The conservative reaction to Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential victory proved surprisingly tame in many circles. Popular talk show hosts like Hugh Hewitt and right-of-center blog sites such as Instapundit weren’t thrilled, to put it mildly.
But they echoed the thoughts of many sober conservatives when they accepted the people’s choice and, in their own way, celebrated the ascension of a man of color to the country’s highest office.
They loved their country as much on Nov. 5 as they did the previous day.
Of course, not everyone was in such a charitable mood as it became clear Obama’s lead wouldn’t go away. And those are the folks documentary filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi sought out for her new HBO program Right America: Feeling Wronged: Some Voices from the Campaign Trail.
The documentary, debuting tonight at 8 p.m. EST, captures the very worst elements of those who climbed aboard Sen. John McCain’s Straight Talk Express.
Close your eyes for a moment. What kind of documentary would you expect given the subject matter and the filmmaker (Pelosi is the daughter of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi)?
If you said the film would show conservatives as ignorant, racist, hateful folk who genuinely cling to God and guns, give yourself a prize. Bonus points go for those who predicted the film would characterize McCain/Palin rallies as hate events.
You wanna see hate? Check out the next anti-war march. Yikes.
Pelosi, who has displayed an ability to walk an unbiased line with documentaries like Journeys with George and, most recently, The Trials of Ted Haggard, lets her ideological flag fly this time ’round. She also proves incapable of revealing some inner truths about her subject matters, something that hurt her Haggard piece as well.
Her camera hones in on more than a few bona fide morons. What could we possibly learn from them? And while their inclusion here does ramp up the entertainment value, it does little to add to the project’s theme — are we living in a truly divided country?
It also must be said that Pelosi didn’t conjure up her interview subjects from some Media Matters laboratory. The right clearly contains supporters who embrace ugly views, from naked racism to an inability to see beyond their own backyards.
But Pelosi frames her documentary in the most unflattering light possible — as often as possible. Close-ups of older women cheering their hearts out, their saggy arms flapping along with them. Bigots, some clearly intoxicated, proud of their gross statements.
Interview-driven documentaries can be the most susceptible to bias. Take your camera and point it toward someone you think will reflect the tone you hope to achieve. See that guy in the mock turtleneck and argyle socks? No way he’s gonna talk about Sen. Obama’s Muslim faith or socialist ties. But that portly fellow with the unkempt hair and five o’clock shadow, he might just work.
That’s mostly what you see in Right America. Pelosi quizzes NASCAR devotees, self-described rednecks, and others to get their views about Sen. McCain’s race for the White House.
Her camera focuses hard on one silver-haired loon who speaks in double negatives and is proud of his racism. He represents a segment of the right which should be exposed, frankly. Conservatives need to know these people exist in their party and do what can be done to change their minds, or at least keep a safe distance from them. Neither party should embrace such stupidity.
But the documentary also finds time for a mild-mannered man who claims Obama is the devil. Literally. And Pelosi delights in quizzing an addled teen about the actual meaning of socialism when it’s clear he has no idea what he’s talking about.
It’s a brand of gotcha journalism, and like Bill Maher’s recent film Religulous amounts to a cheap shot when your subjects can’t defend themselves.
Right America does pack some quieter moments which speak to bigger truths. One woman bemoans how the media treats Gov. Sarah Palin like a freak, even though the Alaskan Republican lives a life just like hers. McCain supporters decry their candidate’s unfavorable news coverage. Fox News’ Carl Cameron offers a valid assessment of why reporters turned on McCain, who once got the royal treatment from them for sticking it to his GOP colleagues.
And it’s a hoot to watch one of Newsweek‘s resident lefties, Jonathan Alter, kiss up to Katie Couric and then as soon as she leaves regret his behavior. It’s the kind of unguarded moment we see too infrequently here.
Pelosi could do her HBO audience a favor by repeating this stunt four years from now. How about documenting the seamier side of the Obama re-election campaign?
Don’t hold your breath waiting for Pelosi, or any other documentarian, to so much as suggest such a project.