could deliver lines and electrify crowds when they had been given the right lines to deliver, but neither had more than the minimal number of functioning brain cells.

Ms. Palin did not understand why there were two Koreas, really did think Alaska's proximity to Russia was her major foreign policy merit badge, needed remedial current events lectures, had no clue about what the Constitution actually says or means and, generally speaking is, in the worse sense of the phrase, a true hockey mom, and not far from the lipstick on the pit bull she described herself to be. 

Two things watching this remarkable movie did, which Mad Dog found astonishing: 1. It engenders a certain sympathy for Palin, who is portrayed as being genuinely hurt and humiliated as her deficiencies are exposed, particularly by the deft and brilliant interview by Katie Couric and the lancinating satire of Tina Fey.  2. It reminds you why Palin was such a potent force and such a seductive choice--she is a consummate entertainer. She delivers a devastating performance at her convention speech after the teleprompter fails, and she simply launches into her familiar, well honed populist script. She knows the lines that will inflame the crowd and she delivers.  

The movie reminds us that John McCain did have an honorable streak once, showing him refuse to stoke the racist, lunatic hysteria always present in his audiences.

"Game Change" is a reminder about how American politics really does have an Emperor's New Clothes aspect: Sometimes what you see what really is all there is.  You assume because she was chosen, Palin really had a depth and a background which was not evident on television, but the truth is, she was even more ignorant and backward than she appeared. She was the lipstick on the pit bull.

Listening to the Lyndon Johnson tapes, available on line from the Johnson library, you can get the same sensation, listening to Johnson struggle with the truths which are so apparent to any citizen who watched Walter Cronkite's nightly reports on Vietnam: The war had nothing to do with defending freedom, defeating Communism or helping a beleaguered people yearning to resist the onslaught from a dark, blood thirsty regimen allied to Communist China. It was simply a war forced on an agrarian people who didn't care who was in power in Saigon, but just wanted to be left alone after the French colonists had departed.  Johnson refuses to see what is right in front of him, even when Richard  Russell, his good friend from Georgia, tells him the Vietcong and North Vietnamese know we don't want to stay in Vietnam and eventually we will leave, so they have only to wait us out. We can never win.

Sometimes the thing which is most obvious, most plainly presented in front of you, whether it is the woman from Alaska or the war in Vietnam is just so plain, you cannot believe what you are seeing is real. 


  1. Mad Dog,
    Yes, truth is stranger than fiction-in fact, perhaps if during the election Sarah Palin had worn a sash with that emblazoned on it we all could have more readily gotten our heads around why the former mayor of Wasilla might end up a heartbeat away from the Presidency. It's quite scary to think things wouldn't have needed to be much different-the Rev. Wright scandal breaking weeks not months before the election and McCain succumbing to one of his ailments- and Sarah could have been looking at the Washington Monument rather than Alaska from her backyard.

    I agree Julianne Moore was great in Game Change. She deserved the Emmy she won for brilliantly depicting what happens when you are unqualified, but decide to go for the brass ring anyway, once it's dangled in front of you. You understand her motivation, but I can't say the same for McCain-he might have refused to stoke the racist fires but he was still ridiculously reckless and willing to throw the country under the bus in order to win. What exactly were the other assets he saw in Palin-her amazing ability to make the "W" look clever in comparison, all her cute clothes and shoes, the multiple kids she could trot out? I was one of the many that bought into the Maverick myth-thankfully that got put to rest once and for all while he was losing not winning the election...On the other hand Mad Dog, just think of all the blog material a Palin Administration could have provided-it would have been a struggle just to keep up...Oh well...

  2. Maud,

    Do you think there is much competence in Washington? Among the elected officials, that is.
    Have we constructed a system which does not require competence?
    That would be, when you think about it, a pretty amazing accomplishment.

    Mad Dog