PBS takes an unflinching look at Bill Clinton
It opens on Dec. 11, 1998, with a somber Clinton in the Rose Garden.
"I am profoundly sorry for all I have done, in my words and deeds," he says. "Quite simply, I gave into my shame."
If there is any fault with this documentary it is how much time -- roughly a quarter -- is devoted to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
"There's a lot of time devoted, but it's more how much time the press was devoting to it," says longtime Clinton friend Harry Thomason, a TV and film producer who made "The Man From Hope," which was shown at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.
Neither the former
Among those is Robert Reich, Clinton's secretary of labor. Reflecting on whether the economy could have continued to boom as it did then, Reich, now a professor of public policy at University of California-Berkeley, says, "
Yet there are regrets, Reich says. "We didn't manage to alter the structure of the economy. By that I mean we didn't invest adequately in schools, job retraining, infrastructure and basic (research and development) and opportunities for poor kids. So by the time the next downturn occurred, the nation was back where it was in the previous recession, and we did nothing to lift the real wages."
He talks about the politics of trying to pass true reform and how a Republican Congress stymied Clinton.
The film also focuses on Clinton's personal life and examines his marriage. Hillary Clinton, now the secretary of state, knew about her husband's infidelities early on, and this makes clear that whatever marital strife they endured since their October 1975 wedding, there is a deep love between them.
She recognized immediately how advantageous it could be for her husband to go on TV after his endless speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. It was Thomason, at the urging of wife
Carson had a policy of not inviting politicians as guests. Thomason did not want to face his wife with the rejection so he called back de Cordova and suggested Clinton go on as a musician. Clinton played the sax, then became the first politician on a late-night show.
The timing for a full look at Clinton was right, says series producer Mark Samels.
"Typically in the past, the rule of thumb was a generation needed to pass before you could really enter into the realm of history," he says. "And we're sort of in an accelerated period now."
One of the take-aways from this is that Clinton "is often depicted almost solely cynically," says filmmaker Barak Goodman. "I would say both Clintons are fundamentally driven by idealism."