More than any other Republican presidential prospect, Sarah Palin draws white-hot journalistic loathing. She's too red-state, too gun-toting, too religious and too unwilling to abort a disabled "fetus." Even so, filmmaker Stephen Bannon remains deeply optimistic that his forthcoming Palin documentary, "The Undefeated," will sway the media to see Palin in a different light.
Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs banker turned filmmaker, told National Review's Kathryn Lopez that once he and his producing partner delved into Palin's life story, "we decided that not just the American people but even the mainstream media were both fair and decent -- that when presented with something that represented a completely different point of view, they would be at least open to considering it."
The movie is not an attempt at objectivity. It's a campaign film, a longer version of the kind Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason produced for Bill Clinton. You know, "I believe ... in a place called Hope." Or the one PBS darling Ken Burns made for Ted Kennedy in 2008. The only difference is that our media tend to greet liberal films with open arms and swooning heads, while similar conservative efforts are inevitably trashed.
Still, it would be nice if journalists would be open to considering as accurate the movie's version of Palin's life and career, since they often still confuse Palin quotes with Tina Fey satire ("I can see Russia from my house!"). The three phases of this movie are antidotes to media myth-making.
Myth 1: She's a bubblehead. The first part of the movie covers her time as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. The film shows that Palin rebuilt Wasilla's infrastructure to attract national retailers, which helped grow the local economy. (Rather than give her any credit, reporters were more concerned with false rumors about her ignorant censorship/mistreatment of the town librarian.) As mayor and as governor, Palin governed in boring detail, not with Crayola crayons.
Myth 2: She's no populist. The media want Palin's post-gubernatorial book and TV deals to cancel out her appeal to fly-over country. The second part is where Bannon's real passion shows: the story of Palin's tenure as governor, especially her management of energy issues and her advocacy of a gas pipeline into Canada. This is a story that voters either forgot or never even heard about (and it's the one that's emerging again from her vault of e-mails). She was a hands-on populist executive, not the "Caribou Barbie" cartoon.