Clinton PBS: Bill Clinton Documentary

February 20, 2012 by staff 

Clinton PBS: Bill Clinton Documentary, Slowly but surely, the Bill Clinton presidency is moving from contemporary affairs to history.

PBS makes its contribution tonight with the debut of Clinton, a two-part documentary on The American Experience that is the latest in a series of presidential biographies produced by the network.

A solid and even-handed account, Clinton tells the story of a remarkably skillful politician with an immense intellect, a tendency to sabotage himself, and an amazing resiliency that led to two terms in the White House.

“A man loved by his friends and loathed by his enemies,” the documentary says. “A politician who had achieved a great deal, yet left behind a curious sense of unfulfilled promise.”

Part I, “The Comeback Kid,” debuts tonight at 9 p.m. ET. Part II, “The Survivor,” is Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET.

The film traces Clinton’s unlikely rise from an Arkansas childhood shadowed by domestic violence to his election to governor at age 32. Clinton lost that office in 1980, but reclaimed it two years later in the first of his many comebacks.

A rising star in the Democratic Party of the 1980s, Clinton skipped the 1988 elections because of concerns about extra-marital liaisons; he ran and won the presidency in 1992, despite claims of an affair with Gennifer Flowers and questions about whether he dodged the draft during Vietnam.

Clinton’s up-and-down presidency is covered in detail: From Democratic defeat in the 1994 congressional elections to Clinton’s triumphant re-election in 1996; from forging a budget surplus to the impeachment and disgrace of the Monica Lewinsky affair.

The film is also a bracing reminder that the vitriol of the current presidential campaign is nothing new.

There are some weaknesses, including some incomplete testimony. Clinton himself is not interviewed. Nor is the virtual co-star of the drama, then-first lady and current Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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