Newest Entry in the Acclaimed AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Presidents Collection Profiles the 42nd President
Part 1 premieres Monday, February 20, 2012, 9:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. ET on PBS Part 2 premieres Tuesday, February 21, 2012, 8:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. ET on PBS
Arlington, VA; November 17, 2011-- 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 collection of presidential biographies, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE explores the fascinating story of an American president who rose from a turbulent childhood in Arkansas to become one of the most successful politicians in modern American history and one of the most complex and conflicted characters ever to 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. From Emmy and Peabody Award-winning director Barak Goodman (My Lai), the four-hour Clinton will premiere in two parts on PBS. Part 1 premieres on Presidents’ Day, Monday, February 20, 2012 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).
Clinton features unprecedented access to scores of Clinton insiders including White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta (current Secretary of Defense), former Senator Trent Lott, Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, as well as interviews with dozens of journalists, members of the Republican opposition, childhood friends, staffers from Clinton’s years as Governor of Arkansas, and biographers.
“William Jefferson Clinton is a lightning rod in American history,” says Mark Samels, executive producer of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. “It’s hard to find anyone who is neutral about the man or his presidency. The complex dynamic between his public accomplishments and his personal foibles makes him endlessly fascinating. At AMERICAN EXPERIENCE we like to explore the people who have shaped the times in which they live and Bill Clinton, both charismatic and confounding, certainly had a profound effect on the country during his presidency.”
Clinton is the 16th episode in the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Presidents series. Programs in the series have won dozens of awards including Emmys, Peabodys, and duPont-Columbia Journalism Awards. Previous programs include LBJ, Nixon, FDR, Jimmy Carter, Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
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The Participants, in alphabetical order
Jonathan Alter is a journalist and author.
Christiane Amanpour is a journalist.
Kofi Annan served as the U.N. Secretary-General from 1997 to 2006.
Don Baer was one of President Clinton’s senior advisors from 1994 to 1997, serving as assistant to the president and White House Director of Strategic Planning and Communications. Prior positions included Director of Speechwriting and Research, and Chief White House Speechwriter. He currently serves on the PBS Board of Directors and the PBS Foundation Board.
Peter Baker is an author and journalist who covered the Clinton White House for The Washington Post. His book based on his coverage is entitled The Breach: Inside the Impeachment and Trial of William Jefferson Clinton.
Samuel Berger served as U.S. National Security Advisor from 1997 to 2001.
Tony Blankley is a political commentator and columnist who was Press Secretary to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Sidney Blumenthal, assistant and senior advisor to President Clinton from 1997 to 2001, is the author of The Clinton Wars.
Max Brantley is editor of the Arkansas Times and former reporter for the Arkansas Gazette.
John Brummett is an Arkansas journalist and columnist for the Arkansas Times.
James Carville led Clinton’s successful “War Room” bid for the 1992 presidency.
William Chafe is Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of History at Duke University.
Gen. Wesley K. Clark is a retired U.S. Army general who served as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and led Operation Allied Force in Kosovo from 1997 to 2000.
Richard A. Clarke was National Security Coordinator during the Clinton administration.
Marla Crider was a congressional campaign aide to Bill Clinton.
Sen. Tom Daschle was leader of the Democratic Party and a U.S. Senator from South Dakota from 1987 to 2005.
Ernie Dumas is an Arkansas journalist and columnist for the Arkansas Times.
James Fisher served as an attorney for clerical worker Paula Jones, who accused President Clinton of assaulting her in the early 1980s.
Paul Fray was campaign manager for Clinton’s unsuccessful run for Congress in 1974.
David Gergen, a political journalist and analyst, was a counselor on domestic and foreign affairs to President Clinton and his Secretary of State William Christopher.
Lucianne Goldberg is a literary agent who helped Linda Tripp bring the Monica Lewinsky scandal to the attention of the media.
Ken Gormley is Professor of Law at Duquesne University and author of The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr.
Stanley Greenberg is a campaign strategist who advised Bill Clinton.
Nigel Hamilton is the author of Bill Clinton: An American Journey and Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency.
John Harris, Editor-in-Chief of Politico, is a journalist and author of The Survivor.
Harold Ickes was White House Deputy Chief of Staff for President Clinton from 1993 to 1996.
Michael Isikoff is a journalist and author of Uncovering Clinton: A Reporter’s Story.
Chris Jennings served in the White House as Senior Health Care Advisor to President Clinton at the Domestic Policy and National Economic Councils from 1994 to 2001.
Rep. Peter King is a Republican Congressman from New York.
Joe Klein is a journalist and the author of Primary Colors.
Sen. Trent Lott is a former U.S. Senator from Mississippi.
David Maraniss is a journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for his Washington Post stories about the 1992 campaign of Bill Clinton. He is the author of First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton and The Clinton Enigma.
Mike McCurry was White House Press Secretary from 1994 to 1998; he succeeded Dee Dee Myers.
Robert McNeely was White House Photographer during the Clinton administration and is the author of The Clinton Years: The Photographs of Robert McNeely.
Dick Morris was a friend and advisor to Bill Clinton during his term as Governor of Arkansas and later became a political consultant to the Clinton White House.
Dee Dee Myers was the first woman to be named White House Press Secretary and served in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1994.
Bernard Nussbaum was White House Counsel in 1994, advising President Clinton during Whitewater.
Lawrence O’Donnell worked as a key legislative aide to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan during the Clinton administration.
Leon Panetta, current Secretary of Defense, served as Clinton White House Chief of Staff from 1994 to 1997.
Mark Penn served as pollster and strategist for the Clinton administration from 1994 to 2000.
John Podesta was White House Chief of Staff from 1998 to 2001.
Joe Purvis is a childhood friend of Bill Clinton.
Robert Reich served as Secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1997.
Bobby Roberts was a senior legislative assistant to Governor Clinton.
Robert Rubin served as Secretary of the Treasury from 1995 to 1999.
Gail Sheehy is a writer and the author of Hillary’s Choice.
Carolyn Staley is an Arkansas friend of the Clintons.
Ken Starr was appointed as Independent Counsel to investigate the Whitewater real estate investments of the Clintons; his inquiry eventually expanded to include the alleged affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Harry Thomason is an Arkansas-born television and film producer (Designing Women) and longtime friend of the Clintons. He produced the Clinton biographical film The Man From Hope, which was shown at the Democratic National Convention in 1992.
Jeffrey Toobin is a lawyer, journalist and author of A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President.
Michael Waldman was Director of Speechwriting for President Clinton from 1995 to 1999 and the author of POTUS Speaks: Finding the Words that Defined the Clinton Presidency.
Carol Willis was a campaign aide during the Clinton administration.
Betsey Wright served as Chief of Staff to Governor Clinton from 1982 to 1989 and was Deputy Chair of the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign.
Part 1: “The Comeback Kid”
“The Comeback Kid” follows Bill Clinton’s bumpy road to the 1992 presidential victory, an amazing triumph over repeated scandals and setbacks, through the first two years of his presidency.
From the political backwaters of Arkansas, Bill Clinton emerges as a political force unlike any seen on the national stage in a generation. Overcoming a troubled upbringing marred by alcoholism and violence, Clinton is determined from the start to succeed, first in Arkansas, then at Georgetown, Oxford and finally Yale. There he meets a young woman named Hillary Rodham who shares his intellect and idealism. Together they forge a marriage and political partnership that takes them to the Arkansas governor’s mansion and ultimately the White House, an election Clinton wins despite a campaign repeatedly under siege by allegations ranging from draft dodging to womanizing.
Although they have won the presidency, the Clintons have not yet won the country. Despite all of their education and experience, the Clintons are unprepared for politics in Washington, which quickly descends into open warfare with the Republican establishment and much of the media. The tumultuous first two years of the Clinton presidency see the beginning of the Whitewater scandal, the shocking death of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster, and the humiliating defeat of Hillary’s healthcare bill. Although the administration has its domestic successes, troubles brewing in the remote countries of Somalia and Rwanda and the arrival of a new and formidable rival named Newt Gingrich threaten to derail the Clinton presidency before it ever gets off the ground. When Republicans gain control of Congress in the midterm elections, the entire political landscape shifts to the right, leaving Clinton seemingly bereft of power.
Part 2: “The Survivor”
Shattered by the 1994 Republican victory, Clinton begins to sideline his most trusted advisors in favor of an aggressive political consultant named Dick Morris, who uses extensive polling to diagnose the administration’s weaknesses and develop strategies to correct them. The Republican “Contract with America” is riding high and by spring of 1995, Gingrich and his allies select the ground on which to wage their war: a plan to eliminate the federal budget deficit by drastically cutting Medicare and Medicaid. The plan leads to a government shutdown and slowly the tide begins to turn toward the president, who reclaims the political center with a stream of new initiatives that will curb big government and appeal to middle class families. Clinton wins the 1996 election in a landslide, pulling off one of the greatest turnarounds in political history. But events have been set in motion that will soon divide the country and nearly destroy Clinton's presidency.
Clinton sails buoyantly into his second term: times are good, the economy is booming, and American prestige and power internationally are at an all-time high. Clinton’s dream of repairing the breach with Republicans seems within reach. But Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky — a White House intern — becomes public after she confides in a co-worker named Linda Tripp. The ensuing scandal gives Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr the ammunition he needs to recharge his stalled investigation of the Whitewater affair. Congress initiates impeachment hearings, but the Republican leadership fails to remove Clinton from office. And when Starr’s damning report is finally released, the ire of the American public is focused more on the independent counsel than the president. Although Clinton survives the ordeal, confounding both his enemies and friends, he fails to reclaim the drive and zeal with which he began his presidency.
About the Filmmakers
Produced by: Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance Written and Directed by: Barak Goodman Co-Produced by: Jamila Ephron Edited by: Nancy Novack and George O’Donnell Director of Photography: Stephen McCarthy Composer: Joel Goodman Additional Editing by: Jenna Dini Bliss Narrated by: Campbell Scott
BARAK GOODMAN (Producer) has been writing, producing, and directing documentaries for more than fifteen years. His most recent film for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE was My Lai, winner of both the Peabody Award and the 2010 Emmy Award for Outstanding Direction. Other AMERICAN EXPERIENCE projects include The Boy in the Bubble (2007), The Lobotomist (2008), The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (2009), and Scottsboro: An American Tragedy, which was nominated for an Academy Award. Goodman’s additional credits include A Hidden Life and The Persuaders for PBS’s FRONTLINE and Einstein’s Letter for the History Channel’s 10 Days that Changed the World. In addition to the awards previously mentioned, he is the recipient of the duPont-Columbia Award, the RFK Journalism Prize, and has twice been invited to premiere his films at the Sundance Film Festival. With wife and filmmaker Rachel Dretzin, Goodman is co-founder of Ark Media, based in Brooklyn, NY.
MARK SAMELS (Executive Producer): Under Samels’ leadership, the series has been honored with nearly every industry award, including the Peabody, Primetime Emmys, the duPont-Columbia Journalism Award, Writers Guild Awards, Oscar nominations, and Sundance Film Festival Audience and Grand Jury Awards. Samels also serves on the Board of Governors at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Prior to joining WGBH, Samels worked as an independent documentary filmmaker, an executive producer for several U.S. public television stations and as a producer for the first co-production between Japanese and American television. A native of Wisconsin, he is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
About AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
Television’s most-watched history series, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE has been hailed as “peerless” (Wall Street Journal), “the most consistently enriching program on television” (Chicago Tribune), and “a beacon of intelligence and purpose” (Houston Chronicle). On air and online, the series brings to life the incredible characters and epic stories that have shaped America’s past and present. Acclaimed by viewers and critics alike, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE documentaries have been honored with every major broadcast award, including 14 George Foster Peabody Awards, four duPont-Columbia Awards, and 30 Emmy Awards, including, most recently, Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking for Freedom Riders.
Exclusive corporate funding for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE is provided by Liberty Mutual. Major funding provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers. AMERICAN EXPERIENCE is produced for PBS by WGBH Boston.
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