—-For Part II of this series, go HERE.

As nearly everyone knows, after months of promotion, HBO’s film on Sarah Palin and the 2008 campaign, Game Change, will air (finally) this weekend. Brian Stelter has a lengthy piece in today’s New York Times on the continuing charges from conservatives (and from Palin, who has not seen the movie) that the film is completely unfair and mainly fiction, plus a valentine to Obama from Democratic Hollywood. But the filmmakers claim 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 selected and collected in my popular 2009 book and e-book Why Obama Won (the first book published about the year-long campaign). 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.

August 29, 2008
GOP Senator Admits She Knows Almost Nothing About Palin

Looking for a quick reaction, and likely endorsement, of John McCain’s surprise pick today of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate this morning, CNN turned within minutes to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the experienced Texan who was also on McCain’s short list for the post. But, asked about Palin, all Hutchison could muster, just before the official announcement, was a few generalities about “spirit” and “enthusiasm,” before admitting, “I don’t know much about her.”

Pressed again about why she would think that Palin was ready to be commander-in-chief, a charge leveled at Obama, Hutchison could only muster that, well, she was sure John McCain had sat down with her and was convinced of this. Early indications, however, suggest that he barely sat down with her at all. CNN’s John Roberts then said that what we do know is that she can eat a mooseburger, drive a snowmobile and fire a rifle. A few minutes later, CNN was reporting on an ethics probe of Palin in Alaska surrounding the state firing her brother-in-law, a state trooper involved in a “messy” divorce with her sister.

Meanwhile, Carl Cameron over at Fox was reporting that Palin is known as a big hockey fan and everyone knows that hockey fans are really “blue-collar.” Fox’s Steve Doocy said that Palin was not so weak on foreign policy expertise. After all, he pointed out, her state is physically quite close to Russia.

August 30, 2008
Two Top Alaska Newspapers Question Palin’s Fitness

Since yesterday’s shocking arrival of Governor Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate we’ve been subjected to the usual cable news and print blathering about the pick from those who know little about her. But what about the journalists close to home—in Alaska—who know her best and have followed her career for years?

For the past twenty-four hours, the pages and websites of the two leading papers up there have raised all sorts of issues surrounding Palin, from her ethics problems to general lack of readiness for this giant step up. Right now the top story on the Anchorage Daily News website looks at new info in what it calls “troopergate” and opens: “Alaska’s former commissioner of public safety says Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain’s pick to be vice president, personally talked to him on two occasions about a state trooper who was locked in a bitter custody battle with the governor’s sister.”

A former reporter for the Anchorage daily, Gregg Erickson, in an online chat with the Washington Post, revealed that Palin’s approval rating in the state was not the much-touted 80 percent, but 65 percent and sinking—and that among journalists who followed her it might be in the “teens.” He added: “I have a hard time seeing how her qualifications stack up against the duties and responsibilities of being president…. I expect her to stick with simple truths. When asked about continued American troop presence in Iraq, she said she knows only one thing about that (I paraphrase): no one has attacked the American homeland since George Bush took the war to Iraq.”

His paper found a number of leading Republican officeholders in the state who mocked Palin’s qualifications. “She’s not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president?” said Lyda Green, the president of the State Senate, a Republican from Palin’s hometown of Wasilla. “Look at what she’s done to this state. What would she do to the nation?”

Another top Republican, John Harris, the speaker of the House, when asked about her qualifications for veep, replied with this: “She’s old enough. She’s a US citizen.”

Dermot Cole, a columnist for the Fairbanks daily paper, observed that he thinks highly of Palin as a person but “in no way does her year-and-a-half as governor of Alaska qualify her to be vice president or president of the United States. One of the strange things Friday was that so many commentators and politicians did not know how to pronounce her name and had no clue about what she has actually done in Alaska…. I may be proven wrong, but the decision announced by McCain strikes me as reckless. She is not prepared to be the next president should something happen to McCain.”

And from the startling Saturday editorial in the Daily News-Miner in Fairbanks: “Sen. John McCain’s selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate was a stunning decision that should make Alaskans proud, even while we wonder about the actual merits of the choice…. Alaskans and Americans must ask, though, whether she should become vice president and, more importantly, be placed first in line to become president.

“In fact, as the governor herself acknowledged in her acceptance speech, she never set out to be involved in public affairs. She has never publicly demonstrated the kind of interest, much less expertise, in federal issues and foreign affairs that should mark a candidate for the second-highest office in the land. Republicans rightfully have criticized the Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, for his lack of experience, but Palin is a neophyte in comparison; how will Republicans reconcile the criticism of Obama with the obligatory cheering for Palin?

“Most people would acknowledge that, regardless of her charm and good intentions, Palin is not ready for the top job. McCain seems to have put his political interests ahead of the nation’s when he created the possibility that she might fill it.”

And from the editorial in the Anchorage Daily News: “It’s stunning that someone with so little national and international experience might be heartbeat away from the presidency.

“Gov. Palin is a classic Alaska story. She is an example of the opportunity our state offers to those with talent, initiative and determination…. McCain picked Palin despite a recent blemish on her ethically pure resume. While she was governor, members of her family and staff tried to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from the Alaska State Troopers. Her public safety commissioner would not do so; she forced him out, supposedly for other reasons. While she runs for vice-president, the Legislature has an investigator on the case.

“For all those advantages, Palin joins the ticket with one huge weakness: She’s a total beginner on national and international issues. Gov. Palin will have to spend the next two months convincing Americans that she’s ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.”

August 31, 2008
Sarah Knows Russia

When a Fox News morning host, Steve Doocy, testified to Sarah Palin’s national security experience on Friday by saying that her state, Alaska, was close to Russia, it drew hoots across the media and blogosphere (and even, no doubt, from a few Fox viewers). This morning, on ABC in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Cindy McCain endorsed this very view. Asked about Palin’s national security experience, Cindy could not come up with anything beyond the fact that, after all, her state is right next to Russia. “You know, the experience that she comes from is, what she has done in government—and remember that Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia.”

Earlier in the interview, she said that Palin was “heavily experienced” in general, citing her going from the PTA to mayor to governor—and having a son headed for Iraq. She actually said that she started her political career at the PTA “like everybody else.”

Meanwhile, Palin’s mother-in-law, Faye Palin, told a New York Daily News reporter that she didn’t agree with Sarah on everything and hadn’t yet decided how she would vote. She added: “I’m not sure what she brings to the ticket other than she’s a woman and a conservative. Well, she’s a better speaker than McCain,” Palin said with a laugh.

But this actually isn’t as appalling as a phone interview Palin herself gave yesterday to a reporter back home, at the Anchorage Daily News. The reporter, Kyle Hopkins, asked, according to the transcript posted today, “Are you ready to be President Palin if necessary?”

“I am… I am up to the task, of course, of focusing on the challenges that face America,” she answered, and that was all she could say on her behalf on this question. Then she abruptly shifted to how her candidacy would help Alaska. “And I am very pleased with the situation that I am in, when, when you consider the situation now that Alaska will be in.

“And that is Alaska, and Alaskans will be allowed to contribute more to our great country and they’ll be allowed to do that because I—if we’re elected—will be in a position of opening the eyes of the country to what it is that Alaska is all about and what Alaska has to offer. So, I am happy to and very honored to be asked to do this. I know it’s going to be great for Alaska.”

Who said the woman was against earmarks? Actually, it seems like she sees herself as one big Alaska earmark.

The early returns are not good, with most in the media still stepping lightly around the issue of John McCain’s hypocrisy in asserting, for months, that Barack Obama is “dangerously” inexperienced in facing international threats—and then appointing Palin as his running mate.

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.