Clinton in the cross hairs

Staff WriterAugust 13, 2004 

Man, Republicans are crazy! At least that's what the new documentaries in theaters or at video stores are telling us. This has got to be one lousy summer for all the bigwigs in the Republican Party.

Just in case Michael Moore's anti-Bush screed "Fahrenheit 9/11," Jehane Noujaim's pro-Al-Jazeera doc "Control Room" or Robert Greenwald's Fox News diss-fest "Outfoxed" didn't hip you to how much the conservatives have us all by the necks, here comes "The Hunting of the President," which reminds us how insane Republicans were when they weren't in power.

Based on the Joe Conason/Gene Lyons book of the same name, "Hunting" takes us back to the halcyon days of the Clinton administration. As Morgan Freeman narrates, "Hunting" goes down the list of people -- and it's a long list -- who made it their priority to destroy Clinton and his reign.

The movie starts with the various Arkansas folk who didn't appreciate the job he did as governor, shady individuals who recorded conversations with women looking for dirt and formed organizations with the primary goal of turning the Clinton name into a disreputable one. It wasn't long before conservative politicians (many of whom saw Clinton as a threat because of his outsider point-of-view), journalists and insiders started paying attention. By the time Clinton began making himself comfy inside the White House, he had so many scandals -- Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Troopergate, Whitewater -- stacked up against him that it's a shock he got any presidential work done.

"Hunting" doesn't just wag a finger at the GOP and Clinton-hating crackpots. The movie also throws the scandal-seeking media into the blame boat. With news outlets looking for their next Watergate, various newsmen (including authors Conason and Lyons, The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz and Newsweek fave Jonathan Alter) recall how reporters became frustrated embellishers, being forced to write Clinton stories that didn't contain the slightest bit of newsworthiness.

The Monica Lewinsky affair gets downplayed considerably. According to the movie, the more jaw-dropping stuff happened during the Whitewater debacle. Investigators (including everybody's favorite independent counsel, Kenneth Starr) banded together in an all-out manner to get rid of Clinton, even throwing people like Susan McDougal, husband of Jim McDougal, Clinton's former business partner, in the slammer when they didn't have anything to bury him with.

Co-directed by Harry Thomason, former show-runner for "Designing Women" and longtime Clinton supporter, "Hunting" may punch the message too hard that sleazy, despicable, downright evil forces were out and about, way too ready to bring down Clinton and his legacy. (Sleazy and despicable? Sure. But downright evil? They look more sad and pathetic to me.)

However, it does paint an entertaining, even funny picture of how all these people tried their best to destroy him -- and failed with magnificently abysmal results. Clinton walked away from those eight years in office not only unscathed, but looking fresh as a daisy.

As "Saturday Night Live" cast member Darrell Hammond once said when he impersonated Clinton in a sketch: "I am bulletproof! Next time, y'all best bring Kryptonite!"

Staff writer Craig D. Lindsey can be reached at 829-4760 or clindsey@newsobserver.com.

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