BILL CLINTON DOC.:: WashPost TV Critic Pans PBS Documentary on ‘Superhero’ Bill Clinton – NewsBusters
On Sunday, Washington Post TV critic Hank Stuever panned this week’s four-hour PBS documentary on Bill Clinton as an “honest but sometimes tediously predictable exercise.” The large headline on the front of Sunday Style read “Enough time has passed for a documentary on Bill Clinton. Just not enough time for a good one.”
Stuever seems allergic to going beyond the vaguest reference to Clinton’s irresponsible adulteries and sexual harassment. But he does assert “The film does work as an indulgent bit of nostalgia for those who still pine for the Clinton years. Who wouldn’t want the budget surpluses and robust economic recovery? It’s a wonder to think about now. Even still, that bit of fantasizing can last a viewer only so long.” Clinton even keeps a “superhero’s schedule,” we’re told:
Part of the problem is that the Clintons are still very much with us; legacies are still jelling. As Secretary of State, Hillary is engaged in the most important work of her career, while Bill prefers a superhero’s schedule, in constant transit to a crisis or a speaking engagement. We needn’t wonder where his thoughts are at — on any subject — because he keeps telling us. To the right’s everlasting horror, Clinton could show up anywhere, anytime.
And they are still baffled by his resilience, especially the fast rehab of his reputation after the House impeached him in 1998. They’ve watched in vain as he has ascended to elder statesman. They’ve watched people love him in spite of his sins. “That’s one of the things I’ve never figured out,” remarks former senator Trent Lott, the Mississippi Republican and majority whip whose career was derailed by a single, ill-chosen toast at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party.
Notice that last sentence. Stuever offered more specifics on Lott toasting Thurmond that he ever asserts on Clinton’s oral sex and phone sex with a girl just a few years older than his daughter. He has “sins,” an “affair,” she had a “Gap dress,” there are “huge elements of tragedy” and “self-sabotage,” but Stuever can’t get to the point:
“Clinton” makes the decade look bleak and practically sepia-toned. It asks us to imagine a world that was only on the verge of having a 24-hour news cycle, a more quaint society. Newsweek got nervous about publishing reporter Michael Isikoff’s explosive discovery of the Lewinsky affair, so Lucianne Goldberg sent the news to a fairly obscure [??!!] Internet gossip named Matthew Drudge. Then comes Starr’s appointment as special prosecutor; Linda Tripp’s surreptitious microcassettes; Monica Lewinsky’s Gap dress.
You’ve forgotten nothing. From a town called Hope to a place called heartbreak, it’s all still right there, but somehow it is also gone. “Did Bill Clinton help the country? And was the country better for having him as president? I think, unquestionably, yes,” says Reich, the former labor secretary. “But are there elements of tragedy here as well? Huge elements of tragedy, in terms of failures and opportunities lost and risks made that didn’t have to be made? Undoubtedly.”
…People who wrote giant books about Bill and Hillary Clinton (The Washington Post’s David Maraniss; Politico’s John Harris; the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin) are summoned to sketch out the same themes they sketched before about Clinton’s truest self — a superego so desperate to please others that he self-sabotages, damaging his reputation and those he loves.
The Clinton documentary airs in two-hour installments on Monday and Tuesday night on PBS stations.