We here at The Political Machine have been reporting for months, in some depth, about filmmaker John Ziegler and his new project, “Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Sarah Palin Was Targeted.” While covering CPAC this past weekend, I caught a screening of the film (which cites fellow Political Machiner Denise Williams and I), and got to know Ziegler a little better through a series of interviews and “palling around,” as it were.
Before I get to the film review, however, I want to follow up briefly on the dustup between Ziegler and The Daily Beast’s Max Blumenthal, which I reported on Saturday.
Blumenthal has posted an edited version at The Daily Beast the full clip is forthcoming), and both men have agreed to debate the points of dispute between them. I’ll keep you updated as to when that will happen. Here’s Max’s video, followed by my review of “Media Malpractice.” You can see both of them explaining the altercation here.
Media Malpractice, I can say without qualification, is an entertaining film. It is a crowd-pleaser to the millions on the right who voted for Senator McCain, and a comedy for those on the left who have a sense of humor. Either way, it is a funny film. If Ziegler errs, it is by omission or conflation, but his film is well-documented and openly credits all of its sources.
Ziegler’s movie starts out with a laugh line, albeit unintentional. Onscreen text informs us that Barack Obama defeated Alan Keyes in 2004 because Keyes was underfunded and carpetbagging. I think Keyes might want to have that framed and hung in his office, as it is about the kindest assessment I’ve ever heard of that race.
Ziegler narrates the film in his trademark hyperkinetic style, and he weaves a humorously skewed narrative that posits Oprah Winfrey as Obama’s puppetmaster, and Saturday Night Live as a major lever in Obama’s early success. I don’t want to pick the film apart, but it is with leaps like these that the film advances its thesis.
The film also makes the most of gaffe-ish moments like State Senator Kirk Watson’s goose-egg when asked about Obama’s legislative accomplishments. Ziegler employs comical music and pacing to maximize the impact of clips like these.
It is a testament to John Ziegler’s skill at pulling these clips together, along with his narration, that the film is so entertaining. It really moves along.
The latter part of the film relies heavily on the exclusive Sarah Palin interview that Ziegler scored. (The full interview is available on the DVD.) I found these clips to be revelatory, showing a human side to Sarah Palin that many might have missed on the campaign trail. Her charm and folksiness really shine through in these sessions.
Unfortunately, Palin has a much harder time keeping her facts straight than Ziegler does. She tries to make it look like Obama called the dogs off of his own family, but sicced them on hers. The truth is, Barack Obama specifically and vociferously said Palin’s family was off limits. It is this kind of omission/conflation that robs Palin’s scenes of credibility.
I have to admit, too, I was surprised that a sharp operator like Ziegler would buy some of Palin’s excuses, like the claim that Katie Couric’s “newspapers” question was somehow inherently insulting to Alaskans.
He does subject her to some pretty harsh treatment, having her watch video of media reports that were pretty unkind, then having her react. It got a little uncomfortable to watch, but also elicited some of the best, most moving reactions.
The audience at the CPAC screening responded overwhelmingly to the film, laughing in all the right places. The film, and the audience, were lacking the nasty tone that a liberal might expect to see, that I expected to see. It really was a feel-good film.
I talked to John after the film, and I had a hard time convincing him I actually liked it, but like it, I did. I think this is a film that can be enjojyed on several levels, by different groups of people. I highly recommend it to conservatives and PUMAs, who will doubtless roar with approval. PUMA co-founder Will Bower told me he loved it.
I would also encourage liberals to check it out, and not just to laugh dismissively at it. Watching this film with a conservative audience gave me a new sense of perspective on the right’s sense of injury, right or wrong.