Part one of PBS’s two part biography of Bill Clinton airs tonight and the similarities between the attacks on Clinton and those lobbed at Obama are unmistakable.
The American Experience two part series on President Clinton airing on Monday and Tuesday evenings is not just a biography and the story of a presidency, but it is the story of one of the most complicated political leaders in modern American history. It is interesting to see a time when the Clintons were the young up and comers. (This is especially jarring when one remembers that the Clintons were the establishment Democrats during the 2008 primary against Obama).
Here is a chapter one of Clinton from PBS:
Watching Barak Goodman’s film it is amazing how some of the same criticisms lobbed at Bill Clinton in 1990s by the left and right are being used today against President Obama. Future President Clinton lost his first bid for reelection for governor of Arkansas due in part from attacks by his Republican opponent on his, “youth and arrogance.” It is amusing to hear Clinton as he campaigned for the Democratic nomination in New Hampshire tell voters that he would stand with them until the last dog dies and urge them to join him in, “taking our country back.”
The film also talks about a group of people who had a visceral hatred of Bill Clinton, whom they despised and whose presidency they thought was illegitimate, but yet, how Clinton took office thinking that he could bring people together.
The left worried out loud that President Clinton was folding, caving, and giving to the Republicans on numerous issues and were angry at the then president for not being able to command votes from his own party. On the other side of the aisle, Republicans themselves thought that Clinton was weak and could be easily steamrolled.
Clinton doesn’t avoid Vince Foster’s suicide, the right’s crazy conspiracy theories, Whitewater, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, NAFTA, the Brady Bill, Somalia, and the decision not to act in Rwanda. Most importantly, the film doesn’t ignore the Clinton healthcare reform plan, and as Lawrence O’Donnell put it, “We were all certain we were going to get this done.” (When the Obama healthcare reform is placed side by side with the failed Clinton healthcare reform, the comparison makes one appreciate what Obama was able to get done).
Bill Clinton and Barack Obama may shard some similarities as young presidents, but they differ greatly as men. PBS’s Clinton is a documentary that doesn’t shy away from portraying Bill Clinton, warts and all. The film frankly and factually discusses President Clinton’s womanizing as part of his complex and and some speculate self-destructive character.
Clinton is entertaining and informative without being sensationalistic. PBS’s Clinton sets gold standard for documentaries on this president. It is a shame that much of the mainstream publicity for this latest PBS presidential documentary has focused on Monica Lewinsky, because writer/director Barak Goodman delivers so much more.
PBS’s excellent American Experience presidential documentary series, The Presidents delivers another winner with Clinton. I can’t think a better way to celebrate Presidents Day than by watching a film that is both engrossing and great television.
Part 1 premieres on Presidents’ Day, (tonight) from
9:00 – 11:00 p.m. ET, and Part 2 premieres on Tuesday, February 21,
2012 from 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. ET (check local listings).