Politics & Government

New film on Palin is a fawning one-sided valentine to her

Sarah Palin responds to a question during her bus trip
Sarah Palin responds to a question during her bus trip David Maialetti/Philadelphia Daily News/MCT

WASHINGTON — A new movie about Sarah Palin soon to debut in three states key to the 2012 Republican presidential contest amounts to a two-hour-long commercial for Palin.

It paints a glowing portrait of her record in Alaska, stressing her honesty, her maverick history of challenging the establishment of even her own party, and her executive experience.

Like political commercials, it's also entirely one-sided.

It repeatedly cites great poll numbers from her days as governor, but doesn't mention how they've collapsed since then. It brags about her role in pushing for a natural gas pipeline and raising taxes on oil companies - but doesn't mention that the pipeline hasn't been built or that her Republican successor now blames the oil taxes for slowing exploration. And it revels in her successful challenge to former Gov. Frank Murkowski, but never mentions the family feud with the Murkowskis or the fact that Alaska voters last year sided with the Murkowskis against Palin's pick for a Senate candidate.

Ultimately, it's the filmmaker's view of Palin as heroic figure.

"I thought there was an amazing story there...an amazing story of American grit, of overcoming enormous odds," said Stephen K. Bannen, the producer of the film entitled, "The Undefeated."

A conservative, Bannen had been approached by Palin aides about creating a short video about her. Instead, he said he responded that he wanted to make a full-length movie that would appear in regular theaters.

He said he put up the money and didn't interview Palin for the project.

"We have no relationship with Sarah Palin or the PAC. I met her for one minute. I'm not her buddy, I'm not her friend," he said after screening a rough cut of the movie for reporters in a Virginia studio. "It's totally uncoordinated."

Still, the film was made with complete cooperation and approval from Palin, who told friends and supporters it was OK to talk to those behind the film, and whose parents sold the right to use childhood pictures and home movies. Bannen also bought the right to use Palin's voice from the audio release of her book, "Going Rogue."

The movie will debut at the end of June in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, three of the first states to vote next year in the Republican nomination contest. "It starts here. It starts now," Palin says in the closing, teasing clip of the movie, a scene actually shot in Wisconsin at a rally. "Mr. President," she adds, "Game on."

The movie opens with childhood pictures and movies of Palin, then jumps to a montage of liberals criticizing her — often with jarring, crude language — after John McCain picked her as his running mate in 2008. "It gets me when people denigrate this woman," Bannen said.

The movie then tells Palin's story, through the voices of her own book, her friends and supporters.

It focuses on her work as mayor of Wasilla, telling how the small town built utilities to attract businesses such as Home Depot.

It highlights her work on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, where she challenged the ethics of a fellow commissioner and state Republican Party chairman.

It shows how she challenged and defeated Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski in a primary before going on to win the governor's office.

And as governor, the film says, she pushed through plans for a natural gas pipeline and challenged oil and gas companies, first to drill on land they had locked up for years, and then to pay more taxes.

Throughout, the movie repeatedly refers to her as a CEO, the chief executive or the state chief executive.

It also has several omissions.

On Palin's popularity, it mentions polls that showed her approval ratings above 80 percent while governor. It does not, however, mention polls that now show her one of the most polarizing figures in American politics.

In Alaska, only 36 percent of people now have a favorable opinion of her, while 61 percent have an unfavorable opinion, according to Alaska-based Dittman Research & Communications.

Nationally, just 36 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of her while 59 percent had an unfavorable opinion, according to a recent non-partisan AP-GfK poll.

On her record on energy, the film stresses how she pushed through the plan for the natural gas pipeline, and how she raised taxes on the oil and gas industry to help her state.

It does not mention that Republican Gov. Sean Parnell, whom she elevated to the job when she resigned mid-term, now blames her tax increase as one reason why oil companies are not exploring for oil as much as they could. He's trying to repeal part of the Palin tax increase.

It also does not point out that the natural gas pipeline has not yet been built, that Alaska Republicans wonder if it ever will be built, or that Republicans in the state legislature may pull the plug on it if there's no signs of progress by this summer.

As for her successful challenge to Murkowski, the film does not mention the continuing family feud with the Murkowskis or how public opinion has turned back toward them and against Palin.

Last year, Palin prominently backed a primary challenger to Murkowski's daughter, Sen. Lisa Murkowski. The primary challenge succeeded, but Murkowski came back with an improbable write-in campaign in the general election and defeated Palin's choice.

Murkowski now has the highest job approval of the state's three-person delegation to Congress, according to the Dittman poll.

Among the Alaskans appearing in the film are state senators Con Bunde and Gene Therriault; former state senate president Rick Halford; Palin energy adviser Kurt Gibson; former commissioner of natural resources Tom Irwin; Palin friend Kristan Cole; Palin family attorney and adviser Thomas Van Flein; former Wasilla Deputy Mayor Judy Patrick; Marty Rutherford, who headed Palin's AGIA team; former Palin spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton.

For more McClatchy politics coverage visit Planet Washington


Is Rudy Giuliani really running again? Can he win this time?

After meteoric rise, Edwards takes a fall like few others

How the late Fred Baron, a Dallas attorney, spent over $200,000 to hide pal John Edwards' lover

Related stories from McClatchy DC