Originally posted on Telly Binge.
By Will Barber Taylor
The Presidency of William Jefferson Clinton has cast a long shadow over the White House and is still remembered today for the scandals that seemed at one point to engulf it. The defeat of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election has led to a renewed interest in her husband’s time in the White House and twenty-six years after his election a documentary series reflects on the controversies that swirled around the 42nd President.
This series utilizes news footage from the time of Clinton’s Presidency and new interviews with those most involved with the scandal such as Monica Lewinsky and members of Kenneth Starr’s investigation into Clinton’s actions. By contextualising the footage, we see, the interviews provide a greater insight into the mindset of the main players.
The combination of old and new footage ensures that we don’t fail to realise the impact of Clinton’s time as President. This might, however, also work as criticism against the documentary. Rather than being fully separated from the events that transpired many of those commenting on the events, such as Lewinsky, were massively affected by the events that they are recalling.
As such, one might argue that rather than delivering a nuanced view of Clinton’s time in the White House, the documentary wants to present a narrative of Clinton as a man plagued by scandal; a talented man let down by his own indiscretions rather than an examination of his political achievements. Yet, that would be failing to understand the purpose of the documentary.
Rather than a chronicle of Clinton’s time as President, the documentary’s aim is to make us feel what it was like during the media blitz that followed the various scandals and intrigues that surrounded the man. If you are looking for a definitive take on Clinton’s rise, the policies he implemented or his impact on politics from a policy point of view then this isn’t the documentary for you.
The documentary makers aim is to help us understand the sheer feeling of shock from the public; the moral outrage from the Republican Party and the panic from the Democrats. Though it is a factually accurate documentary, in many ways it is much stronger in its presentation of emotion. The fury that is clearly evident on the faces of Republicans who attempted to impeach Clinton is clear to this day with their contempt for him coming through strongly. Though this may make the impartiality of the documentary questionable, it still ensures that it is an engaging and unmissable bit of TV journalism.
The Clinton Affair isn’t a perfect piece of educational television – it could certainly be argued that it is more interested in sensationalism than it is in portraying an entirely accurate portrait of the Clinton presidency. Yet this doesn’t stop the documentary from being a compelling programme which accurately sums up the feelings of the American public during the 1990s when they experienced a Presidency unlike any other in the history of that great nation.