once upon a time in arkansas

This program takes a fascinating journey through time - and Arkansas - showing how the Clintons' close personal and political relationships formed the twisted financial bonds of land deals and alleged cover-ups that have come to be known as Whitewater.

The main focus is on two of the state's most prominent couples back then - Bill and Hillary Clinton and Jim and Susan McDougal. (Both McDougals were interviewed while serving separate jail sentences. Jim McDougal has since died.)

The program lays out how the Clintons - he was the young Attorney General with his eyes on the state governorship - were brought into an ambitious McDougal deal to build vacation homes on the White River. Clinton, with few assets, just needed to sign for a loan arranged by his pal McDougal. "McDougal made his political friends partners in his deals and used their stature to make it easier for banks to say yes," says FRONTLINE correspondent Peter Boyer. "And the politicians, like his friend Bill Clinton, were happy to go along with it."

Boyer tracks how that Clinton/McDougal land deal blossomed into the national scandal that has ended several careers and could yet threaten President and Mrs. Clinton. The still-unfolding saga involves the now famous and failed savings and loan known as Madison Guaranty which McDougal is said to have called his candy store; a fraudulent scheme named Castle Grande, and the Rose law firm - which merged the fates of Webster L. Hubbell and Vincent W. Foster Jr. with that of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

FRONTLINE explores questions surrounding Hillary Clinton's legal work on the crooked Castle Grande deal - questions fueled by the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of Mrs. Clinton's Rose law firm records.

The essence of this FRONTLINE broadast is not that it reveals new information but that it gives a clear-eyed view of what has already transpired. And in presenting a close-up look at the Clintons, their friends and partners, "Once Upon A Time in Arkansas" illuminates the great themes of friendship, betrayal and greed which lay at the heart of the story called 'Whitewater.'

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