The Clintons: A 20-Year Political Odyssey20 Aug, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Clinton doc covers an era of both political bipartisanship and partisanship
Image Entertainment Oct. 2 will release The Clintons: An American Odyssey (DVD $19.98), a 20-year anniversary remembrance of William Jefferson Clinton’s eight-year presidency (1993-2001).
In an era when hyper-partisanship dominates the political discourse (at any level), the 101-minute documentary showcases a time when, according to director and writer Bob Kline, bipartisan leadership still existed in Congress, an uneasy détente that Kline said imploded with Newt Gingrich becoming the 58th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives following the Republican victory in the 1994 congressional elections.
One of the many subjects covered on the DVD is what Kline characterizes as Gingrich’s caustic relationship with Clinton, including his Contract With America platform, which Kline said signaled a shift in the GOP political strategy not to cooperate with the opposition, especially a Democratic president.
Kline said he thought Clinton — not unlike Barack Obama — had the uncanny ability to work both sides of the political aisle and keep the American public in the loop at a time when social media and the Internet didn’t exist.
“I wanted to deal with Clinton’s unique ability to communicate and empathize with the American people,” Kline said. “He’s a great communicator.”
It’s an attribute Kline also bestows upon former presidents Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy — the latter the subject of a pending Kline documentary, J.F.K. Remembered, from Warner Bros. to be released for the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination next year.
Kline’s other two presidential docs include Ronald Reagan: An American Journey and The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings — the former underscoring Reagan’s underappreciated skill for bipartisanship.
“I never voted for him and was always philosophically opposed to him, but as time has moved forward I’ve become more appreciative of President Reagan,” Kline said.
He says it is an admiration many who once sat in opposition now hold for Clinton as a senior statesman. Indeed, notable scenes in the doc showcase Clinton’s unique friendship with the late Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, among others.
“Next to Barack Obama, he is the highest-profile Democrat,” Kline said.
In addition to myriad speeches Clinton gave around the world throughout his two terms in the White House (culled from the Clinton Presidential Library), The Clintons also showcases Hillary Rodham Clinton’s acension to power and influence on the national stage.
The former First Lady greatly exceeded the conventional norms of a largely ceremonial role through numerous achievements, Kline said, which included creating the first debate about national health care with the Clinton Health Care Plan, as well as advocating for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Foster Care Independence Act, among others.
Thanks to video, it’s not hard to miss the political and personal toll taken upon Hillary during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Kline said, noting he elected to document Bill Clinton’s extramarital affair without resorting to tabloid journalism.
She later became a U.S. senator from New York state as her husband was leaving the White House, and she is the current Secretary of State.
“She is a distinct woman,” Kline said. “She came within a hair of winning the 2008 Democratic nomination for president.”