Byron York

There's a lot of buzz in the political world about "Game Change," the movie version of the 2008 campaign best-seller that premieres next month on HBO.

But the movie is about just one topic: Sarah Palin. Director Jay Roach jettisoned most of the book's riveting political story so he could focus on the tumultuous period in which John McCain chose the then-governor of Alaska as his running mate.

Despite a few positive touches, no one will be surprised to learn that "Game Change," the movie, will present an overwhelmingly negative portrait of Palin. Roach -- he also directed the one-sided, pro-Gore "Recount" about the 2000 election -- even goes beyond the book to throw in some new material from his own research. Roach also compressed some events and turned descriptions of conversations into dialogue that may or may not have actually happened.

But put that aside. Why did Hollywood focus on only one-half of "Game Change"? The other half would have made a great movie.

It was certainly the most compelling part of the book, with no end of dramatic moments. The Clinton-Obama version of "Game Change" could have focused on the racially charged effort among white Democrats to stop the first black man with a serious chance of winning their party's presidential nomination.

The alternate "Game Change" could have featured the spectacle of Bill Clinton, the nation's "first black president," doing everything he could, risking his own reputation and place in history, to stop an actual black man from winning the office.

The alternate "Game Change" could have featured white Democratic party elders torn over the Clinton-Obama contest, loyal to Mrs. Clinton yet impressed by Obama's ability to speak "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one" (in the infamous words of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid).

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.


Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner

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