Bill Clinton: Hero, villain, or…neither?

When I was in kindergarten I shook Bill Clinton’s hand.

No, really I did. I lived just outside of Washington, D.C. and I remember the frenzy — and furry — when our classroom of 5-year-olds found out we were taking a field trip to see the president of the United States of America. My old schoolteacher, Mrs. Cooper, was tickled to death. A liberal, African American woman with a stern voice and soft eyes, she adored the president, despite what my parents told me were “the bad things he had done.”

It seems everyone has an opinion about Bill Clinton.

Or at least according to Audie Cornish they do. The NPR host uses this statement to preface an interview with Barak Goodman, writer and director of a new four-hour-long documentary on the scandal-ridden 42nd president.

The documentary aired the first of two installments last night on PBS as part of the American Experience: President series.

But the question is does my generation even give a hoot?

I’m not sure they do. When the Monica Lewinsky scandal really surfaced my generation of 20-somethings was in grade school. Those just about to start college were even younger. I’m afraid my generation was just too young to get swooped up with his loyal followers or even feel betrayed by his dishonest actions that were frankly, way over our heads.

The fact that such a large portion of Goodman’s documentary focuses on the Monica Lewinsky scandal accounts for our country’s obsession with watching high profile figures fall to ruin in scandal ridden run-ins with drugs, crime and in Clinton’s case, sex.

Although I might argue that the Battle of Mogadishu or Clinton’s role in the Second Intifada are slightly more important than whether or not Clinton “had sexual relations with that woman,” that’s all my generation seems to want to remember.

I do remember that after that field trip I came home and told my mom I wasn’t washing my hand for weeks. (I wanted to extend the bragging rights for having touched the president, I suppose.) Even then, at 5-years-old, he wasn’t a hero or a villain to me —he was just, in a weird way to phrase it, a well known guy — and I think for my generation the same sentiment still exists today.


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