Back in 2001, actor Stanley Tucci told Variety magazine that HBO has “the biggest balls in the business.” Maybe so back then. These days? Not so much. As Bryon York asks in the Washington Examiner, why did HBO focus on only one-half of the best-selling look at the 2008 presidential election, Game Change, written by liberal political journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin? As York writes, “The other half would have made a great movie:”
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.
Instead, as York notes, “HBO decided to focus on an out-of-office, former half-term governor of Alaska who was on the losing ticket in the 2008 election and isn’t running for anything today.” Palin Derangement Syndrome strikes again.
In the last five years, Hollywood and TV networks have gotten the vapors over mini-series involving the Kennedys of a half-century ago, and the Clinton administration’s decisions (and the lack thereof) in fighting Osama bin Laden in the mid-1990s. How could they suddenly grow a pair of balls sufficient to properly cover both sides of a story as recent as 2008?