As I noted yesterday in Day One of this series, after months of promotion HBO’s film on Sarah Palin and the 2008 campaign, Game Change, will air (finally) this weekend.  Conservatives (including Palin, who has not seen the movie) claim that the film is completely unfair and mainly fiction, plus a valentine to Obama from Democratic Hollywood. But the filmmakers say it’s (sadly) all fact, except that Julianne Moore plays Palin even better than Palin played Palin.

The only thing surprising to me is that anyone at this late date would be surprised by any embarrassing facts about Palin. The truth has been known almost within hours of McCain lifting her out of obscurity back at the end of August 2008. There even persists in some quarters (including elements of mainstream media) the fantasy that Palin actually boosted McCain and drew support from women voters, when the facts (and the polls) always ran in the opposite direction.

Rather than in retrospect, I documented all this in real time in my daily pieces for Editor & Publisher, which were collected in my  2009 book and e-book Why Obama Won. This week I will be excerpting parts of that book here, leading up to the HBO film airing, to show how much was known about Palin immediately—not weeks, months or years later—and how many in the media distorted this for far too long. Yes, we will be getting to David Brooks.

September 1, 2008

3 New Polls: Palin Pick Not Fooling Women

A new CNN/Opinion Research poll released today shows that he contest between Barack Obama and John McCain—after the twin “bounces” of the past few days—remains essentially tied, with Obama leading at 49% to 48%. But what’s most intriguing are the results regarding McCain’s choice for veep, who was expected to draw more women to the GOP ticket.

In fact, men seem to be more impressed with this move than women. Just now, this seems to be confirmed by a CBS poll, showing Obama with a 48 percent to 40 percent lead overall—but with a wide lead among women, at 50 percent to 36 percent which has only widened. Only 13 percent of women said they might be more likely to vote for McCain because of Palin, with 11 percent they are now less likely.  CBS also reports: “Before the Democratic convention, McCain enjoyed a twelve-point advantage with independent voters, but now Obama leads among this group 43 percent to 37 percent…. The poll shows an increase in the number of Obama voters who are enthusiastic about him.”

As for the CNN poll: “Women now appear slightly more likely to vote for Obama than they did a week ago, 53 percent now, compared to 50 percent,” reports Keating Holland, CNN’s director of polling. “If McCain was hoping to boost his share of the women’s vote, it didn’t work,” he said. And USA Today/Gallup has just released its post-Palin poll showing that Obama has widened his lead from four points to 50 percent–43 percent.

Here is an excerpt from the CNN report: “Is Palin qualified to be president? Fifty percent say she is unqualified to assume the presidency if that becomes necessary; 45 percent say she’s prepared for the White House. In recent history, the only running mate to earn less confidence from the public was Vice President Dan Quayle in 1992. “Three quarters of all voters think McCain chose a female running mate specifically because he thought adding a woman to the Republican ticket would help him win in November.”

September 2

The Dossier on Palin: Sixty-two Pages of ‘Oppo Research’

The McCain team may not have vetted Sarah Palin with boots on the ground in Alaska, but the Democrats sure did—two years ago when she ran for governor. The oppo-research, compiled in a sixty-two-page document with countless summaries or direct quotes, largely from local newspapers, covers all of the important issues you would expect to see, from her views on abortion and abstinence to tangled oil pipeline questions.

But it also gets into some quirky, if revealing, areas as well, such as Palin founding a company called “Rouge Cou”—what she called a “classy” way to say redneck—in case her political career didn’t work out a few years ago.  Some are posted here under their heading in the document.  Note: The Frontiersman is the local weekly paper in Wasilla.

Asked about the death penalty, in extreme cases such as the murder of a child, Palin said, “My goodness, hang ’em up, yeah.” [Anchorage Daily News, 8/18/06]

Palin wrote a letter to the editor saying only, “San Francisco judges forbidding our Pledge of Allegiance? They will take the phrase ‘under God’ away from me when my cold, dead lips can no longer utter those words. God bless America.” [Juneau Empire, 6/30/02]

Palin presided over a wedding at a Walmart.  He worked in the pets department. She was a cashier. A romance blossomed. And when it came time to say ”I do,” they chose—where else?—an aisle next to menswear. Sandwiched between racks of cotton pants and surrounded by ”Back-to-School Specials” signs, Jake McCowan and Rosalyn Ryan exchanged vows last week at the place where they met, work and fell in love: the Wasilla Wal-Mart. A crowd of 200, including passengers from a tour bus and several dozen curious shoppers, watched the two employees tie the knot in an afternoon ceremony officiated by Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin. ”It was so sweet,” said Palin, who fought back tears during the nuptials. “It was so Wasilla.” [Anchorage Daily News, 8/28/99]


“Palin said she’s not out to judge anyone and has good friends who are gay, but that she supported the 1998 constitutional amendment [to ban gay marriage].… She said she doesn’t know if people choose to be gay.” [Anchorage Daily News, 8/6/06]


 After Palin fired Irl Stambaugh, the police chief, he sued the city in part based on gender discrimination. The [Wasilla] Frontiersman wrote, “The gender discrimination issues stem from statements Palin allegedly made to others that she was intimidated by Stambaugh’s size. He stands over 6-feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds, which, the lawsuit said, is attributed to his gender.” [Frontiersman, 2/26/97]

“Sarah Palin, a commercial fisherman from Wasilla, told her husband on Tuesday she was driving to Anchorage to shop at Costco. Instead, she headed straight for Ivana. And there, at J.C. Penney’s cosmetic department, was Ivana, the former Mrs. Donald Trump, sitting at a table next to a photograph of herself. She wore a light-colored pantsuit and pink fingernail polish. Her blonde hair was coiffed in a bouffant French twist. ‘We want to see Ivana,’ said Palin, who admittedly smells like salmon for a large part of the summer, ‘because we are so desperate in Alaska for any semblance of glamour and culture.’” [Anchorage Daily News, 4/3/96]

September 3

New York Tabs ‘Out’ Hockey Dad
When news emerged on Monday that Bristol Palin, 17, daughter of John McCain’s running mate, was pregnant, all that was known about the father was that he was identified in her parents’ statement as a certain “Levi.” Since his hometown of Wasilla is awfully small—and the pregnancy was no secret locally—it probably didn’t take a lot of digging to discover the dad’s identity.

In any case, both New York City tabloids, the Post and the Daily News, have since IDed the father, along with presenting a photo of him (in a hockey shirt) and quotes from his My Space page. One of them might raise a few eyebrows: He declares that he is “in a relationship” but “I don’t want kids.”

He is Levi Johnston, and like the mother-to-be is about to enter his senior year at Wasilla High, according to the Post. The Daily News described him as a “superhunky bad-boy ice hockey player” and carried a photo of him on the ice. On his MySpace page, Johnston boasts, “I’m a fuckin’ redneck” who likes to snowboard and ride dirt bikes. “But I live to play hockey. I like to go camping and hang out with the boys, do some fishing, shoot some shit and just fuckin’ chillin’ I guess…. Ya fuck with me I’ll kick [your] ass,” he added.

September 10

Lipstick Traces

The New York Post declared it the BOAR WARS. Matt Drudge used HOLY SOW! But for Mark Silva of the Chicago Tribune it is more like SOW WHAT! I refer, of course, to the fallout, faux and otherwise, from Barack Obama using the familiar political cliche “putting lipstick on a pig” to describe McCain policy, which the GOP and related media have turned into Obama directly calling Sarah Palin a “pig” because she used “lipstick” in her most quoted line from her recent convention speech. In fact, this is now leading the news coverage on TV and at many news and blog outlets.

The McCain campaign, besides hitting Obama with the now-discredited “lipstick pig” charge, released a video ad today featuring another mammal—a wolf—and the claim that the Democrats had airlifted a “mini-army” of thirty oppo-researchers into Alaska to dig up dirt on Sarah Palin. The source: the Wall Street Journal’s conservative pundit John Fund. The Democrats have denied it, no evidence of this has turned up and Fund isn’t talking.

Greg Mitchell’s book Why Obama Won is avaiable in both print and as an e-book. Among his other dozen books are The Campaign of the Century, on Upton Sinclair’s wildly influential race for governor of California in 1934 (winner of the Goldsmith Book Prize), and Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady.