Byron York

Several critics, most of them conservatives, have complained that "Game Change," the HBO movie made from the best-selling 2008 presidential campaign book, portrays Sarah Palin as profoundly stupid. Indeed it does.

Those critics have also complained that the picture portrays John McCain and his top advisers as deeply craven. It does that, too.

In "Game Change," there's lots of bias to go around -- not a surprise in a picture made by the same Hollywood writer-and-director team that produced "Recount," the pro-Gore HBO version of the 2000 election.

But perhaps the strongest bias in "Game Change" is not about any particular politician. At its core, the movie's message is that the Republican base is filled with hatred, racism, and xenophobia. In "Game Change," the McCain-Palin decision to attack Obama for his ties to the former 1960s radical Bill Ayers -- even as the GOP ticket stayed away from Obama's relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- brings out the ugliness in the hearts of Republican voters.

McCain is portrayed at his best when he rejects the suggestion from some aides to tie Obama to the fiery minister best known for his "Goddamn America!" declaration. "John, if there ever was a time to run a Rev. Wright ad, this is that time," McCain adman Fred Davis tells McCain in a scene early in the movie. "It's the single best weapon we've got."

"I'm going to run a f--king campaign that my kids can be proud of," McCain answers angrily. "And that precludes attacking a black reverend."

Later, McCain's resolve is tested as he falls farther behind Obama in the polls. "We've got to make this about Obama," campaign manager Rick Davis tells McCain in a meeting. "We've got to get tough, and we've got to get negative."

"If we go this way, Rev. Wright is still the best play we have," adds Davis.

McCain concedes that Wright had said inflammatory things. "But there's a dark side to American populism," McCain tells his aides. "Some people win elections by tapping into it. I'm not one of those people."

"Okay, so what about Bill Ayers?" Davis asks. "Obama began his career in the living room of a domestic terrorist. Domestic terrorist -- nothing to do with race."

McCain thinks for a moment. "Okay," he says. "Ayers is fair."

So the campaign goes after Ayers, with Palin playing the lead role, accusing Obama of "palling around with terrorists." That's when the hatred in the Republican masses is unleashed.


Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner