AMERICAN EXPERIENCE | CLINTON | Interviews & Preview | PBS
Uploaded by PBS on Jan 30, 2012
Coming to PBS beginning Monday, Feb. 20. From draft dodging to the Dayton Accords, from Monica Lewinsky to a balanced budget, the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton veered between sordid scandal and grand achievement. In CLINTON, the latest installment in the critically acclaimed and successful series of presidential biographies, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE explores the fascinating story of an American president who rose from a broken childhood in Arkansas to become one of the most successful politicians in modern American history and one of the most complex and conflicted characters to ever stride across the public stage. It recounts a career full of accomplishment and rife with scandal, a marriage that would make history and create controversy and a presidency that would define the crucial and transformative period between the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11. It follows Clinton across his two terms as he confronted some of the key forces that would shape the future, including partisan political warfare and domestic and international terrorism, and struggled, with uneven success, to define the role of American power in a post-Cold War world. Most memorably, it explores how Clinton’s conflicted character made history, even as it enraged his enemies and confounded his friends. The program features unprecedented access to scores of Clinton insiders including White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta and Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, as well as interviews with foreign leaders, members of the Republican opposition, childhood friends, staffers from Clinton’s years as governor of Arkansas, biographers and journalists.
Monica Lewinsky has attempted to keep a low-profile after her role in President Bill Clinton‘s impeachment scandal made her name the butt of many late-night jokes. But she’s likely to become a topic of discussion again when PBS airs its much anticipated two-part, four-hour documentaryon the former president, titled “Clinton.”
The documentary, which premieres on PBS as part of its “American Experience” series on Monday, will shed new light on Clinton’s Oval Office affair with his 23-year-old intern through interviews with some of Clinton’s closest advisors, some of whom are speaking publicly about the affair for the first time.
Among the former White House staffers appearing on camera are Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and Clinton’s former reelection campaign manager, Dick Morris.
In the doc, Morris reveals, “When the Lewinsky scandal broke the President paged me and I returned the call. And he said, ‘Ever since I got here to the White House I’ve had to shut my body down, sexually I mean, but I screwed up with this girl. I didn’t do what they said I did, but I may have done so much that I can’t prove my innocence.’ “
Though she plays a huge role in the story of Bill Clinton’s presidency, Lewinsky herself was not interviewed for the documentary. Producer Barak Goodman said at a Television Critics Assn. panel in January of the decision, “We felt it would tilt [the documentary] toward sensationalism.”
After the scandal, Lewinsky went through a period of alternately embracing and avoiding her celebrity. She attended the Oscars with Sir Ian McKellan, became a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig, hosted a reality show called “Mr. Personality,” was a correspondent for a British news program and sold a line of handbags.
In 2005, she left the U.S. and moved to London, attending the London School of Economics and graduating with a masters in social psychology in 2006. Though she has given interviews on the subject of the Clinton affair, most notably in an HBO special titled “Monica in Black and White,” she has kept an extremely low profile in recent years.
‘Clinton’ is the latest in a series of in-depth documentaries PBS has produced over the years focusing on the careers of U.S. presidents. For those who can’t wait, PBS has made the first part of the documentary available on its website.
This was first published by LATimes.com.
|Monica Lewinsky at Men’s Health and Best Life magazines book release party for ‘Blunt’ (Scott Gries, Getty Images for Rodale)|
Here also is a summary by the Arkansas Times Max Brantley:
“Clinton,” the latest presidential profile by PBS’ American Experience, airs at what turns out to be a very good time.
These meticulously researched and artfully produced biographies — the two, two-hour episodes of “Clinton” will air Feb. 20-21 on AETN — are completed at a safe remove from the subject’s time in office. Insiders are more willing to talk. History has begun to firm up assessments. “Clinton” has more currency than normal thanks to the race for the Republican presidential nomination and Newt Gingrich’s emergence as a strong contender. Gingrich is a critical player in the second half of the Clinton biography. He led the political insurgency that gave Republicans a House majority and made Gingrich, however briefly, a near royal House speaker. You know, too, how it turned out. Clinton stared down a government shutdown, made Gingrich his poodle and survived the Republican coup attempt. Gingrich resigned amid an ethics scandal, but, like the president himself, has proven himself a “Comeback Kid.” As the documentary attests, his prior time in the limelight doesn’t argue for his presidency today.
And what of Clinton? It’s all there. The empathy, the energy, the appetite, the flaws, the triumphs. If the last happened to be more often political victories than historic achievements, the country did enjoy great prosperity and notable foreign policy achievements. Clinton gets credit even though he spent barely a day without
Republicans or a persecutorial prosecutor in hot pursuit. His triangulation of issues gets careful and properly critical examination — though it comes courtesy of too much explanatory air time for Dick Morris, the reptilian political adviser for whom Clinton had such a deep need.
Award-winning documentary director Barak Goodman concludes that Clinton found no triumph in surviving trial in the Senate, only a loss of the drive with which he began his presidency amid so much hope. If that’s so — and I’m not so sure — he regained his drive soon enough.
He began running, with some success, to be the most popular political figure in the world. He has been helped by a foundation doing nothing less than attempting to solve world hunger and disease. That was worth a documentary postscript, I think.
This documentary focuses more attention on the first lady than most, but Kenneth Starr (yes, he gave an interview) went after her just as hard, maybe harder, than he went after the president himself. She’s secretary of state, you might have heard. He’s president of a Bible college.
For Arkies: Lots of good TV footage and photos of the early years in Arkansas in the first installment.
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