Game Change (2012)




Director:     Jay Roach.

Starring:     Julianne Moore (Sarah Palin),  Woody Harrelson (Steve Schmidt),   Ed Harris (John McCain),  Peter MacNicol (Rick Davis),  Jamey Sheridan (Mark Salter),  Sarah Paulson (Nicolle Wallace),  Ron Livingston (Mark Wallace). 

Sarah Palin is not ready for prime time and it leads her to a near nervous breakdown


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Steve tells John McCain to speak out more.  They have a great campaign slogan:  John McCain puts country first. McCain wants Steve to be his campaign manager, but Steve tells him that he promised his wife to sit this one out.  It doesn't take long before Steve becomes the campaign manager for McCain. 

John McCain wins the New Hampshire primary.  He then wins big in South Carolina.  And John McCain wins the Republican presidential nomination for 2008.

Steve is with John McCain watching Barak Obama speak.  They admire his control of the crowd and how he is such a good speechmaker.

One of McCain's staff say that Steve is raising money like an ATM machine spits it out. 

Steve says that Obama is man of no accomplishments and yet he has become the biggest celebrity in the world.  The McCain team will ask if the people want a rock star or a statesman like John McCain.  He and his staff talk about the possibility of choosing the senator from Connecticut, Joe Libermann, as the Republican Party vice-presidential nominee. 

Bill Mcinturff is a pollster for John McCain.  Steve says that  Joe Libermann is not the base of the Republican Party and they have to have their base.  They staff starts thinking to defeat Obama they need a game changing pick for the vice-presidential nominee.  The staff also acknowledges that they need to close the gap between the sexes.  To many women prefer the Democrats to the Republicans.   "So find me a woman",  says John McCain.  One of the women they think of as a possibility is Senator Susan Collins of Maine.

The also consider Sarah Palin of Alaska as a counter to the charms of Barack Obama.  She has a son in the army that is going to go and fight.  At the age of 44 she kept a developing child with down syndrome child after finding about the situation.  And in Alaska she has an approval rating of 80% percent.  Moreover, she killed the bridge to nowhere in Alaska that was a pet project of the powerful senator from Alaska Ted Stevens.  Sarah is also a woman with a gun who goes out hunting for Moose.  The governor will be attractive to the ticket, because Sarah will be able to bring back the maverick label for John McCain.  They think she can create a dynamic movement to match Barack Obama's charms. 

Sarah Palin is at a fair of some type at Alaska state park.  She gets a phone call asking her to come to Sedona, Arizona, August 27 to speak with the staff of John McCain.  Sarah Palin shows up and Steve especially asks her if she can survive the terrible pressures of a presidential campaign?  For instance, she will have no privacy and everything about her and her family will be poured over and closely examined.  In addition, there will be very unfair attacks on her and it can really get ugly.  They also want to know if she will always support John McCainís positions even if she disagrees with them.  Sarah says she doesn't have a problem with that.  Sarah, do you reject the theory of evolution?  She says her father loved to show her fossils, so yes, she believes in it, but that won't stop her from saying that she sees the hand of God in the creation of the earth.

The vetting attorney is Cluvholland.  He says that they could have have missed something in the vetting process for Palin.  She has a teen daughter that is pregnant.  She has a great life story and is extremely poised.  A bad thing is that she has been the governor of Alaska for only 18 months.  Before that she was the mayor of the small town of Wasilla, Alaska. As for her knowledge of politics, she has the smarts necessary to get up to par with other politicians.  John McCain says it's a high risk, high reward idea, but:  "Iíve been a risk taker all my life."  In addition, she fought the oil companies

Sarah talks with Steve and she says:  "Iím just Sarah from Alaska."

Someone comes up with the idea that Tim Pawlenty as the vice-presidential nominee will make the base happy and they know what they are getting.  And Sarah will be seen as a self-serving self-promoter. 

Steve tells Paliln that she seems totally unphased by all  of this says.  She replies:  "Itís Godís plan."

Dayton, Ohio August 29.  Sarah meets Matthew Sculley, a speech writer, and Nicole Wallace, the white house communications director.  They watch the television and Palin, seeing the classical Greek architecture on the platform with Obama, she says:  "You didnít know we are going against a Greek god."

Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio August 29.  John McCain is going to introduce Palin to the Republican party supporters.  Sarah says a prayer.  McCain says he is presenting Governor Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.  Sarah comes out with her family.  She comments:  "Let's have fun."  Her husband Todd is with her as are her children.  Someone asks Steve how did he keep the vice-presidential nominee a secret with such a big Palin family  Steve says he confiscated her kids' cell phones.

Sara talks about further shattering the glass ceiling for women.  Her speech goes well.  Now Sarah starts dressing better.  She gets all dressed up and Todd says itís cool. 

Now the work begins on prepping Sarah for the race against Barack Obama.  They also want to make sure that no unsuspected surprises come out about Palin and her family.  The staff prepares answers to questions that will be asked about Sarah's background.

It soon becomes apparent that the vetting process for Palin was not a good one.  For instance, there were no interviews with character witnesses. And there was no vetting concerning how much she knows about politics.  And then there is talk about her being a member of a religion that includes speaking in tongues.  It soon becomes widely known that John McCain picked an unqualified candidate for vice-president.  She was also involved in a scandal known as Trooper Gate.  Trooper Wooten is Sarah Palin's brother-in-law.  She is accused of using her influence to lessen the consequences for Trooper Wooten accused of drinking on the job and shooting moose without a permit.  Furthermore, Palin ran on the platform that the bridge to nowhere would be built.  An upset Steve says:  "Why didnít she tell us?"  He also tells the staff that they are all under attack and they all have to raise their performances.

Palin told the press secretary that she didn't want to see anymore material on her daughter Bristol.   Mom says there was just smear after smear being discussed.  Bristol is very upset when on the television there was another negative report of Bristol Palin.  Bristol is now five months pregnant.  Mamma bear Sarah now tells her staff that she wants Maria fired as press secretary because Bristol is rich comedy material for every comedian in America. 

Steve comes to Palin to talk with her.  Sarah wants to talk to the press, but Steve tells her not to talk to anyone until after the end of the Republican convention.  He adds that if she knocks her introduction speech of McCain out of the park, she will definitely get her chance to talk to the press.  Sarah calms down and tells Steve to tell Senator McCain that I wonít let him down.

Bristol's ex-boyfriend shows up for the convention sh0ow.  Sarah tells him:  "Thank you for cutting your mullet, Levi."  Steve tells John McCain that Sarah will do a fine introduction for McCaine.

What Nicole is concerned about is Palin's doing one on one interviews.  She says that Palin doesn't know North and South Korea are different countries.

Sarah Palin gives her speech. She speaks well of John McCain and McCain himself says good, good, sheís really good.  Nicole even says that Palin is amazing.  McCain says sheís incredible.

In her speech she mocks Obama for being a community organizer.  She says a small town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except the mayor has actual responsibility.  She asks:  What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?  The answer is "Lipstick". 

The reaction from the conservatives was that Palin gave a great speech.  Now when she speaks at meetings, lots of people show up to greet her.  Many parents of children with Down's Syndrome come out to see her and to thank her. 

In her speeches she starts spouting platitudes like government is the problem!

What really impresses many are the large size of her audiences.  Several conservatives say that they have never seen such crowds like Palin gives.  Others says that Palin is a bigger celebrity star than even Barack Obama. 

Sarah her says she just loves working the crowds.  Some say Palin could be the Republican party's next Ronald Reagan.

The staff is going to go through sample questions with Sarah.  They ask her about what should we say to Britain on a certain question.  Sarah says she would speak with the queen about this question.  Steve tells her that the queen is not the head of state of Britain, rather the prime minister is the government head.

Republican foreign policy advisers come in to help Sarah Palin prepare for the debate.  Steve says the cavalry has arrived.  The experts say they will first fill her in on Russian economic policy in the pre-Vladimir Putin world.  Steve says they will have to start with something much easier.  The result is that the expert sit at a table covered with a map of the world.  They have to show her country by country and tells her what's important about each nation.  Poor Sarah didn't even know that Germany was our main enemy in WWII.  The policy experts ask her if she would like to take a break, but she tells them no, because she loves hearing all this.

Bristol starts crying again over a newscast involving her and Levi.    Sarah gets angry about this once again.  She confronts Steve and tells him that her e-mails were hacked and Bristol has been getting crank calls.  Steve says he will see what he can do about this.  She asks why they haven't promoted McCain more strongly in certain states.  Steve tells her it's because Barack Obama has five times the money they have.

Sarah is still upset that they are not doing enough promotion.  She says she wants Alaskan voters polled to see how she is doing in her home state.  Steve says to run such a poll will cost $60,000 dollars cost.

Does Sarah know what the Fed is?  No, not really.  She doesn't know that the Federal Reserve system is responsible for all monetary policies.  And what about 9/11?  Sarah says our primary enemy is the radical Islamic terrorists.  She says Saddam Hussein attacked us on 9/11.  Steve has to tell her that Al-Qaeda attacked us not Saddam Hussein and Iraq.  For some questions Sarah looks on her note cards.  By now she has a lot of note cards. 

Nicole expresses to Steve her disappointment that the guys vetting Sarah really did not grill her enough.  She also says this is because they so wanted Palin to work out for them. 

Newsman Charlie Gibson asks her about foreign policy.   She says they have to keep an eye on Russia and Alaska is the place because you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.  This remark is twisted around a bit by the writers of Saturday Night Live and comes out making Sarah look like an idiot.  She watches the skits and feels a bit humiliated and a bit angry. 

Steve is starting to feel that Sarah shouldnít even be allowed in Washington, D.C., much less the White House.

Nicole tells Sarah that they need to prepare for the upcoming Katie Couric interview.  She has to learn more about the recent economic crises.  Lehman Brothers is collapsing.  By this time Sarah is just overwhelmed by the enormity of trying to push decades of knowledge into her brain almost all at one.  She becomes so upsets that she just shuts down.  She refuses even to speak to Nicole.  She ignores all her questions, but does shout her own question at Nicole.  Did Steve do the Alaska poll?  She says:  "I bet he didnít even do it."  Nicole again tries to explain her purpose here, but doesn't have any success. 

McCain's staff are worried about the economic collapse.  They says it's the worse financial crisis since the Great Depression.  They say McCain must do something very dramatic to make a big statement about the crisis.  Steve and the staff like the idea of McCain suspending the campaign and pushing for a joint effort by both national parties to fix it.  

Steve tells McCain that he feels bad about selecting Sarah Palin.  He says she should have never been chosen. 

They are putting make-up on for the Katie Couric interview.  Nicole tries to speak with her, but Sarah still refuses to talk to her.  Nicole tells her not to do the Couric interview.  She is very worried about her current state of mind.  Sarah refuses to respond to her. 

Nicole tells Steve that Sarah should not do the Couric interview.  She says that Steve should tell this to McCain.  Steve says McCain doesnít even want to know that Sarah doesnít know anything. 

Sarah is worried more about her relationship with her local town Wasilla than she is about preparing for her national interview with Couric.

The Couric interview with Sarah is a disaster for her.  Katie asks what newspapers and magazines have you read?   Sarah says she has read most of those that have come across her desk.  Katie asks to specifically name a few news magazines.  She can't do it.  Now everyone but the true believers knows that Sarah has virtually no knowledge about politics.  Jack McCoullough says if anything happened to McCain and Palin becomes the new president, it would be a disaster for the nation. 

Sarah starts to take it out on Nicole.  Nicole tells her that it wasn't the staff's fault because she just gave up on them.  She adds that Sarah never listens to her advisers.  Sarah replies with bitterness:  "I am not your puppet.  You have ruined me. I am ruined in Alaska."  She throws her cell phone up against the wall.

Sarah tells Steven:  I never want to deal with that woman again. 

Sarah believes that the staff tried to feed her too much information at one time and it's overwhelming her.  

Steve wants to cheer up Sarah.  He tells Nicole to tell Sarah that the results of the poll they did for her shows that her approval rating in Alaska is in the low 70s, which is pretty good.. Nicole tells Sarah, but Palin just says "fine".  The problem is that Sarah just has no confidence in Steve or Nicole.  She thinks they are just making up these figures.  

John McCain is very upset about the Katie Couric interview.  He tells Steve that he thought Katie likes him. Steve says she does like McCain.  Sarah just doesn't know enough.  About Sarah, John McCain says "poor kid".

The staff is prepping Sarah again for another show down for vice-presidential debate on September 27 in Philadelphia.  The problem is that she wonít speak to them.  She says she misses her baby.  The staff now speaks of Sarah going into various catatonic stupors.  She does prepare a lot of note cards, but she can't remember what she writes on her cards.

Sarah sleeps on the floor of her hotel room.

The next morning the staff tries to prep her again.  They ask her if she believes in global warming?  She says it is getting hotter and we all need to be concerned about heat.  Steve gets frustrated again and says:  We all need to take a break.

Steve tells Sarah that the debate is in four days and he is alarmed by Sarah's considerable weight loss.  He is pretty harsh with her telling her plainly that she failed the Katie Couric interview because she didnít prepare.  He sees that Sarah is sinking lower in her own estimation.  So, Steve, wakes up and realizes he has to say something nice to her.  So he says that Sarah just had a bad day and thatís okay.  He asks her does she know what Reagan said causes pollution?  He said trees.  Reagan said trees and yet he still won the election. 

Steve tells John McCain that they have a problem with Sarah.  She could be on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown.  McCain tells him to get her back together with her family.  In fact, bring her and her family over to Sedona, Arizona.  "It will do wonders for her."

Sarah arrives in Sedona and is so very happy to see her family.  Todd is a big help to her.  He says that she has to do what she does best  and that it to talk to the people.  They will love Sarah.  Sarah is very thankful for the love and support she gets from Todd.  

Sarah goes jogging rather than prepare for the debate.  Later she goes to see Steve.  She complains and Steve lightens up on her a bit saying that they should get rid of all her note cards.  Sarah feels relieved after she abandons the cards.  He comes up with a different plan.  The staff can get together the 25 questions Sarah is most likely to be asked in the debate.  That way Sarah can just remember 25 answers.

Sarah studies the questions and the answers.  She practices in front of the staff and this time she gets applause from the audience.  She feels so much better.

Sarah gets a phone call from her son in Iraq. He wishes her a good debate. It's obvious that Sarah really loves her son.  She says:  "My son is safe."

The news commentators say that there is a lot of pressure on Sarah Palin, while there is no pressure on Sen. Bidens.  Sarah wants to say a prayer with her young daughter, but the little girl says to her mother that this be cheating to ask God to make the winner of the debate.

Gwen Ifill of PBS  is the moderator of the debate.  The debate starts and ends.  The McCain staff is really happy with her debate performance.  Todd tells her:  You see, you just had to be you.  Steve says she did great.  Palin tells Steve that she wants to bring up Bill Ayres, a radical, and the vitriolic Rev. Wright, Obama's preacher.  Steve tells her that John McCain doesnít want this.

The conservative commentators really loved Sarah's debate performance.  Sarah feels so much better after these many endorsements. 

A bit of this praise starts to give Sarah a swelled head. Now she won't follow the script as approved to Steve.  She wants to continue campaigning in Michigan even though Steve says they have no possibility of winning Michigan in the election.  He also wants Sarah to support John on the positions he takes.  On one particular issue, Sarah says:  "Itís not my position and I'm not saying this."

The news comes out that Sarah Palin spent a small fortune on better clothing for the campaign.  Sarah feels this is a cheap shot and she says she never wanted fancy clothes in the first place.  

Steve tells Sarah that she can't say that she was cleared of all wrong doing in the trooper gate scandal.  The judgment was that Sarah was guilty of  abusing her authority in the case.  Sarah dismisses Steve's concerns bragging that the people are all coming out to see her, not McCain.  Furthermore, she maintains:  "If I am single handedly running this campaign, I am going to do what I want."

Steve tells John McCain to talk to Sarah because he canít control her anymore. "You have to get her in line."   John McCain says no, because she might start turning on him.

Rev. Wright really did say a lot of vitriolic things, but John McCain won't go there.  But what about Bill Ayres, a domestic terrorist?  Yeah, okay, says John McCain

John McCain asks the audience:  "Who is Barack Obama?"  Someone says:  "A terrorist!"  Another says:  "A socialist." Other answers are:  "Send him back to Africa!"  "Kill him." 

Steve canít even mention Barack Obamaís name. John McCain is depressed. And he is taking all this pettiness too personally.

On election day, Nicole says that they are going to loose Pennsylvania. She cries saying she didnít even vote. "I couldnít do it."  Steve goes to John McCain and tells him they have lost both Pennsylvania and Ohio.  Steve says he is sorry that he suggested Sarah Palin to be the vice-presidential nominee.  He later has to tell Sarah that she is not giving a concession speech.   Sarah protests, but Steve tells her that itís not about Sarah Palin.  Only John McCain will make the concession speech.  He tells her off.

McCain tells Sarah that she is a future big party leader for the Republicans.  Donít get co-opted by Rush Limbaugh and the other extremists.  He and his kind will ruin the Republican Party.



This really isn't so much about serious political matters, but rather the mistakes that McCain and McCain presidential campaign made when trying to defeat the very popular Democrat Barack Obama.  They figured they had to do something bold to regain the momentum.  And the boldest thing they chose to do was to nominate a little known governor of Alaska to be the vice-president of the United States.  Their big mistake was not really getting to know her fully.  The vetting process left much to be desired.   Palin was almost completely ignorant of American and world history.  She only had vague ideas of where certain very important countries are located.  After they introduced Palin as the vice-presidential candidate, they couldn't say they made a mistake and just drop her. 

Like Lisa Doolittle, the experts pushed her too hard and she started to be a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  It was unfair to put up Sarah Palin for a position in which the candidate for the vice-presidential office has to know something about history and politics.  They didn't vet her correctly and she pays the penalty for their mistake. 

The film makes one feel more sympathetic toward Sarah Palin, because she was done wrong.  It's interesting what happened to poor Sarah, but I myself am more interested in her right wing extremist view of American politics. 

Poor Sarah still seems to have a chip on her shoulder.  She should try to forgive and forget and do what she wants to do without bitterness.  It's easier said than done, but it is better to forgiven and forget than to carry a grudge. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


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