Sarah Palin hasn't committed to running for president--or even finishing her bus tour of primary states--and she hasn't held elected office for almost two years. So why are her supporters so devoted to her--some driving from as far away as Dallas to just be near her when her biopic premiered in Pella, Iowa, Tuesday night? The opening of her movie helps explain it. The Undefeated begins with a Passion play-esque montage of celebrities cruelly mocking Sarah Palin and her family. The heavily-bleeped footage includes a comedian using graphic language to describe how she gave birth to a "retard." The segment closes with a verse from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount: "By their fruits ye shall know them." Spoiler: Palin triumphs over evil. That whole is-she-running-or-isn't-she thing is sort of beside the point.
Palin's martyrdom at the hands of Hollywood liberals and the press was "inspirational" to Carmen Reitsma, a 60-year-old Iowan and local Republican leader, as she explained to the Des Moines Register's Reid Forgrave. "I regard it as a spiritual battle. She's a strong Christian and makes no apologies. There are those who are very threatened by that." After Palin's suffering, the film shows how she overcame it with "dramatic imagery," The Atlantic's Josh Green explains, including "volcanoes, earthquakes, snipers, ferocious lions, and clip after clip of Palin fighting back against her sundry enemies."
But the scene in Pella Tuesday night was a feast even for those not committed to the cause.
What they wore:
- Sarah: a blue button-down shirt, flared jeans, a large belt buckle and her signature pouf.
- Todd: jeans, light blue shirt, messenger bag. Definitely not a man purse!
- Palin fans from across the country, some dressed in costumes or bearing pro-Palin slogans. "A man dressed as Abraham Lincoln said Palin's honesty and authenticity were Lincoln-esque traits." "A little boy who hasn't quite mastered spelling held a sign reading, 'We "heart" you Sara,' and standing next to him was an adult with a T-shirt reading 'Hope and change--my ass.'" A "rare-coins dealer who traveled from Dallas." A "retired teacher from Minnesota." A "burly, cowboy-hatted gentleman from Des Moines." "One man even asked her to sign his Milk Duds candy box, yelling, 'Our current president is a dud!'" Etc. About 300 tickets to the film itself were distributed to local Republicans and community leaders. A thousand were invited to a post-premiere barbecue.
- Ron Paul supporters from Cincinnati.
- A few local liberals: Green talked to "a young Pellan who'd scored tickets from a friend's mother" and said he wasn't "blown away." He "revealed that many of his like-minded college buddies had attended and were similarly unpersuaded. 'The film lacked substance.'"
Patriotic songs sung:
- "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" (twice)
- "This Is My Country"
- Plus, naturally, the Pledge of Allegiance (led by an Army reservist).
Questions answered by Palin:
- How did you feel watching all those celebrities hate on you? "It makes you want to reach out to some of these folks and say, What's your problem? And what was the problem? And what is the problem?" Palin told The Hollywood Reporter's Paul Bond. "What would make a celebrity, like you saw on screen, so hate someone that they'd seek their destruction, their death, the death of their children? What would make someone be so full of hate and, I guess, a sense of being threatened that they would want to see that person destroyed?"
- What does this country need? Hope. "Not the hopey-changey stuff that you heard about a few years ago, but real hope," Palin said in an 8-minute speech before the film. "And you know where real hope comes from? Real hope comes from when you realize what it is that God has blessed this country with."
- Is this a good movie? "It will blow you away," Palin told the Los Angeles Times' Seema Mehta. "It was awesome. It's all about American values."
Questions not answered by Palin:
- Are you running for president? "A lot goes into such a life-changing, relatively earth-shattering type of decision," Palin said, according to The New York Times' Trip Gabriel. "Still thinking about it."
- Was Bristol right when she said you'd made your 2012 decision? "I told Bristol, too, what is talked about on the fishing boat stays on the fishing boat," Palin said. Jezebel's Margaret Hartmann quips, "They hadn't planned to go fishing today, but Sarah made Bristol crawl into the boat for their chat so the anecdote would sound more folksy."
Big applause lines:
- Palin, in the film: "We are an exceptional country and that is not something to apologize for."
- Andrew Breitbart, on the media: "You can either report the truth, or we can, I don’t know, barrel through you, and you’ll be on the unemployment lines like so many other Americans unfortunately are."
- The middle section of the film, Bond writes, which features prominent conservatives extolling Palin's virtues:
“I couldn’t stop listening. I thought, 'Where has this woman been?’” says Levin. And Breitbart sums up the theme of the film when he talks about Big Media going after Palin with “a special level of ferocity,” then he calls Republicans too timid to defend Palin “eunuchs,” repeating the charge multiple times. If the Pella audience missed a few of Breitbart’s “eunuch” mentions it was because they were clapping over them.
- Craig Schoenfeld, who ran Newt Gingrich's Iowa campaign before the candidate's staff quit en masse, told Gabriel, "To be honest... I have not come across a lot of folks that are waiting in the wings for Governor Palin to get in the race."
Ambiguous 2012 clues:
- Palin: "In America, anyone can make a difference... You don’t need a title."
- A section of the film was titled, "I Can See November From My House."
- Craig Robinson, editor of The Iowa Republican, told Forgrave he doesn't make Palin predictions anymore. But? "But my sense is that this could be a prelude to something... This is the first time she's stepped foot in Iowa in the current cycle … But she’s not just dipping her toes in the presidential waters. She's sticking her entire foot or leg in by coming to Iowa and doing this."