From draft dodging to the Dayton Accords, from Monica Lewinsky to a balanced budget, the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton veered between sordid scandal and grand achievement. In Clinton, American Experience explores the fascinating story of an American president who rose from a broken childhood in Arkansas to become one of the most successful politicians in modern American history and one of the most complex and conflicted characters to ever stride across the public stage.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman of the Palenstinian Liberation Organization Yasser Arafat shake hands with President Clinton behind them at the Middle East Peace Agreement Ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House. (September 13, 1993)
The film recounts a career full of accomplishment and rife with scandal, a marriage that would make history and create controversy and a presidency that would define the crucial and transformative period between the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11. It follows Clinton across his two terms as he confronted some of the key forces that would shape the future, including partisan political warfare and domestic and international terrorism, and struggled, with uneven success, to define the role of American power in a post-Cold War world.
Most memorably, it explores how Clinton’s conflicted character made history, even as it enraged his enemies and confounded his friends. The program features unprecedented access to scores of Clinton insiders including White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta and Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, as well as interviews with foreign leaders, members of the Republican opposition, childhood friends, staffers from Clinton’s years as governor of Arkansas, biographers and journalists.
American Experience: Clinton, part two, Tuesday at 8 p.m. on PBS 6.