HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT, THENR
Troopergate. Whitewater. Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Kenneth Starr, Vince Foster, Susan McDougal, Monica Lewinsky. Return with us now to those glorious days of the Clinton administration, when alleged financial scandals and oral sex with interns led to years of controversy.
Yep, it's all here in The Hunting of the President, which makes a solid argument that a cabal of Arkansas good ol' boys and right-wing Republicans, all of whom had it in for the Clintons, were the propelling force behind the Whitewater investigation and the Clinton impeachment proceedings.
Starting with an Arkansas organization known as the Alliance for the Rebirth of Independent America, whose sole purpose seems to have been its attempts to disgrace Clinton, the documentary follows a trail of unproven sexual liaisons (Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers), dubious fraud investigations (Whitewater), murder accusations (Vince Foster) and, finally, fellatio dalliances in the White House that led to unsuccessful impeachment proceedings. Along the way, the film details how all these spurious scandals appear to have been funded and driven by right-wing billionaires like Richard Mellon Scaife, and a Republican establishment which considered the Clintons to be white-trash arrivistes. Aided by a credulous press establishment, these anti-Clintonites kept their various balls spinning for years beyond their normal expiration date.
The film also makes clear that Bill Clinton was a far from perfect human being, and that his charisma and sexuality were totally threatening to the powers-that-be. (As former Senator Dale Bumpers says in the film, "When someone tells you it's not about sex, it's about sex.") But the extremes prosecutors like Kenneth Starr traveled to get their man are not exactly an advertisement for enlightened democracy.
Nowhere is this shown to better effect than in the on-screen testimony of Susan McDougal, who spent several years in jail simply because she refused to make up lies about Clinton and his Whitewater dealings. McDougal, who was deliberately imprisoned with the lowest of the low--child murderers--comes off as a real heroine, her ordeal a testimony to prosecutorial recklessness.
That said, The Hunting of the President is not a perfect film. Essentially preaching to the choir, nearly all its talking heads are ex-Clinton administration officials, buddies from Arkansas or journalists who were onto the scheming from the get-go. The filmmakers also suffer from a severe case of the "cutes," intercutting old film clips and other smarmy effects into the more serious material. Still, this is a cautionary tale that needs to be told, about how a truly unsavory group of characters almost staged a legal coup d'etat. It's scary stuff.