♪ ♪ PETER JENNINGS: We interrupt your regular program for quite an extraordinary moment in the history of the United States.
A short while ago, President Clinton's staff came to tell us that he was going to come to the Rose Garden now and make some remarks.
REPORTER: Peter, the president will make another attempt to say he's sorry about what he's caused.
(cameras clicking) NARRATOR: Bill Clinton had come into office with notions of an heroic presidency, to inscribe his name in history alongside FDR and JFK.
NARRATOR: But on the afternoon of December 11, 1998, he came to the Rose Garden of the White House to apologize to the American people.
I am profoundly sorry for all I have done wrong in words and deeds.
I never should have misled the country, the Congress, my friends, or my family.
Quite simply, I gave in to my shame.
JOE KLEIN: It's almost as if all of this was just too easy for him.
It's almost as if he had to set up these barriers that he could then leap across, or stagger across, but get across in any event, always.
I'm going to give you this election back.
And if you'll give it to me, I won't be like George Bush.
I'll never forget who gave me a second chance and I'll be there for you till the last dog dies.
And I want you to remember that.
DEE DEE MYERS: How many second chances, right?
How many second chances does any one person deserve?
Clinton's view is as many second chances as a person is willing to try to take.
You know, I mean, as many times as you fail, don't you deserve the chance to redeem yourself?
Isn't history loaded with people who have fallen and gotten up, and fallen and gotten up, and fallen and gotten up and done great things?
We will together build a bridge to the 21st century wide enough and strong enough to take us to America's best days.
Will you do that?
MAX BRANTLEY: There's a stick-to-itiveness about him that's just phenomenal.
An abiding belief that if he can just have enough time, he can win over just about anybody.
(crowd cheering) DAVID MARANISS: The central repetitive theme of Bill Clinton's life is loss and recovery.
Never count him out because, always, he will find his way back.
I end tonight where it all began for me.
I still believe in a place called Hope.
(crowd cheering) MYERS: Where does it come from?
The unwillingness to quit on himself, on the things he believed in, on the people he cared about?
He disappoints them every time on some level, but he always gets up and tries to make it better.
You know, what else can you ask from a sinner?
JOHN HARRIS: Success, misjudgment, in some cases catastrophe, followed by comeback.
That resilience is central to who he is as a politician.
I think it's central to who he is as a man.
♪ ♪ (crowd chattering) NARRATOR: He would emerge from the political backwaters of Arkansas-- "like a country tornado," one newspaper wrote... What's your name?
NARRATOR: ...a political natural unlike anyone had seen in a generation.
(chattering) But in the winter of 1992, as Bill Clinton began campaigning for president in New Hampshire, he was still a relative unknown, eager to win over voters and his young campaign staff.
JAMES CARVILLE: It was just so clear that he was exceptionally talented politician from the kind of get-go.
How do you get the ideas we develop in America in the manufacturing jobs here?
There are literally... CARVILLE: His ability to adapt, his ability to walk into a room, to size up an issue, to understand...
I've never seen a candidate, I've never seen a human being who, with the most limited briefing, can understand the dimensions, the parameters, the nuances of everything of any kind of a policy or political problem.
If we had a broad-based national health policy, it would never be in anyone's interest not to hire you...
He could see six sides to the Pentagon.
All right, Bill!
NARRATOR: In a primary field crowded with Democratic candidates, Clinton's determination and skill quickly distinguished him from his rivals.
His aides nicknamed him after a legendary racehorse, Secretariat.
You spent $200 on medication?
WOMAN: Yes, $200 spent on medication.
KLEIN: There was this famous instance just before the New Hampshire primary.
A woman started talking about that she couldn't afford the drugs that she needed to survive.
And she started to cry.
And Clinton's reflex action was to get down on his knees, put his arms around her, and he's crying, too.
CLINTON: I'm really sorry.
It isn't right, it isn't right.
MYERS: The story that I heard from people over and over was, "For that one moment, he looked me in the eye, "he touched me on the arm, he listened to my story, and I felt like I was the only person in the world."
And he did it over and over and over.
And the only way you can have that moment over and over and over is if you really are interested.
NARRATOR: Throughout New Hampshire-- in union halls, truck stops and diners-- Clinton heard stories of depressed wages and vanishing jobs, as the state and the nation struggled to emerge from a recession.
CLINTON: Ten years ago, we had the highest wages in the world.
Now we're tenth, and we're dropping.
What else do you think we ought to do?
HAROLD ICKES: He knew these people, knew what they were thinking, knew their concerns, and felt that government in Washington, in large measure, was just not addressing those concerns.
NARRATOR: The mostly white, working-class voters Clinton met in New Hampshire, like those in his own state of Arkansas, had been fleeing the Democratic Party for years.
HARRIS: Bill Clinton knew that Democrats were not going to regain the presidency until they re-established a connection with these middle-class and lower-middle-class voters who had been attracted for various reasons to Republican politicians and to conservative ideas.
NARRATOR: For nearly a decade, as he rose through the ranks of Democratic politics, Clinton had been honing a message to win back these so-called "Reagan Democrats."
DICK MORRIS: The entire thrust of the traditional Democratic Party was based on entitlements and endowments.
They would bestow money on people.
Bill Clinton's incredibly bold idea was to change the grant to a transaction-- "We'll give you something, but we demand something back."
The way he would phrase it is, "We'll give you opportunity but you have to take responsibility."
If you want the right to receive welfare benefits, you have to assume the responsibility to get educated, to have job training, and to go to work if you can do it... MICHAEL WALDMAN: When he went out and said, "We need opportunity for all, but responsibility from all Americans," that was different from what Democrats had been saying.
NARRATOR: Preaching his "New Democrat" message in New Hampshire, Clinton began to catch fire.
People say I'm not a real Democrat and I say I'm against brain-dead politics in both parties.
NARRATOR: By mid-January, he'd pulled ahead of his strongest competitors and into the lead.
Then, with just weeks to go, it all seemed to fall apart.
Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton is again denying a report of an extra-marital affair.
The report is in the "Star," the supermarket tabloid.
KLEIN: The first time I heard of Gennifer Flowers was a rumor.
I mean, the rumors of him messing around were out there.
And the stories were out there.
And it was something that his handlers talked about.
You know, "How are we going to deal with this if it actually happens?"
I would like to introduce my client to you, Gennifer Flowers.
KLEIN: At first, nobody was really that worried about it.
But then the woman appeared.
And not only did the woman appear, but she was a lounge singer.
And everybody thought, "Oh yeah, absolutely."
And she had tapes.
FLOWERS (on tape): I didn't think it would start this quickly.
But I think, Bill, you're being naïve if you think that these other shows like "A Current Affair..." CLINTON (on tape): I expect them to come looking into it and interview you and everything, but I just think that if everybody is on record denying it, you got no problem.
Hold on just a sec here, people.
Where'd he go?
NARRATOR: At first, Clinton's response to the scandal was evasive... She did call me, I never initiated any calls to her, and whenever she called me she basically wanted reassurance... KLEIN: There was this growing sense and skepticism in the press that this guy was just a big phony.
I mean, he was too slick.
He was too smooth, and he would lawyer answers to questions.
I said... that's not true.
Even if your name gets used, in the absence of proof, nobody can prove you're guilty, don't worry about it.
NARRATOR: The press called him "Slick Willie," and it stuck.
KLEIN: The general thinking was that he was dead.
Politicians didn't survive this thing.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: As many began to abandon Clinton, one person rose strongly to his defense.
CAROL WILLIS: Bill Clinton is a smart guy, a very smart guy.
But he will tell you that Hillary is much smarter than he is.
She's much tougher than he is.
She is more of a pragmatist.
If Clinton is a dreamer, Hillary is Miss Reality.
She raised him up, and said, "Look, get that pity out of your body "and all that defeatism out of your back "and let's deal with this issue, and let's move on to the next issue."
NARRATOR: At the height of the scandal, millions tuned in to see Bill Clinton answer questions on the CBS program "60 Minutes."
But it was Hillary who stole the show.
You know, I'm not sitting here, some little woman, standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.
I'm sitting here because I love him and I respect him and I honor what he's been through, and what we've been through together, and you know, if that's not enough for people, then heck, don't vote for him!
GAIL SHEEHY: By praising him, defending him, attacking the press, she brought Clinton back from the dead.
REPORTER: How do you think it went, Governor?
You think you answered the questions?
We did our best and we feel good about it.
The American people are the judges now, we're going to let them judge.
SHEEHY: So you can see why he was so attached to her, because she had the power to save him.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: The partnership of Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham began at Yale Law School in 1971.
Clinton was fresh from a Rhodes scholarship at Oxford University in England and already planning a career in politics.
Bill loved to discuss issues.
He loved to be at the center of discussions.
He, in a way, loved to perform.
He wasn't a great student.
He didn't care about being a student; he was not there for being a student.
He was there to make connections.
Hillary was so much more obviously intellectual.
Her power was so much more disciplined than his.
She was a leader.
She was a doer.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Bill eyed Hillary for weeks before the two finally met during one of his rare visits to the library.
He was totally blown away by how confident and challenging she was.
Here he is, this tall, gorgeously handsome hick with Elvis sideburns and high-water pants.
She's the one who crosses the room, holds out her hand and says, "If you're going to keep staring at me "and I'm going to keep looking back at you, we better get to know each other."
HARRIS: Bill Clinton, who always had lots of girlfriends, looked at Hillary and said, "I've never had a girlfriend like that.
"I can't believe that somebody as smart and as virtuous as Hillary, that she wants to be with me."
Hillary looked at Bill Clinton-- outgoing, popular, successful-- and thinks, "I can't believe that somebody like that wants to be with me."
And I think they're both kind of mystified that the other person is attracted to them.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Hillary graduated from Yale in 1973 and soon landed a coveted job in Washington with the House committee investigating the Watergate scandal.
BERNARD NUSSBAUM: One night, she said she wanted to introduce me to somebody who's going to come up to visit her the next day, I think.
She says, "His name is Bill Clinton."
I said, "Oh, you know, what does he do?"
She said, "Well, he graduated Yale Law School and he's from Arkansas, and he's going back to Arkansas."
I said, "Oh, well, that's fine.
What law firm is he going to?"
She said, "Oh, no, no, he's not going to go to a law firm.
He's thinking of running for office."
I said, "He just graduated Yale Law School.
What's he thinking of running for?"
"Running for Congress."
I said, "Well, it's kind of premature.
How old is he, 26, 27?"
She said, "Oh, no, no, he's going to run for Congress "and he thinks he's going to win and I think he's going to win.
"In fact, Bernie, he's going to go past Congress.
"He's going to be a senator or a governor.
He's going to be president of the United States."
NARRATOR: That Bill Clinton would make politics his life's work had never been in doubt to anyone who knew him.
WILLIS: I think he was born with political ambition.
And I think that he was using every step of his life as a classroom to build the foundation to where he ultimately wanted to go.
NARRATOR: William Jefferson Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas, on August 19, 1946.
His mother, Virginia Cassidy, was a nurse, outgoing and vivacious; his father, Bill Blythe, a charming traveling salesman whom he would never know.
When Virginia was six months pregnant, her husband's car flipped over on a rain-slicked highway.
The accident killed him.
"My father left me with the feeling that I had to live for two people," Clinton would write.
"If I did well enough, somehow I could make up for the life he should have had."
MARANISS: I think that the notion of the fleeting nature of life was one of the currents of Bill Clinton's ambition from the very beginning.
He would intensely focus on how quickly life could go.
And I think that much of his urgency comes from that sensibility.
NARRATOR: Four years after her husband's death, Virginia married a raffish Buick salesman named Roger Clinton.
The couple moved with six-year-old Billy to Roger's hometown, Hot Springs, Arkansas.
♪ ♪ If Hope was a sleepy Baptist town, Hot Springs was the opposite-- a rollicking resort, attracting people from across the country to its mineral pools and gambling parlors.
Virginia took to Hot Springs as if she'd been born to it.
She was exuberant in her living.
She pushed the envelope a little bit in her dramatic makeup and hairstyles and jewelry.
She was fun.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Outwardly, Clinton enjoyed a happy, small-town American childhood.
But inside his gabled house on Park Avenue, he was leading a far more turbulent life.
His parents' relationship had deteriorated into serial affairs and screaming matches that reverberated through the thin walls.
As Roger Clinton descended into alcoholism, he grew more and more violent, beating Virginia in front of Bill and young Roger, Jr. My life was "full of uncertainty and anger," Clinton would recall, "and a dread of ever-looming violence."
MARANISS: Most of his buddies had no clue.
They saw Bill Clinton as a happy-go-lucky guy.
They didn't see the turmoil that was raging within that family.
JOE PURVIS: As a child of an alcoholic, there's a part of your world that is so shaken, that's filled with so much pain, that you don't want to share it with anybody.
If you wallow in it, then you're dealing with self-pity and you ruin yourself.
The only way you can really deal with it is to block it off.
NARRATOR: Bill Clinton became adept at keeping secrets, living, he remembered, "an external life that takes its natural course "and an internal life where the secrets are hidden.
No one can live parallel lives with complete success."
NIGEL HAMILTON: He decided to pretend it didn't exist.
To pretend that everything was all right.
To go to church, you know, with his Bible under his arm and be sunny and energetic and positive and simply not accept it.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: With fierce enthusiasm, Clinton threw himself into his life outside his home.
Hot Springs High had never seen anything like him.
National Merit Scholar semifinalist, first chair in the Arkansas State Band, student government leader.
By his senior year, he held so many honors that the principal barred him from running for class president.
WILLIAM CHAFE: Bill Clinton always found himself trying to redeem and rescue his family.
Part of doing that is to sort of put yourself in the position of rescuing not just your family, but everybody, including yourself, by doing good.
(crowd cheering) NARRATOR: By the early 1960s, Bill Clinton's generation had a new hero.
President John F. Kennedy's youth and charisma reached all the way to Arkansas and sparked the teenager's idealism with a call to public service.
Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
STALEY: We loved living in a time when JFK was president.
He was so young, he made public service seem accessible, so if we had ever entertained thoughts of a life in public service, he made it seem all the more possible.
NARRATOR: In 1963, Bill Clinton traveled to Washington as a delegate to Boys Nation, a program for aspiring future leaders.
During a visit to the White House, he rushed to the front of the line to shake his idol's hand.
STALEY: It's a moment that is just emblazoned in your mind.
To have a president of the United States look you in the eye, take your hand, speak to you... the world stops.
Bill said to me, "We will never forget that, will we?
We will never forget that."
NARRATOR: A decade later, after leaving Arkansas to study at Georgetown, Oxford and Yale, Clinton returned home to begin his own long march to the White House.
MARANISS: Bill Clinton went back to Arkansas for politics, pure and simple.
He knew the people there, and he was of that place.
He could see his political future and that he was destined for something much larger than Hot Springs or Arkansas.
NARRATOR: In his first political race at age 28, Clinton took on a conservative Republican congressman named John Paul Hammerschmidt.
I know that I can make a big difference for our district and for our people if I can have the opportunity to serve them in Congress.
NARRATOR: Few gave Clinton a chance to compete.
PAUL FRAY: People are saying, "Hey, he's smart, "but why does this guy want to be a congressman?
"He's too young, he hasn't been elected to anything, he doesn't know what he's really doing."
NARRATOR: It wasn't just his inexperience; many worried that in his time away, Clinton had lost touch with Arkansas and its values.
JOHN BRUMMETT: There always has been with him a suspicion that this guy is not to be trusted.
"This guy's too liberal for us."
And he encountered that.
But, initially in Arkansas, he just totally overpowered it with his charm, with his political skill, with his ability to connect and relate.
In this small state, politics is art and it's entertainment.
And he was the best we had seen.
(jaunty country music) MALE AD SINGER: ♪ There's a fellow here been talking some ♪ ♪ About being our next congressman ♪ ♪ He's a new man, Bill Clinton is his name... ♪ NARRATOR: For weeks on end, Clinton drove the back roads of northwest Arkansas, sleeping on couches, waking up at dawn to catch the shift-change at nearby factories.
MALE AD SINGER: ♪ Bill Clinton's ready, he's fed up, too ♪ ♪ He's a lot like me, he's a lot like you... ♪ BOBBY ROBERTS: He's got an extra battery.
After about four or five days with him, I was ready to go home.
I had all the fun I could stand, and he would just keep going.
We might stop at a service station or a restaurant or whatever.
He would want to meet the cooks.
He would go back in the kitchen and meet everybody back there.
He would not leave a place, I think, where he had not met everyone.
WILLIS: Sometimes people say, "Won't this guy go home?"
Because we don't want to embarrass him by just leaving, but he won't leave!
MALE AD SINGER: ♪ Bill Clinton's ready, he's fed up too ♪ ♪ He's a lot like me, he's a lot like you ♪ ♪ Bill Clinton wants to get things done ♪ ♪ So we're going to send him to Washington.
♪ Make Bill a U.S. congressman.
Got to get those food prices down.
You remember, and vote for that.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: As Bill Clinton campaigned for Congress, Hillary Rodham left her high-powered job in Washington and decided to follow him to Arkansas.
SHEEHY: She could have had lots of jobs in Washington.
Instead she elects to go, not even to Little Rock, but Fayetteville, Arkansas?
You know, her friends thought she was absolutely mad.
"He's just a country lawyer.
What do you see in him?"
NARRATOR: When Hillary arrived in Arkansas-- a Chicago-born feminist in the Deep South-- she felt unwelcomed by Bill's campaign staff.
BRANTLEY: She had big glasses and curly hair.
She had a Midwestern accent.
She just seemed different.
There was just something about her that put people off.
FRAY: I said, "Look, you know, we got enough problems here as it is."
She comes in here and I say, "I don't mind her being on the inside doing everything she does because she's sharp as a tack."
But I said, "Taking her out on the road," I said, "that's going to create a little bit of a question."
And he said, "Why?"
And I said, "Well, she's got outcroppings "of where she grew up in Chicago and her parents all came from Pennsylvania."
I said, "You know, she's never really overcome all of that to get involved in what we're doing here in Arkansas."
NARRATOR: To make matters worse, Hillary had to deal with Bill's constant womanizing.
FRAY: I mean you got to understand, at one time, there was at least 25 women per day coming through there trying to find him.
And I'd tell them he's out on the road, you know, and they'd get out the door.
But Lord, it was bad.
Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.
MARLA CRIDER: He draws women in and they are literally mesmerized by this man.
It was absolutely like fly to honey.
And he needed that.
He needed that kind of adoration.
I don't think there's any question that Hillary was hurt, whether it was me or anyone else.
NARRATOR: Despite Bill's infidelities, Hillary decided to stay in Arkansas and dedicate herself to their mutual goals.
A common sense of commitment to social justice, of working on improving the lives of families, of being concerned about the disenfranchised.
But ultimately all along, thinking about going to the top.
There's no question that there's a sense of the possibilities being unlimited.
The highest you can achieve, obviously, is to be president and first lady.
NARRATOR: On October 11, 1975, the couple wed in a simple ceremony in their living room.
HARRIS: Most of the people I know who have been around the Clintons for a long time come to the conclusion that I've come to.
The two of them are in love.
Walter Lippmann, the great columnist, said, "Love endures when the lovers love not just each other, but love many things together."
That, I think, is the essence of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
They had a common love, which is for politics, for the game.
They love it.
It's their life.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: With Hillary firmly behind him, there was no stopping Bill Clinton.
Though he narrowly lost his congressional bid, he had positioned himself as a rising star.
MARANISS: The morning after he lost that congressional race in 1974, he was out in the town square, shaking hands again.
Every Democratic figure in the state knew that he was the next big figure in Arkansas politics.
NARRATOR: Two years later, he was easily elected attorney general.
I think the governor of this state ought to be... NARRATOR: Two years after that, he ran for governor, brimming with youthful confidence and ambition.
I'm Bill Clinton, and one of the reasons I want to be governor is to make sure that every child in this state has a chance to go to kindergarten.
NARRATOR: Clinton won with more than 60% of the vote.
CLINTON: I believe that if you and I together can practice what we preach about government, I know that you and I together want to do what is right for our people.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: In the late 1970s, most of Arkansas was poor and undeveloped.
Bill Clinton was determined to turn that around.
MARANISS: He did love his state.
And he knew, growing up there, how many troubles it had.
The saying in Arkansas was, "Thank God for Mississippi," because Mississippi ranked 50th in everything, and Arkansas 49th.
ERNIE DUMAS: Not much had been done for 150 years in Arkansas.
Spending on education, per capita income, our highway system was one of the worst in the country.
So Bill Clinton comes in and he has all these ideas.
He's going to transform the state at once.
NARRATOR: Feeling, as he recalled, "an urgent sense to do everything," Clinton and his staff took on entrenched interests in Arkansas.
He created new regulations, revamped rural health care, reorganized school districts and took on utilities.
BRANTLEY: They were young and they were full of themselves, and they thought they could change the world.
Well, you know, and they could stop clear-cutting of timber and clean up poultry practices and those sorts of things.
And that was... that was perhaps a little overly optimistic.
NARRATOR: Most ambitious of all was a project to fix Arkansas roads.
It was paid for by a steep hike in taxes on car licenses and was a political disaster.
Every month, 1/12 of the people of Arkansas went down to the courthouse to get their... renew their license plates for the following year, and instead of being $19, it was $36.
That became extremely unpopular, and he realized that late in the election of 1980.
He'd go early in the morning to a factory gate and all these guys refused to shake his hand.
They said, "No, you raised my truck tag, and I'm not going to vote for you."
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: After one term, Clinton ran for reelection against an obscure Republican businessman named Frank White, who pounded away at Clinton's youth and arrogance.
He tells you he can create jobs-- he's never had a job!
NARRATOR: To Clinton's dismay, White's tactic worked.
CLINTON: I regret that I will not have two more years to serve as governor, because I have loved it.
I have probably loved it as much as any person who ever had this office.
(applause) NARRATOR: Since he was a teenager, Bill Clinton had prepared himself to be president.
Now, just 34, with his new baby Chelsea to support, he feared his political career might already be over.
BRUMMETT: He took it incredibly hard.
He knew those folks and he thought they loved him, and it turned out they didn't.
He was totally out of sorts.
And when you see him, he wants to talk about one thing.
"What'd I do wrong?"
That's... you see him at the Forest Heights track, where he's jogging.
"Hey, let me talk to you.
What did I do wrong?"
See him in the aisle at the grocery store, "What'd I do wrong?"
One day, I'm driving from the state capitol back to the "Arkansas Gazette" to... pass him walking along the street, and I rolled down the window, and I said, "Where you going?"
And he said, "Car is in the shop down here at Bale Chevrolet."
I said, "I'll give you a ride."
He hops in.
We drive three blocks, but then we just park in front of there and we talk for 45 minutes, about what?
"What did I do wrong?"
♪ ♪ MARANISS: Hillary was as devastated by that defeat as Bill was and as determined to make amends and figure out a way back.
I mean, here she had devoted her life and given up a lot to go out to Arkansas for their rise together.
And at this very early age, it seemed like it was all vulnerable.
So she was not going to allow that to happen.
NARRATOR: Hillary traded in her thick glasses for contact lenses and her unkempt hair for a fashionable blonde bob.
To quiet some of her critics, she took her husband's last name.
RODHAM CLINTON: And just to put it to rest, I will forever be known as Hillary Rodham Clinton.
NARRATOR: Frustrated by what she regarded as poor advice, she took over her husband's reelection campaign.
DUMAS: Hillary was the mastermind in that comeback.
Most of his people advised him at the time, "Don't run again, wait two years."
Hillary says, "You can come back and you can do it again."
He didn't trust himself as much as he trusted her.
NARRATOR: Determined never to lose again, Clinton studied the results of his defeat precinct by precinct.
He resolved to win back every single one.
Hi, Judge, how are you?
BRUMMETT: I remember one day, we leave Fayetteville in a little plane and a storm is coming in.
And he said, "Fly fast," because we can see the cloud coming in behind us.
By the time we get 20 minutes away to the mountain town of Harrison, the pilot says, "Can't put it down.
Fog is too thick."
"Got to," says Clinton, "got to.
"I understand from the office that I got 150 people there.
I've got a chance to get some votes here."
I'm sitting across from him thinking, "This is it.
"I'm going to die, "and I'm going to be the last paragraph of the obituary, after all, about him."
He says, "This is going to get hairy.
I'm going to sleep."
And he leans back and appears to go to sleep.
And the third time, we made it.
And before the plane stops taxiing, he opens the door and jumps out, because he's already an hour late.
NEWSCASTER: The crowd has waited, they're ready to celebrate.
It's been a long two years.
If victory is ours tonight, I have been given something that few people get in life: a second chance to serve the people of Arkansas.
(applause) NARRATOR: Clinton had learned from his mistakes.
Rather than take on every problem in Arkansas with his second term, he narrowed his focus to a single issue that he knew would serve the people and his political future: education.
I still believe that until we have a system which guarantees competence in basic learning skills, we will never be able to prepare our people for a higher level of achievements.
I don't care what else we do.
(applause) BRUMMETT: It's a winning issue.
The people are willing to go that way.
And it's something we can get done if we focus on that.
He has settled on the strategy.
Now, who's the right person?
Who's my point person?
RODHAM CLINTON: We know it's a huge task, but we're very optimistic that we're going to be able to make a substantial improvement in what our students receive.
BRANTLEY: She went from town to town all over Arkansas and met with civic groups and PTAs and school groups and talked about what they wanted to do about improving schools in Arkansas.
By the time it was over, I think she was one of the most popular people in the state.
♪ ♪ DUMAS: One legislator popped up at a hearing one day and said, "We elected the wrong Clinton."
ROBERTS: It just resurrected him.
He needed a success and it made him the education governor at a time when education was a vital issue in the country.
And he was able to use that to open all kinds of doors for him.
NARRATOR: Over the next few years, Clinton began to catch the attention of the media and national Democratic leaders desperate to find a candidate who could loosen Republicans' grip on the presidency.
MORRIS: He would spend a huge amount of time meeting with, impressing and charming his fellow governors and other elected officials.
And after a day and a night with him, talking about philosophy and politics, you came away with the impression this was the smartest guy in the class, and that essentially if you were going to have a president, it probably should be this guy.
NARRATOR: In 1987, during his fourth term as Arkansas governor, Bill Clinton was finally ready to leap onto the national stage with a long-shot run for the presidency.
(applause) In July, he summoned the national media to Little Rock for the big announcement.
Then, abruptly, he sent them home with hardly an explanation.
I need some family time, I need some personal time.
NARRATOR: Behind the scenes, an old weakness had come back to haunt him.
SHEEHY: Just the day before the press conference, when he was going to announce that he was going to run, Betsey Wright, his ferociously protective campaign manager, sat him down with a list of names of women and went through one after the other: how many times, where did you meet her, how likely is she to talk?
HAMILTON: For each name, he said, "Oh, she'll never say anything."
And Betsey Wright said, "But you don't know that.
"You don't understand, on a national scale, "people will investigate... your opponents will investigate it.
The media will investigate it."
"The problem is, we're not just talking about you.
"We're talking about your wife, Hillary; we're talking about your child, Chelsea."
She said, "I don't think you can run."
I mean, it just became clear that night it was not the time for him to do it.
It just was not the time.
He felt for quite a while that that probably was the last real chance he would ever have to run for president.
That was it, it was over.
You know, where would he go now that he wasn't going to run for president?
What could he do in the future?
I think that, over the next few months, that became a tough time for them.
NARRATOR: With Hillary and Bill's mutual dream in tatters, thanks to his extramarital affairs, their relationship hit rock bottom.
SHEEHY: It did put into question their whole marriage.
And it was very unnerving to Hillary because she had put everything on the line for him to pursue the presidency.
And if he had too much of a record of reckless behavior to do that, then what had she been doing for the last 15 years?
(crowd cheering) MAN: It is now time to place the name in nomination for president of the United States, Michael Dukakis.
(cheering) NARRATOR: Just when it seemed things couldn't get worse, Clinton was asked to give the speech nominating Michael Dukakis at the 1988 Democratic convention.
CLINTON: I'm honored to be here tonight to nominate my friend Michael Dukakis for president of the United States.
HARRY THOMASON: That piece was supposed to be the set piece to launch him on the national stage, and it turned out to be something that almost killed his career before it got started.
And I'd like to talk a little about Mike Dukakis, the man... WILLIS: The speech was going on and on and on.
Mike's old-fashioned, all right.
He's the kind of man who plays it straight and keeps his word.
We want Mike!
WILLIS: The crowd was just getting restless.
And we said, "Oh, man, we dead," right?
He was going by the script that the Dukakis folks has approved.
And he has to carry it out.
Now, I want you all to calm down so I can tell the rest of the country why they should want Mike.
BRANTLEY: Of course, the famous thing was when he said, "In conclusion," he got a round of applause, finally.
In closing... (cheering) THOMASON: Linda, my wife, and I are at our house and we're looking on in disbelief.
Sometime in the wee hours, Linda wakes me up, and she says, "Look, he's got to go on the Carson show to make this right."
My first question is, "How are you?"
(laughter and applause) I'm fine.
I watched the speech, and as a performer, I kind of felt for you in a way.
It just didn't work, I mean, I don't know, what can I tell you?
I really... my sole goal was achieved, however.
I wanted so badly to make Michael Dukakis look great and I succeeded beyond my wildest expectations.
THOMASON: In an instant, he had turned it around, because the next day, papers were full of good things and had kind things to say about him.
And so it erased almost all of it in one day and made him more visible than he had ever been.
It's tenor sax you play, right?
We're going to play a short song.
(laughter) WRIGHT: He recovers better than anybody I have ever known.
(playing jazzy tune) I mean, he can have horrible things crash down upon his head, but he crawls out from under it and keeps on going.
NARRATOR: Bill and Hillary Clinton were back on the map.
Having faced a crossroads in their personal and political lives, they decided that whatever the costs, they would stay together and continue to pursue the goal they'd shared for 20 years: the presidency of the United States.
♪ ♪ Four years later, in the snows of New Hampshire, Clinton held a comfortable lead in the Democratic primary.
With the Gennifer Flowers scandal behind him, he was campaigning with the confidence of a frontrunner.
"Unless a second shoe drops to indicate he's a liar," declared the "New York Times," "Clinton has emerged more clearly as the Democrats' likely nominee."
But just 12 days before the primary, the second shoe not only dropped, it nearly shattered the campaign.
An old letter had surfaced, written by Bill Clinton more than 20 years earlier when facing the possibility of being drafted to fight in Vietnam.
In the letter, Clinton thanked his local ROTC commander, Colonel Eugene Holmes, for "saving me from the draft."
Though he never took the deferment, Clinton's letter sounded to many like the confession of a draft dodger and sparked a second round of attacks against his character.
CARVILLE: The Friday story in the "Wall Street Journal" appears about the ROTC and Colonel Holmes and the polling numbers just started collapsing.
REPORTER: Governor, are you a draft dodger?
Did you burn your draft card?
No, I had a lock-cinch four-year deferment.
I gave it up after less than two months because I didn't think it was right.
I went back into the draft, then this lottery came along.
I got a high number and I wasn't called.
MYERS: Stan Greenberg, our pollster, came in and said, "The bottom's fallen out."
You know, we dropped 18 points in a weekend and we didn't have that many points to start with.
Of course I've had some problems in the polls.
All I've been asked about by the press are a woman I didn't sleep with and a draft I didn't dodge.
MYERS: I think a lot of us thought, you know, "This is over."
But I mean, Clinton... Clinton, he never flinched.
You know, he willed himself back into that race.
How you doing?
I need your help!
NARRATOR: For the next week, Clinton campaigned 20 hours a day, pushing himself to the limits of his endurance.
CLINTON: I don't have another speech in me.
I can barely talk.
We have to reject the political philosophy that gripped this country in the 1980s... NARRATOR: With only days left, his voice ragged, Clinton spoke at an Elks Lodge in Dover, New Hampshire.
JONATHAN ALTER: These were Yankees who had been really beaten down by the loss of manufacturing jobs in that part of the country, and they didn't seem to have other opportunities.
I'll tell you something, I'm going to give you this election back, and if you'll give it to me, I won't be like George Bush.
I'll never forget who gave me a second chance and I'll be there for you till the last dog dies.
And I want you to remember that.
"I'll be there for you till the last dog dies."
And we knew we'd seen one of those astonishing political performances.
I don't promise you a miracle, I promise you a movement.
Let's take our country back, and see this country win again.
Thank you very much and God bless you!
MYERS: How many second chances, right?
How many second chances does any one person deserve?
Clinton's view is as many second chances as a person is willing to try to take.
You know, I mean, as many times as you fail, don't you deserve the chance to redeem yourself?
Isn't history loaded with people who have fallen and gotten up, and fallen and gotten up, and fallen and gotten up, and done great things?
You know, who's to say?
You've definitely got my support.
I need you tomorrow, thanks.
NARRATOR: On Feb. 18, the voters of New Hampshire went to the polls.
Despite the one-two punch of Gennifer Flowers and the draft, Clinton finished a strong second behind former Massachusetts senator Paul Tsongas.
Let me say that while the evening is young... (laughter) and we don't know yet what the final tally will be, I think we know enough to say with some certainty that New Hampshire tonight has made Bill Clinton the "Comeback Kid."
(cheering) NARRATOR: In the weeks to come, Clinton rolled up primary victory after primary victory.
In Florida, in Tennessee, in Mississippi... NARRATOR: In early June, he surpassed the number of delegates needed for the Democratic nomination by winning the California primary.
The election for America's future begins tomorrow.
It is not about me, it's about all of you.
Even though he's winning voters over and winning these primaries with bigger and bigger margins, the news coverage, you know, for the general electorate, is one of a politician you would never make president of the United States.
You could not possibly trust this guy.
♪ ♪ The polls would ask the question whether he has the honesty and character to be president.
The numbers got worse and worse and worse.
Now we reached a point where we said, "We can't just allow that "to be the narrative through to the convention.
Let's restore the sense of trust."
NARRATOR: A team of top campaign aides planned a complete overhaul of Clinton's image, culminating in a nostalgic film shown during the Democratic National Convention in New York.
It was called "A Man From Hope."
CLINTON: I was born in a little town called Hope, Arkansas, three months after my father died.
I remember living in that old two-story house where I lived with my grandparents... ICKES: The film, I think, brought people back, "Okay, here's who this guy is.
"Here's what we're really about, and we really have a strong candidate."
(crowd cheering) CROWD: We want Bill!
We want Bill!
CLINTON: My fellow Americans, I end tonight where it all began for me.
I still believe in a place called Hope.
God bless you, and God bless America.
("Don't Stop" by Fleetwood Mac playing) (crowd cheering) NARRATOR: With a rock anthem from the 1970s as the campaign theme song, Clinton staffers positioned their candidate as the young, dynamic face of a new generation.
To complete the image, Clinton chose as his running mate the youthful senator from Tennessee, Al Gore.
♪ Don't stop... ♪ MYERS: It turned the conventional wisdom on its head.
He believed you don't dilute your message, you put a big underline and exclamation point and this is a new generation, new ideas, a new Democratic party.
Totally energized the general election campaign.
FLEETWOOD MAC: ♪ Don't stop thinking about tomorrow ♪ ♪ Don't stop, it will soon be here... ♪ NARRATOR: Heading into the fall, Clinton had surged ahead of President George H.W.
Bush and third-party candidate Ross Perot.
With the economy still faltering, Clinton had found his issue and his voice.
The crowd that's running Washington today has had 12 years to test their economic theory, and it's failed.
NARRATOR: The decisive event came in mid-October, at the second presidential debate in Richmond, Virginia, when Clinton turned a question from the audience into a defining political moment.
WALDMAN: A woman stood up and asked a question that was on a lot of people's minds.
WOMAN: How has the national debt personally affected each of your lives?
And if it hasn't, how can you honestly find a cure for the economic problems of the common people if you have no experience in what's ailing them?
And President Bush said, "I don't get it, I don't get the question."
Are you suggesting that if somebody has means that the national debt doesn't affect them?
I'm not sure I get it.
Help me with the question and I'll try to answer it.
KLEIN: Clinton understood that she wasn't talking about the deficit or the debt.
What she was talking about was the economy.
And the recession.
And the body language was absolutely crucial at that point.
He took two steps toward her.
Tell me how it's affected you again?
You know people who've lost their jobs and lost their homes.
Well, I'll tell you how it's affected me.
I see people in my state, middle-class people, their taxes have gone up in Washington and their services have gone down while the wealthy have gotten tax cuts.
I have seen what's happened in this last four years when, in my state, when people lose their jobs, there's a good chance I'll know them by their names.
KLEIN: That was giving the American public precisely what they wanted at that point.
They had this brilliant foreign policy president.
What they needed was someone who cared about them and who was as scared about the economy as they were.
And in that moment, he encapsulated that.
I think what we have to do is invest in American jobs, American education.
KLEIN: He was on his way to winning.
But that was the deal closer.
He closed the deal.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Like a marathon runner nearing the finish line, Clinton spent the final 24 hours of the campaign in an all-out sprint, touching down in nine states.
His voice gone, he could only wave at adoring crowds.
(chattering) TOM BROKAW: Sometime during the course of this half hour, the man who liked to call himself the "Comeback Kid," Bill Clinton of a town called Hope in Arkansas, will be projected the winner of the presidential candidacy of 1992.
(crowd cheering) ♪ ♪ MAN: Ladies and gentlemen, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton.
STALEY: It was just unbelievable.
Such a moment of pride, happiness.
It felt like we had a new opportunity to seize the day for America with fresh ideas from a man who had the right heart, the right spirit, loved service and could face anything that life was about to throw at him.
My fellow Americans, on this day, with high hopes and brave hearts, in massive numbers, the American people have voted to make a new beginning.
(crowd cheering) DAVID GERGEN: There was this joy and buoyancy and he had so much promise about him.
Those of us who believed in Bill Clinton, and I did, had a sense of, "Wow, this is going to be really, really good for the country."
NARRATOR: After 20 years of thrilling highs and gut-wrenching falls, Bill and Hillary had at last achieved their highest goal.
But if they had won the presidency, the Clintons had yet to win over the country.
And in this moment of triumph, few could imagine the turmoil that lay ahead.
WALDMAN: He got 43% of the vote, but none of us thought about that.
To us, it felt like a landslide.
Clinton believed in a strong government; he wanted to be a big president.
He revered Kennedy, he revered Roosevelt, he thought about the heroic presidents and he wanted to use the presidency that way.
But the country was turning away from government, it was skeptical that government could work, and there were these roiling undercurrents of anger that we knew were there, but we didn't realize how they could quickly consume even us.
♪ ♪ (crowd cheering) Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States of America, William Jefferson Clinton.
NARRATOR: On a crisp January morning in 1993, Bill Clinton took the oath of office as the 42nd president of the United States.
Promising a new start, he sounded the themes of change and optimism that had won him the White House.
Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world, but the engine of our own renewal.
There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.
GERGEN: He did have heroic visions of what he might do as president.
He felt that the winds of change were blowing heavily at his back and that he could ride them to great, magnificent victories.
The harder reality was that he only won with 43% of the vote in a three-man race, and that's not exactly a heady mandate for governing.
NARRATOR: Clinton's victory had come despite a deep divide in the country.
Millions had responded to his campaign message of change.
But millions of others feared where the country was heading and did not trust their inexperienced new president to lead them through uncertain times.
HARRIS: There was a group of people who had a visceral dislike for Bill Clinton.
They felt that he had stayed just one step ahead of the posse with his personal problems.
They thought that he represented a 1960s generation that was always trying to pull a fast one and not playing by traditional rules.
They despised him and thought there was something illegitimate about his presidency.
LUCIANNE GOLDBERG: There's a sense of him being a used car salesman.
There's a sense of a guy being a charming hick.
He was loathed because, in the first place, I think we've all known somebody like Bill Clinton and we don't want them to be president of our country.
And the wife was terrifying as well.
She was pushy, she was humorless, she couldn't get her hair figured out.
There were just so many things about Hillary that we didn't like.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Despite all their education and experience, the Clintons were unprepared for their reception in Washington.
MIKE McCURRY: He still labored under the assumption that he could bring people together through power of persuasion.
It was stunning to him that Republicans would just very blatantly tell him, "We're not here to cooperate with you "and this is going to be open warfare from the very beginning."
GERGEN: It's a big leap, from the state capital to the nation's capital and to the world's capital, and the Clintons found that Washington was a shock for them.
The rules were very different, people weren't as friendly, people had other agendas, a lot of knives were out, people played behind curtains, you just never knew what was going to come out and strike you.
DIRECTOR: 90 seconds.
Is there a teleprompter?
What are we going to do about the teleprompter?
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: He had no comprehension of the rules of the road in Washington.
No governor ever elected to the presidency has ever understood what they were getting into.
And he looked more unprepared than most.
Wait a minute, how long are you going to have to... O'DONNELL: His first address from the Oval Office, sitting behind the desk, it looked like a big mistake had happened and some little kid had been allowed in there with his $12 digital watch.
Everything about him suggested he was not up to this.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Clinton ran his White House as if it were an extension of the campaign, filling his staff with 30-year-olds with little Washington experience.
He wanted to be part of the hurly-burly, to hear every opinion, weigh in on every decision.
♪ ♪ REICH: The atmosphere in the White House in that first year was chaos.
He wanted to do everything.
He wanted to deal with every problem.
He was in the middle of every conflict.
They would have these college bull sessions that would go on, you know, late into the night.
The meetings were endless, especially if Clinton was in the meeting, it would go on and on and on.
HARRIS: He was often thinking out loud, making decisions on the fly, making a decision tentatively at midnight and then waking up the next morning and saying, "Let's rethink this."
NARRATOR: The West Wing was littered with pizza boxes and Coke cans, as staffers wandered freely in and out of meetings.
KLEIN: It wasn't the kind of orderly process that Republicans brought to the table.
It was all these discordant voices, informal voices, people who didn't even wear ties and jackets when they went into the Oval Office, my God!
MYERS: You've got to be a little grand.
Because the American people want it.
It's the biggest job in the world, and I think we underestimated that.
People felt like, "What is it, a fraternity house over there?"
(jackhammer drilling, horns honking) (siren wailing) NARRATOR: As Clinton took office in the winter of 1993, the economic crisis that had propelled him into office showed few signs of abating.
ROBERT RUBIN: We had had a recession.
We had high unemployment.
And it was a lot of uncertainty about whether the United States was going to get on its feet again or whether we could be in for a long period of real difficulty.
So he came into a very difficult environment.
NARRATOR: During the transition, Clinton had promised to focus on the economy "like a laser beam."
But he quickly discovered how easily his focus could be deflected by an unscripted comment to a reporter.
REPORTER: Do you intend to keep your commitment to lift the ban on gays in the military?
I want to...
I have... you know what my issue on this is: number one, we've got a study that says that a lot of gays have performed with great distinction in the military.
I don't think status alone in the absence of some destructive behavior should disqualify people.
Now, Bill Clinton, with his wits about him, would have said, "Oh, yes, I'm going to stick to my campaign pledge "and in furtherance of that, "we're going to appoint a blue-ribbon commission that will report back to my successor 100 years from now."
But he didn't.
He just said the first part.
You know, "I'm going to keep my campaign pledge."
And all of a sudden, the laser-like focus on the economy was derailed to a, you know, a lurid issue in the minds of many people.
REPORTER: Mr. President, would you consider backing down on your... the ban on gays in the military?
We haven't... we're not here to discuss that.
We're here to discuss the economy, which is all I discussed yesterday with congressional leadership, contrary to the press reports.
REPORTER: But would you consider... We're here to discuss the economy.
NARRATOR: Trapped by his own promise, Clinton attempted to lift the ban, but ran into heavy resistance from two allies: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Colin Powell and Democratic senator Sam Nunn.
MYERS: So, you have the military leadership bucking him, the Democratic congressional leaders, led by, you know, chairman of the Armed Services Committee saying, "No," and the president is powerless to do anything about it.
And so he's now put into a position where he has to try to negotiate some kind of a resolution to this that will save face.
Therefore, the practice, now six months old... NARRATOR: After weeks of fruitless wrangling, Clinton announced a compromise-- "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"-- that few could even understand.
An open statement by a service member that he or she is a homosexual will create a rebuttable presumption that he or she intends to engage in prohibited conduct, but the service member will be given an opportunity to refute that presumption.
MYERS: Nobody was particularly happy with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but it was the best that you could do to get it off the table so you could move on.
NARRATOR: Other capitulations quickly followed.
He dropped a stimulus bill and campaign finance reform in the face of congressional opposition.
REICH: It became very apparent very soon that Bill Clinton as president was not going to be an LBJ.
He was not going to assert his authority, make deals, crack heads, push his weight around, say to any members of Congress in the leadership that, "If you don't follow me, you're going to pay for this, "because I'm going to remember it.
You're not going to get this, you're not going to get that."
You know, LBJ knew how to use power.
Bill Clinton knew much of that, but he also wanted to be liked.
Do you swear that testimony... NARRATOR: When attorney general nominee Zoe Baird got into hot water over her failure to pay taxes for household help, Clinton hardly put up a fight.
NUSSBAUM: The first day I was in the White House, the president said to me, "We're having problems with Zoe Baird."
To me this is a big deal, personally, and I suspect it is to a lot of Americans... NUSSBAUM: He says, "Well, I'm hearing from Democratic senators "that it's really going to be a problem, and the press is on my back."
My position was, "Look, you've already nominated her, she's an excellent person, we should stick with Zoe Baird."
And he decided, "No."
I feel very badly about it, but I'm responsible for it and I'm going to start this afternoon looking for an attorney general.
NUSSBAUM: In order to placate the opposing party's criticisms and media criticisms, which began on day one, the Clinton administration kept folding, kept giving in.
I think that undermined his presidency.
It showed he could be rolled.
NARRATOR: The media, which had embraced Clinton during the campaign, now began to turn on him.
When his nomination of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg to the Supreme Court took a tortuous course, reporters pounced.
REPORTER: Your turn late, it seems, to Judge Ginsberg may have created an impression, perhaps unfair, of a certain zigzag quality in the decision-making process here.
I wonder, sir, if you could kind of walk us through it, perhaps disabuse us of any notion we might have along those lines.
I have long since given up the thought that I could disabuse some of you of turning any substantive decision into anything but political process.
How you could ask a question like that after the statement she just made is beyond me.
(applause) HARRIS: What he wanted people to do, "Just look at the result.
Did I make a good decision or not?"
But as president, every decision that Bill Clinton makes, and not just the decisions but how he makes these decisions, is receiving merciless scrutiny.
The messiness of the process became part of the story, and Bill Clinton found it maddening.
♪ ♪ (chattering indistinctly) Mr. Clinton!
NARRATOR: The Clintons arrived in Washington in the midst of a media revolution.
The advent of cable television and the 24-hour news cycle created an insatiable appetite for colorful coverage of Washington.
KLEIN: Cable television was beginning to become a force.
And the competition among cable news became a vicious fact of Bill Clinton's life.
NARRATOR: Throughout the spring of 1993, a series of scandals, including "Travelgate" and "Hairgate," flared in the press.
Hillary found it hard to shrug off the negative press.
Stories, like the one alleging that she broke a lamp during a heated argument with the president, embarrassed and humiliated her.
"I've always believed in a zone of privacy," she said, "but I guess I've been rezoned."
SHEEHY: She had an agenda, changes in the country, in the world, that she wanted to see done.
She couldn't understand why the media was focusing constantly on their private life.
But the more she fought it, the more she drew attention to it.
NARRATOR: The lawyer chosen to lead the Clintons' defense was their close friend and deputy White House counsel Vince Foster.
NUSSBAUM: Vince, he got very upset with the attacks.
He felt we couldn't stop these attacks, and yes, no, we couldn't stop these attacks.
You know, this is the nature of the game down here.
This is the partisan game down here.
And I kept trying to calm him down.
But I did see him getting sadder and sadder.
And then... then that day came when he took his own life.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: On the afternoon of July 20, Vince Foster told an assistant that he was going out for a few minutes.
That evening, his body was found in a secluded park ten miles from the White House, a bullet hole through his head.
A torn-up note was found a few days later at the bottom of Foster's briefcase.
"I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington," it read.
"Here, ruining people is considered sport."
GERGEN: I was very concerned that, knowing how close Vince Foster was to both Bill and Hillary, that it would be sort of the final straw for Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton in Washington.
They would just think, "This town's impossible."
You know, "We've lost one of our best friends.
He's taken his life in the midst of this melee."
And that something very intangible would be lost.
Bill Clinton's one of the most resilient people I've ever met.
The pain goes deeper with Hillary, and it can stay there longer.
She's strong, but she's also vulnerable.
NARRATOR: Far from destroying the Clintons, Foster's death steeled them against their adversaries.
For Hillary, there could be no more illusions: this would be a war with only one winner.
NUSSBAUM: They were toughening up by this time.
They were seeing now that we're in a blood sport, that people are trying to kill you and nothing is going to make them happy.
NARRATOR: Foster's suicide only fueled the media's fascination with scandal.
Within days of the discovery of his body, there was speculation about the "real cause" of his death.
KEN GORMLEY: The immediate reaction to Vince Foster's death was, "What happened here, and were the Clintons involved?
Were they covering something up?"
There begins bubbling up this notion that there's a conspiracy, that Vince Foster's been murdered.
You know, on one account, his body rolled up in a rug, he's having an affair with Hillary-- all of these terrible things.
NARRATOR: Attention focused mostly on some files mysteriously removed from Foster's office after his death, including documents related to an old Arkansas land deal: Whitewater.
♪ ♪ Whitewater-- the scandal that would haunt Clinton's presidency longer than any other-- had its roots in the late 1970s.
At the time, Bill Clinton was a young attorney general making just over $25,000 a year.
Hillary, an associate at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, was the family's main breadwinner.
When an old friend named Jim McDougal approached her with a plan to build vacation homes along the White River, Hillary decided to invest.
PURVIS: Here's a guy, McDougal, that comes to him and says, "Put a little money into this thing."
He said, "Boy, you'll be rich and you'll make money, and this is going to be great."
Well, I guess in hindsight, every person promoting any sort of land scheme thinks it's going to be a world-beater and we're going to be rich as Midas by the time it's over.
NARRATOR: Like many of McDougal's real estate projects, Whitewater went belly-up.
To prop up his scheme, he made illegal transfers from his own savings and loan, Madison Guaranty.
McDougal was charged with fraud.
President Clinton, you just mentioned James McDougal, your former business partner.
A lot of questions have been raised about his business practices.
NARRATOR: Fifteen years later, President Clinton was asked by reporters what he and Hillary knew about McDougal's illegal activities.
To the best of my knowledge, he was honest in his dealings with me, and that's all I can comment on.
ICKES: The White House was totally unprepared for it.
There was no memo on it, there was no defense group.
I had nothing to do with the management of Whitewater.
Hillary had nothing to do with it.
We didn't keep the books or the records.
ICKES: There were some of us who said, "Keep the walls up, keep it back," you know.
"It's none of their business, uh, nothing happened.
"It's a little deal down in Arkansas that has nothing to do with the presidency, and it'll go away."
It didn't go away, but that built up a suspicion, and as new things leaked out, as inconsequential as they might be, the press would say, "Oh, the Clintons have been hiding stuff."
And there was built up relatively quickly that the Clintons were just stonewalling.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: The emergence of the Whitewater scandal couldn't have come at a worse time for President Clinton.
In the late summer of 1993, he needed broad political support, as his first major piece of legislation-- the federal budget-- was headed for a showdown in Congress.
REICH: We knew that if Bill Clinton lost that vote, the signal would be, he can't get the Democrats in the House and the Senate to go along with him.
That means he doesn't have power.
That's the definition of lacking power.
And if this early in the administration our new president lacks power, where do we go next?
NARRATOR: Abandoning his campaign promise to cut taxes and invest in the middle class, Clinton instead took the advice of the administration's deficit hawks to reduce spending and raise taxes.
KLEIN: Bill Clinton's first big decision was an intellectual act of faith.
CLINTON: We're on the eve of historic action.
Without deficit reduction, we can't have sustained economic growth.
KLEIN: He gambled in the midst of a recession that he'd get more economic growth if he was fiscally conservative, and if he began to reduce the deficit that would convince the bond market to start reducing interest rates and the economy would grow.
That was just a theory.
No one knew it would work.
NARRATOR: More than anything, Clinton had wanted to invest in the middle class.
The realization that he couldn't left him deeply disappointed.
HARRIS: He didn't become president to say no.
He didn't become president to administer pain.
He didn't become president because he wanted to placate Wall Street.
But, in fact, his agenda did require, to some extent, doing all those things.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: As the budget reached Congress, Clinton knew it was on a knife-edge.
With Republicans unanimously opposed, the president needed nearly every Democratic vote to pass the bill, but the party, like the administration, was in disarray.
Liberal Democrats complained about the cuts in spending, while conservatives opposed the tax hikes.
DAVID BOREN: I think that the president will fail, the party will fail, and the country will fail if we enact this budget.
NARRATOR: Faced with the possibility of a catastrophic defeat, Clinton got down to work.
"I knew if I didn't get the economy going," he said, "nothing else would matter."
There wasn't anything he wasn't willing to do.
He would call, he would meet.
He would grovel, he would strong-arm.
He would use every tactic any leader has at his disposal to try to get this thing done.
NARRATOR: But the days when a president could command votes, even from members of his own party, were long over.
LEON PANETTA: Bill Clinton was used to Arkansas.
You know, he knew the good old boys, he knew who he had to go to.
He could walk on the floor of the legislature and basically, you know, with a smile and a pat on the back he could get any vote he wanted.
That wasn't true here in Washington.
And in many ways it was frustrating for him because he really felt that he knew what was best for the country and that by the sheer power of his personality and his words and his smile, that somehow he could make it work.
NARRATOR: The budget wended its way through a series of committee and floor votes in the House and Senate.
GREENBERG: We went to some of these votes not having the votes.
Getting calls during the voting process that someone had turned, someone had moved, these things are being won by one vote.
I mean, this is the budget, this is like his entire presidency goes down if he fails, and you're up to one vote, you know, each time.
NARRATOR: In early August, the final budget bill reached the floor of the House.
With the vote still in doubt, all eyes turned to a freshman Democrat from an historically Republican district, Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky.
PANETTA: We had her down as voting yes, and she votes no early on.
And so we said, "Go in there, find out what the hell's going on, try to turn her vote around."
First of all, as a former member, if you're going to vote against the leadership, vote and get the hell out of there.
She didn't do that, she stayed there.
So suddenly these guys are all pouring on her, and she's standing there, and they're saying, "Come on, you've got to change your vote.
This is important to the administration."
She then says something like, "I'll do this, but the president has to come into my district."
So they call me, back in the office, and they say, "Will the president come into her district to do..." And I said, "Absolutely!
Whatever it takes, we're going to do it."
NARRATOR: With the vote and his presidency on the line, Clinton paced nervously in a small office in the West Wing.
RUBIN: We're all crowded around this little television set, really with quite a high level of uncertainty.
NARRATOR: Finally, Mezvinsky cast her vote "yes," and the budget passed.
With an equally narrow victory in the Senate, Clinton's final budget became law.
Not even he foresaw the economic boom it would set off.
RUBIN: It contributed enormously to what turned out to be the longest economic expansion in the nation's history.
22 million new jobs were created, productivity went up.
Incomes rose at all levels.
And, for the first time in 30 years, we had a federal surplus.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: By the fall of 1993, there were glimmers of a turnaround in Clinton's fortunes.
After passing his budget, Congress approved the North American Free Trade Agreement with overwhelming Republican support.
The same month, he signed the Brady Bill, instituting background checks for anyone purchasing a firearm.
NAFTA and Brady culminated ten months of intense focus on domestic affairs, but beyond America's shores, a troubled world would wait no longer for the president's attention.
(explosions, gunfire) RICHARD CLARKE: The Cold War had kept a lot of tensions quiet and a lot of groups quiet.
And now, with that over, all of the old animosities, all of the old hatreds-- ethnic hatreds, regional tensions that had been under that iceberg of the Cold War-- were now popping out and were real problems.
KLEIN: How much did the United States want to get involved in problems in the rest of the world, which tended to be localized problems?
Were those worthy of our time and attention?
This was uncharted territory.
CLARKE: We were all reaching for, all searching for some new grand unifying theory.
Give us a new way of looking at the world.
NARRATOR: Clinton had little to offer in the realm of foreign affairs.
The first president since World War II who had not worn a military uniform, he lacked confidence as a commander-in-chief.
KLEIN: Clinton came to the White House with very little knowledge of the U.S. military.
Famously, he didn't even know how to salute.
To a great many people in this country, that was legitimately something to be worried about.
NARRATOR: Clinton's first major foreign policy crisis came in the African nation of Somalia, where a warlord named Mohamed Farah Aidid was terrorizing the local population in an effort to suppress his opponents in a civil war.
Clinton inserted U.S. Special Forces into Somalia to capture Aidid.
During a mission on October 3, two Blackhawk helicopters were shot down.
American forces sent in to assist were pinned down by overwhelming firepower.
(rapid gunfire) Before they could be extracted, 18 U.S. soldiers were killed with 84 more wounded.
Around the world, images of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets enflamed public opinion.
HARRIS: Although George H.W.
Bush had initiated that intervention, it had expanded on Bill Clinton's watch.
So when things turned bad, it was hugely unpopular, and Bill Clinton bore the brunt of that.
KOFI ANNAN: You need to understand the average citizen.
In their minds, we have gone there on a humanitarian mission to offer a helping hand, and we get attacked and humiliated.
"Why are we there?
"Why should we continue to help?
"Why are you keeping the boys there?
Bring the boys home."
That sort of political pressure that President Clinton and his team had to deal with.
NARRATOR: The backlash in public opinion contained what seemed a clear lesson for the young president: military intervention, without a compelling national interest, came with unforeseeable risks and costs.
HARRIS: It sent a chill through the administration and made them much more reluctant to intervene in other parts of the world.
And where that came home in the most profound way, and one that Bill Clinton came to deeply, deeply regret, was in Rwanda.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Rwanda, an African nation a thousand miles to the west of Somalia, was suffering through its own civil war between two tribes, Hutus and Tutsis.
In early April 1994, the Rwandan president's plane was shot down.
The Hutu government blamed Tutsi rebels.
ANNAN: When the plane was shot down, all hell broke loose, and that became the trigger which set off this mass killing.
(people shouting) NARRATOR: The killing caught the Clinton administration entirely by surprise.
WESLEY CLARK: That night, I was leaving the office and I noticed on CNN, on the television screen there was shooting going on.
And I, and I said to my assistant, "What's going on?
What is that?"
He said, "Oh, it's a, it's a, it's 'R-wanda.'
There's some kind of operation going on over there."
I said, "Is that real?
Is that on time?"
He said, "Yes, sir."
(child wailing) NARRATOR: Ultimately, some 800,000 Tutsis would be killed.
But with the Black Hawk Down incident still fresh, the Clinton administration did virtually nothing to stop the slaughter.
ANNAN: We needed international support in Rwanda, but the will to intervene was not there.
They knew what was happening, but they were not about to take the risks.
Rwanda lived in the shadow of Somalia and paid the price for what had happened in Somalia.
NARRATOR: Clinton's foreign policy was trapped in a kind of no-man's-land.
If Somalia had demonstrated the risks of military intervention, Rwanda proved the costs of doing nothing.
CLARK: I know the president felt awful afterwards.
As it came out and we understood the scale, the enormity, we realized that there are sins of omission as well as sins of commission.
This was a horrible omission.
Here we go.
All right, flip it, Chelsea.
(applause) NARRATOR: Battered by a year Hillary described as "hellish," the Clintons were looking forward to their first Christmas in Washington.
Escaping the White House, they visited close friends and even shopped at a local mall.
Bill and Hillary had always been doting parents to Chelsea, trying to keep her life as normal as possible.
SHEEHY: Both Hillary and Bill, in their own way, were fabulous parents, very protective of Chelsea, and managed to keep a cordon of privacy around her, let her grow up more or less naturally.
NARRATOR: For the most part, the press respected Chelsea's privacy, but showed no such consideration for her parents.
In mid-December, the first family's hopes for a quiet Christmas were dashed when a call from the "Washington Post" once again plunged them into the roiling currents of the Whitewater scandal.
GERGEN: I got a call from Bob Kaiser, who was then the number two editor at the "Washington Post."
And he said, "David, you know, we've known each other a long time, "and we've made numerous requests to the White House "for some Whitewater-related documents, "that we're getting stonewalled, and we're about to go on the attack."
NARRATOR: Many on his staff counseled the president to turn over his private papers on Whitewater to the "Post."
GERGEN: I said, "Mr. President, this is a flagship newspaper.
"They're going to put a team of investigative reporters on this "if you don't give these documents over "and no one, no one knows where that's going to go.
"Why don't we just do it now and just, you know, do the fair and square thing?"
He said, "I agree, let's do it."
He said, "But there's one problem."
He said, "I'm in this with Hillary.
You've got to go convince Hillary."
SHEEHY: Hillary's attitude toward the press, and thus towards the "Washington Post," was to pull back, to reveal nothing, to keep the media or anybody else who's asked questions about their inside life at bay.
So she's locked down.
GERGEN: Finally, after about two weeks, I got a call from the counsel's office saying, "By the way, David, "we have now sent a letter to the 'Washington Post' and we'll read it to you."
And I said, "Fine, let me hear the letter."
And basically it said: "Dear 'Washington Post,' screw you.
NARRATOR: Clinton's refusal to turn over his private Whitewater records was a red flag to many of his political enemies.
In early January, Republican senator Robert Dole demanded the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Whitewater.
If there's nothing to hide, why not lay it all out there?
But every day there's another little drip coming from somewhere.
NARRATOR: Dole's demand reignited the argument inside the White House.
Most of Clinton's advisors urged him to appoint a special prosecutor, but Hillary and White House counsel Bernie Nussbaum argued against it.
NUSSBAUM: I said to the president, "They'll investigate you "and they won't find anything "because you did nothing in Whitewater.
"But they'll investigate... if somebody did something "in Arkansas in the last 20 years, "they will try to find that person.
"Then they will try to get that person, to save their neck, "to remember something that you did in Arkansas "in the last 20 years which was illegal.
"This will last, Mr. President, as long as you're president and beyond."
ICKES: The contrary argument was, "We're trying to run a presidency "and a White House here.
"This is not going to go away.
"Yes, you can stave it off for a while, but at some point, everything is going to come out."
NUSSBAUM: And that's when Clinton said, "I can't take it anymore.
"Tell me what to do.
"You got to, got to give me... Tell me what to do," he screams at me.
ICKES: We finally persuaded Hillary, much against her better instincts, to call the president and say that we wanted him to authorize Attorney General Reno to appoint a special counsel.
NARRATOR: Exhausted and heartsick over the recent death of his mother, Clinton did not put up a fight.
On January 20, 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno, acting on Clinton's authorization, appointed lawyer Robert Fiske as special counsel in the Whitewater matter.
Most of the newspapers in the country asked me to have a special counsel appointed.
That's what I have done.
I did it so that I could go on with my work.
I want a full investigation.
I want this thing to be done, fully, clearly, and to be over with.
NARRATOR: Years later, Clinton would say, "It was the worst mistake of my presidency."
♪ ♪ By the spring of 1994, Bill Clinton had endured 18 months of attacks by his political enemies, the press and even other Democrats.
Tired of playing defense, he set out to reclaim his presidency with one grand gesture.
KLEIN: Clinton understood that very few presidents create their own greatness.
Greatness is usually thrust upon them by a crisis.
Abe Lincoln had the Civil War, Franklin Roosevelt had the Depression and World War II.
And so that was a challenge for Clinton.
"What am I going to do that's going to make me remembered?"
For 60 years, this country has tried to reform health care.
President Roosevelt tried, President Truman tried, President Nixon tried, President Carter tried.
Every time, the special interests were powerful enough to defeat them, but not this time.
(applause) O'DONNELL: Health care was to be the giant monument of the Clinton presidency.
Under our plan, every American would receive a health care security card.
O'DONNELL: Bill Clinton held up this health care card that we were all going to get.
Every one of us were going to get this card from the government, you know, certifying that we had health care coverage, and we were all certain that we were absolutely going to get this done.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: To lead the signature initiative of his presidency, Clinton turned, as he always did, to the person he trusted most.
This is a crucial moment in the fight for health care reform in our nation.
We all know our country needs health security that's decent, affordable for every American.
(cheers and applause) KLEIN: There are those who would cynically say he owed her for standing by her man, despite Gennifer Flowers and all the rest during the campaign.
But I think it was something else.
Clinton adores her.
And he especially adores her mind.
We cannot provide primary and preventive health care in America if we don't make better use of our nurses.
KLEIN: Bill Clinton really believed that if anybody was going to come up with the answer to the most vexing public policy problem out there, it was going to be Hillary.
It was one of the stupidest political decisions that Bill Clinton ever made.
♪ ♪ And now it's time for everybody to board their buses.
NARRATOR: Hillary Clinton took to her new job with all the energy and determination pent up during the previous year.
This is an issue that affects everybody.
NARRATOR: In forums and town meetings across the country, she heard stories of insurance abuse, exorbitant health care bills, and poor quality care.
But once back in Washington, she shut out nearly every outside voice, relying on a tight circle of advisors to write a 1,300-page plan that would radically reshape the nation's health care system.
ICKES: There was a rigidity and an unwillingness to really listen.
The mark of a good politician is to listen and to be able to understand what's really being said.
The frailty of Hillary was it was too cloistered, too walled off, and she really thought what she perceived as the public opinion in favor of health care would override the resistance in Congress and of the special interests, and it was a big mistake.
This was covered under our old plan.
Oh, yeah, that was a good one, wasn't it?
NARRATOR: By the summer, Hillary's plan was being pilloried by the health insurance industry as a big government takeover of health care.
O'DONNELL: We spent more than a year trying to legislate something the country didn't want.
Having choices we don't like is no choice at all.
O'DONNELL: We scared people by saying, "The health care system isn't working, and here comes the government to fix it."
And Ronald Reagan had been schooling this public for many years now that the government is the problem.
People didn't think, "Oh great, here comes the government."
Reagan had won that argument.
NARRATOR: Clinton did little to hedge Hillary's "all or nothing" bet or avert the looming political catastrophe.
ICKES: In the president's mind, this was something that he had given to Hillary and he was very, very reluctant to override her.
And I think that because of the husband-wife relationship that it was not something that he was willing to take on.
HARRIS: It inhibited Bill Clinton from following his own independent judgment, his own best instincts of when to compromise.
He found it difficult to defy her very powerful wishes, and that's not a position a president wants to be in.
CROWD (chanting): Socialized medicine makes me sick!
Socialized medicine makes me sick!
NARRATOR: Throughout the summer of 1994, as lawmakers heard from their frightened constituents, Hillary's health care bill lost support.
By Labor Day, before it even came up for a vote in Congress, the Clinton health care bill was dead.
♪ ♪ REICH: The defeat of health care was a huge defeat.
It was the number-one objective, and to have it defeated was a repudiation, in a sense, or at least felt like a repudiation of the Clinton administration.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: By the fall of 1994, the Clinton presidency was at its lowest ebb.
Weakened by scandal and the defeat of health care, Clinton was about to be challenged by a new and formidable rival.
NEWT GINGRICH: I am a genuine revolutionary.
They are the genuine reactionaries.
We are going to change their world.
They will do anything to stop us.
NARRATOR: Brimming with self-confidence, Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich had spent more than a decade planning his assault on the Democratic Party.
TRENT LOTT: He was a giant personality.
He was one of the best policy wonks and thinkers of new ideas around, but his style was very different from mine.
His personality and approach was... if it's not arrogance, it's at least overconfidence.
You know, Clausewitz said that war is politics by other means.
Newt thought the reverse was true, that politics was war by other means.
NARRATOR: Gingrich's ultimate goal was nothing less than a dismantling of what he called the "liberal welfare state."
He would begin by trying to break the Democrats' 40-year stranglehold on the House of Representatives in the upcoming midterm elections.
LOTT: We had some people that were not satisfied to just passively go along with being in an abused, mistreated minority.
And there were a lot of Republicans that had been in the minority for so long they thought, "This is where we belong and this is okay, if they'll just give us a crumb or two."
Newt started rockin' the boat.
NARRATOR: Gingrich decided that the best way to achieve a Republican victory in the midterms was to run against Clinton.
Republican candidates across the country morphed their Democratic opponents into the president.
ANNOUNCER: Look at Congressman Tim Johnson's voting record.
It looks just like Bill Clinton's liberal agenda.
TONY BLANKLEY: The plan was to nationalize the election.
Newt saw fundamental flaws in the Democratic Party's relationship with the American electorate.
And he wanted to develop and exploit those and run a campaign based on that.
NARRATOR: As the elections approached, Clinton hit the campaign trail, hoping that his old magic could hold back the Republican tide.
BRANTLEY: Part of Bill Clinton's persona is an abiding belief that if he can just have enough time, he can win over just about anybody.
NARRATOR: Clinton was sure his record could yet win over the American people.
By the fall of 1994, the economy was growing again.
In September, he added a new ban on assault weapons to his list of accomplishments.
But scandals, the failure of health care, and foreign policy missteps weighed heavily on public opinion.
ICKES: I remember him saying to me on God knows how many speeches, "Harold, if I can just communicate to enough Americans "what we have done and where we want to take the country, we'll win this."
I now declare the polls open.
PETER JENNINGS: One of the big questions of the day is whether the Republicans have been successful in turning this election into a referendum on Bill Clinton as they had wanted.
Our exit polls are turning up bad news all over the country for President Clinton and his party.
BLANKLEY: I had called a friend at NBC to find out what the 1:30 exit polls looked like and she told me, "Well, Tony, I actually haven't seen the exit... "the 1:30 exit polls, they're holding them back.
"Apparently you guys are doing so well that there must be something wrong with the polling," and that was the beginning of a hopeful evening that turned into a glorious one.
This is truly a wildly historic night.
I mean, this is just... (applause and cheers) DAN RATHER: The Republican Revolution of election '94 shook Capitol Hill like an earthquake today.
Its reverberations went into statehouses and moved the whole political landscape sharply to the right.
NARRATOR: By the end of the night, Republicans had picked up 54 seats in the House and eight in the Senate, winning control of both chambers of Congress.
ICKES: The longest walk I took in my life was from my...
I was still in the basement in the West Wing, over to the second floor of the residence to tell him what he already knew, that we had lost the House and the Senate.
NARRATOR: That Christmas was another dismal one.
Clinton wandered the corridors of the White House obsessing about his defeat.
The old question haunted him: "What did I do wrong?"
PANETTA: In politics, you want to be loved.
Politics is about wanting to be loved, and suddenly there's a message that maybe they don't love you.
And how do you deal with that?
He really went through a lot of, you know, of kind of internal conflicts.
But again, typical Bill Clinton, you know, he was angry, he was mad, he was, you know, kind of, "What went wrong?"
But at the same time, he was asking himself, "How do I fix it?"
REICH: There was no doubt in my mind that Bill Clinton could come back or would come back.
He always came back.
Bill Clinton was constitutionally incapable of not coming back.
The real question was how?
In what form?
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