But how good is the impression of Todd Palin?

Like many of us on the internet, the trailer for Game Change, the adaptation of the popular book about the 2008 election, did not go unnoticed over here. I must agree with everyone that Julianne Moore seems to do a fine Sarah Palin. Ed Harris is rightly commended for his John McCain. He is spot on at aping the nervous I’m-about-to-explode mannerisms of Arizona’s senior Senator.

But here’s my question: where’s the other, oh, uh much more interesting first half of the book that focused on Obama versus Hillary and Jon Edwards’ painful implosion? What I’m saying is, I don’t really care about Sarah Palin. We all know this story. We saw this story. The least surprising parts of Game Change were the parts about this story. It was pretty clear in the fall of 2008 that the McCain campaign strategists who scouted her eventually came to regret their choice of Palin. It was pretty clear then that she didn’t know much about policy, geography, world leaders, etc.  It was pretty clear then that she quickly took to her celebrity. It’s no longer an even mildly interesting story, and yet it appears to be exactly what HBO’s Game Change is giving us. Are people really still that interested in Sarah Palin? Has she not worn herself out? Have we not worn out whatever joy we once took out of seeing how so totally in over her head she was? If this movie is only going to focus on the Palin story, there is nothing it will illuminate athat we don’t already know. The Edwards story on the other hand is driven by the compelling and yet still not quite answered question: how did a once fairly promising, down-to-earth politician make so many terrible decisions that alienated his loyal staff?

Sure, I’m going to at some point watch Game Change, but I am going to go in with no higher hopes than I had for another 2008 book-turned-movie called Too Big To Fail. An unmemorable HBO film, the only two things I can recall about Too Big To Fail are the strange but delightful choice of Paul Giamatti as Ben Bernanke and William Hurt as Hank Paulson walking around Times Square dizzily as the news tickers tell him that the world financial system is teetering on the brink.

Oh, and Game Change receives another demerit for the opening cliche — er line — to its trailer, from strategist Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson): “We live in the age of YouTube and the 24-hour news cycle.”

Decide for yourself:

Of course, things have changed under Obama

Like many people, I hope to see President Obama, his administration and a Democratic Congress achieve reform of financial regulations and health insurance, but I think it is truly preposterous of anyone to suggest Obama has not done much or for people to get their panties in a bunch over him winning the Nobel Peace Prize. As my friend said, it’s as if he awarded it to himself.

It’s also worth recounting how much has changed since George W. Bush was president. Remember when George W. Bush was president. Remember what that was like??

A few things that would not have happened one year ago:

Proposed rules to limit greenhouse gases from industrial plants would not have been introduced.

A federal “no-match” rule that threatened employers with prosecution if they continued to employ a person with inconsistencies between their social security and employment records would not have been rescinded.

California would not be allowed to enforce stricter standards for greenhouse gas emissions after the EPA grants it a waiver of preemption under the Clean Air Act. (California had fought the Bush administration EPA on this for years).

The EPA would not take a closer look at mining permits as part of a stricter review of surface mining projects to ensure that they comply with the Clean Water Act.

(Seriously, just do a google news search of “EPA” to see how much has changed in the past nine months).

Rich people who put their money overseas to evade taxes would not be faced with the threat of prosecution if they did not own up and pay fines, providing the U.S. government with an untold amount of revenue.

One could not walk through Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn and see photos of the sitting president of the United States in nearly every store.

The president of the United States would not have even been a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize.

There are probably many other “administrative” decisions, rules and regulations that have been changed since January 20, 2009, most that we do not even realize, and whose impact will at least initially go little noticed. However, the good kind of change is one that incrementally betters our lives rather than jolts us suddenly. That is change we can believe in.

Happy Fourth to the American Dream

During a lovely Independence Evening taking in fireworks shows of North Carolina and Virginia from the I-64, I started to wax a bit about how truly different our country’s basic premise is from any other on the globe and how amazing it is that this premise has spread. This premise is that newness, innovation, change, and youth are generally good, that tradition and age are at best slow and tired, at worst parochial and narrow-minded. Michael Jackson’s extensive plastic surgery and Barack Obama’s political campaign platform both embody this.

What is amazing about this theme is how much we take it for granted, even though it is pretty much revolutionary, so much so that movements and cultures all over the world have embraced it and it has changed them. Every time someone crows about the new hip restaurant in Budapest or protests a corrupt election in Iran, s/he is embracing the themes of America. Personal reinvention in particular is the freedom that most of us who will never use our First Amendment Rights to protect ourselves from coercion into a religion or censorship actually take advantage of as Americans.

We are often too quick at the same time to be irreverent toward tradition and conservatism (with a lower-case “c”).

It is a bit scary to think of a society careening on values that translate to youth renewing skin cream and Madonna’s changing persona and just about every American television show, but it is also an amazing freedom to be able to live in a country where we are not limited by our class, even if we are somewhat defined by it.

And on that note, Happy belated Fourth, everyone. It’s nice to celebrate the holiday with a competent president in office.

Listen to me talk about Obama’s commencement address on NPR’s KJZZ

You can listen to my comments about Obama’s commencement address on Arizona’s NPR affiliate, KJZZ, here. Just scroll down a little and click play on the audio player. It was neat to be on the show, and I can’t believe it was 100 degrees in Phoenix yesterday!

My experience with an NPR affiliate gave me the idea to start listening to local radio of random places that I am curious about.

Listen to me tomorrow on NPR’s Arizona affiliate, if you can bear it

If all goes as planned, I will be on Arizona’s NPR affiliate, KJZZ tomorrow at 2 p.m. East Coast time and 11 a.m. West Coast time for a show about Obama’s commencement speech style. The president is giving a commencement address at Arizona State University this year. KJZZ contacted me last night to see if I would like to be on Wednesday to talk about the speech Obama gave three years ago at my alma mater Northwestern. As many of you well know and are probably sick of hearing, he mentioned an article I wrote in the school paper and quoted from it. If you’re interested, here is the copy of his speech, and here’s a video of it.

Updated to add: Here is the link to the audio of my interview with KJZZ from May 13, 2009.


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