While I found The Hunting of the President to be somewhat engaging, I found it to be the most slanted of all the liberal docs I've seen this year. In case you couldn't tell from the name, this documentary asserts that the constant media assault, the endless investigations and the sexual controversy that eventually resulted in the Clinton impeachment were all the product of a "vast right wing conspiracy". It goes into detail, investigating the lives of the conspirators, the media circus surrounding the many sex scandals, and of course the investigation of Ken Starr, particularly focusing on the whitewater scandal.
The documentarians take it for granted that their average viewer is a stooge, completely lacking in the ability of thinking for themselves, much less remembering the events as they happened. I, for one, was not asleep during the 90s, and I have my own theories as to why the president was so unpopular. Why? Because he banged lots of women, that's why. Because he may or may not have smoked pot, that's why. Because he may or may not have dodged the draft. The hatred towards Clinton reflects as much on him and his own actions, as it does on the recent re-emergence of religion intertwined with politics. By 1992, the moral majority had asserted themselves as the strong arm of the Republican party, and Clinton was the antithesis of everything they stood for. The concept of hatred was redefined during the Clinton presidency, because the extreme right took it to new levels.
The documentary initially suggests that Clinton was hated because he intended to make changes in Washington. In an early scene, one reporter recalls a speech he made when Clinton was first arriving in the white house where many people took offense. I'm sure Clinton had many political enemies on Capital Hill, as virtually all politicians do. But, no, sorry. I don't think that's it. The filmmakers focus on people in Arkansas who were obsessed with capturing Clinton's sexual antics, and some who took delight in exploiting and exaggerating anything they were told. People are drawn to scandal, especially those who despise the embarrassed subject, so that isn't surprising either. A lot of attention is paid to the media frenzy that followed Clinton around, and how a lot of unsubstantiated rumors were published as fact. I'm sure that is true, and the filmmakers provide their own answer as to why that happened -- reporters made their careers by exploiting the Clintons. News network ratings indicated that people couldn't get enough Clinton scandal, so of course the networks and newspapers did whatever they could to "break" a new Clinton story. Not to mention, several female opportunists came out, and I'm sure plenty, perhaps most, were less than honest. While this was all unfortunate for the Clintons, I don't buy that all those scandals originated in an Arkansas houseboat. Seriously, do you?
It might seem like I'm debunking the entire film, but that is not quite the case. There was most definitely a mob after Mr. Clinton, as evidenced by Kenneth Starr and the drawn-out whitewater scandal. I think everyone agrees today that the entire investigation was a politically motivated witch-hunt, and I'm sure many, including Republicans, are ashamed of what happened. The sequences in Hunting that explore the independent counsel were effective, especially the interviews with Susan McDougal, but those are the only moments where the images and arguments seemed to correlate with the thesis.
What is hardly ever mentioned is that Clinton did have a history of womanizing. We know, at least, that Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky were true, because he admitted to both of them later. We also know that Bill Clinton did lie to the grand jury. Sure, there was practically a conservative army ready to pounce once he screwed up, but many of the democrats during the proceedings seemed to lose sight of the fact that the president did indeed screw up. He screwed up royally! Was the president hunted? To a degree, sure. Did he have political enemies? You bet. Is that why he was impeached? While the proceedings were intensely partisan, the responsibility still lies with the president. Don't let this manipulative piece of filmmaking convince you otherwise.
© Aaron West, 1st October, 2004
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