Byron York

"He's not a Christian!" one person yells. "He's a socialist!" screams another before Palin leads the crowd in a chant of "USA! USA! USA!"

A moment later, McCain is on the stump, asking "Who is the real Barack Obama?" "A terrorist!" someone yells. Another shouts, "He's a Muslim!" "He's a socialist!" says still another. And more: "He doesn't represent us!" "He hangs out with people who hate our country!" "Send him back to Africa!"

And finally, the awful climax: "Kill him!"

"We've got to tone the rhetoric down," top campaign aide Steve Schmidt tells a stunned and depressed McCain. "It's gotten out of control. You can't even mention Obama's name any more. The crowd gets too hot."

"This isn't the campaign I wanted to run," McCain says sadly. The movie portrays him trying to tamp down the hatred, but it's too late.

Here's a question. Did anyone yell "Kill him!" at a McCain-Palin rally? There was a report of that, from the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, who said he heard it at an event in Florida, and there was also a local reporter in Pennsylvania who said he heard it at an event in Scranton. But the Secret Service, whose agents were present at the rallies and were charged with protecting candidate Obama as well as McCain and Palin, investigated both allegations and found no evidence that either outburst actually occurred. "The Secret Service takes this sort of thing very, very seriously," noted the liberal Web publication Salon on Oct. 16, 2008. "If it says it doesn't think anyone shouted 'kill him,' it's a good bet that it didn't happen."

That's not to say that a few people didn't yell insults at McCain-Palin rallies. In "Game Change," the book, authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann wrote, "At rallies across the country, there were jagged outbursts of rage and accusations of sedition hurled at Obama. In Pennsylvania and New Mexico, McCain audience members were captured on video and audio calling the Democrat a 'terrorist.' In Wisconsin, Obama was reviled as a 'hooligan' and a 'socialist.'" There were rumors and stories of all sorts of things being yelled at the rallies, but the authors stuck to what they knew. And of course, anyone could go to lots of McCain-Palin events and never see or hear anything of the sort.

To hear the moviemakers tell it, "Game Change" is a scrupulously fair account of the Republican side of the 2008 campaign. "It has a very evenhanded tone to it," director Jay Roach said recently. There's no reason to think they don't believe that -- but it doesn't make it true.


Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner


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