Leno Says Game Change ‘Humanizes’ Palin; York: Could’ve Focused on Democrats Trying to Block Black Man

A week from tonight (Saturday, March 11) HBO will debut Game Change, which promos
strongly suggest will present a disparaging portrait of Sarah Palin, but Thursday night on the Tonight Show, during a segment with actress Julianne Moore who plays Palin, Jay Leno contended the movie “humanizes” Palin and is not “some kind of slash and burn job.”

“Whether a Republican or a Democrat,” Leno urged, “don’t watch it for the politics. It’s just a human piece. I think it kind of humanizes Sarah Palin. I thought it was really, really good.” He soon added: “I highly recommend it. If you’re an ardent Republican and you think this is some kind of slash and burn job, it’s not. It’s really what a campaign does to a person.”

The Washington Examiner’s Byron York, a couple of weeks ago, however, rued how HBO’s version of the Game Change book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, by focusing only on Palin, misses the “most compelling part of the book” which wouldn’t make Democrats look good. York suggested the film “could have focused on the racially charged effort among white Democrats to stop the first black man with a serious chance of winning their party’s presidential nomination.”

(Meanwhile, Friday night on HBO’s Real Time, Heilemann, a regular on MSNBC, let loose with his disdain for this year’s Republican presidential field, declaring “they all suck,” “they’re whacked in a variety of ways” and are a “clown car of candidates” – all before ridiculing Newt Gingrich: “It would be worth every dime if Newt Gingrich would relocate” to the moon.)

An excerpt from York’s February 21 column:

....Why did Hollywood focus on only one-half of Game Change? The other half would have made a great movie.

It was certainly the most compelling part of the book, with no end of dramatic moments. The Clinton-Obama version of Game Change could have focused on the racially charged effort among white Democrats to stop the first black man with a serious chance of winning their party's presidential nomination.

The alternate Game Change could have featured the spectacle of Bill Clinton, the nation's "first black president," doing everything he could, risking his own reputation and place in history, to stop an actual black man from winning the office.

The alternate Game Change could have featured white Democratic party elders torn over the Clinton-Obama contest, loyal to Mrs. Clinton yet impressed by Obama's ability to speak "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one" (in the infamous words of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid).

And then there was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. What a great role the fiery preacher from Chicago would have made! Game Change -- the book -- reported that Obama and his top aides knew all along that Wright would be a problem, and yet did nothing about it until Wright's "Goddamn America" sermon burst into the news.

The alternate Game Change could have featured top Clinton aide Harold Ickes' suggestion that the campaign hire a private investigator to probe Obama's connections to Wright. "This guy has been sitting in the church for twenty f--king years," Ickes is quoted in the book as saying. "If you really want to take him down, let's take him f--king down." Screenwriter Danny Strong -- he also worked on "Recount" -- couldn't have written it better himself.

The movie also could have focused on Hillary Clinton's anger at Obama's ability to escape the Wright mess unscathed. "Just imagine, just for fun, if my pastor from Arkansas said the kind of things his pastor said," Clinton told aides, according to the book. "I'm just saying. Just imagine. This race would be over."

Finally, the alternate Game Change could have focused on top Clinton strategist Mark Penn, the man who wrote campaign memos questioning Obama's American identity. "Obama's roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited," Penn wrote, before concluding: "I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values."

It could have been an extraordinary look at the troubling issue of race playing out inside a party that takes pride in its civil rights record. The alternate Game Change could have been a complex picture of complex people in a complex situation.

And most of all, the alternate Game Change would have provided insights into the man who became president of the United States....

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center