Is HBO’s ‘Game Change’ Telling the Wrong Story?

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"Is HBO’s ‘Game Change’ Telling the Wrong Story?"

There’s a lot of talk about the quality of Julianne Moore’s Sarah Palin impersonation in the trailer for Game Change, the adaptation of the juicy-if-thinly-sourced 2008 campaign chronicle (my take: she’s fine, if no Tina Fey). But I think the real question is whether HBO’S is telling the right story in focusing on Palin:

Ultimately, McCain’s selection of Palin only changed the game in that it made McCain look like a gambler. The selection didn’t actually chane the dynamic of the race, and Palin has essentially retreated into the small-town Alaska from whence she came in the years since. The selection of her didn’t even stem from particularly novel thinking, unless playing women and people of color off against each other counts. Not to go all Slim Charles on it, but the game was the same–it just got more fierce.

The story I’d really like to see out of that book, actually, is the one about John and Elizabeth Edwards, Rielle Hunter, and the fact that he went ahead with the 2008 campaign despite the mess in his personal life. Hubris and denial aren’t emotions that can be fit into rationality, which makes them particularly interesting. What happened behind the scenes in Palin’s brief, dizzying ascent has been done to death. The Edwards’ follies and tragedies are still somewhat inexplicable. And in a country where we’ve only ever had one divorced President, the idea that you could totally escape the expectations Americans have for the private lives of presidential candidates (Clinton, at least, only ever had Chelsea with Hillary) is a kind of magical thinking.

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