Clinton documentary revisits Lewinsky scandal

Part one of a four-hour documentary on former President Bill Clinton will air Monday on PBS. The second half of the documentary will air on "American Experience" on Feb. 21.

"Clinton" covers the former president from his childhood through the end of his second term as president. More than 40 minutes of the documentary focuses on the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the fallout.

Barak Goodman, director and writer of "Clinton" said the particular focus of the Lewinsky affair helped bring many of the protagonists of the Clinton story together and "revealed them in a profound way."

Goodman said, "Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Kenneth Starr, the Republican Congress. All of them sort of swirled around this event and it became revelatory of their characters, which is a major goal of these kinds of films."

So what continuing questions does Goodman have about the former president?

Goodman said the enduring conundrum of Bill Clinton is how he found himself embroiled in such a scandal.

"How (can) such a brilliant man do things like the Monica Lewinsky affair? .... How can such a sort of politically-savvy person make these kinds of errors?" Goodman said. "...What I came to understand over the course of a lot of thinking and studying is that these two parts of Clinton are irreconcilable. They're both part of who he is and they explain fundamentally what happened to him. But you can't ever resolve them and sort of explain how, put them together and integrate them into one thing. They both coexist in the same man."

Clinton has always been motivated by idealism, Goodman said, and has partly been the key to his success after his presidency.

"(His idealism) was the engine of his energy," Goodman said. "I think now that he's been sort of shorn of the political part of his life, he doesn't have to wage those battles to get re-elected. You see that idealism on display. He has had a remarkable post presidency. We don't deal with it in the film. But I think you can say it's probably been the most successful in history."

Erica Hill noted that the film touched on many things, but did not focus on some issues, such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the rise of Osama bin Laden and terrorism, in general. When asked why the film didn't focus on those subjects, Goodman said the film touched on some of those issues, but in the context of Clinton's decisions and what was important to Clinton at the time.

He said, "We're not charged with understanding, retrospectively, from today's point of view. We deal with history as it is on 'American Experience.' These are historical documentaries. And at the time, this did not consume a lot of President Clinton tension or time. This is a fairly minor issue for him. We deal with the things he dealt with. ... History take turns after the person leaves office and it only retrospectively becomes clear that fairly minor events at the time might have had great ramifications."

For more with Goodman on what he decided to focus on in the film and why, watch the video in the player above.

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