I was just a few months old when former president Bill Clinton took office in 1993 and nine years old when he left it.
I don’t remember media or press coverage of his presidency or his 1999 impeachment trial. It was only later, as I got older, that my mom told me about his political legacy and affair with Monica Lewinsky in the oval office.
My mom, who had raised me by herself and is a big believer that women should be independent and strong, was disgusted by the whole scandal. She was outraged that Hillary would stand by a husband who had cheated on her multiple times, just to “save face” and salvage political careers. In her mind, President Clinton was a liar and could never be trusted again. To my mom, his political success did not matter over his personal ethics.
I never heard any positive things about Clinton until I heard my friends’ parents talking about the way he had created a time of economic prosperity and booming business.
I never knew Clinton played the saxophone until just a few years ago. By the time I was watching MTV, Clinton was not stating whether he preferred boxers or briefs on television.
In a new four-hour PBS documentary entitled “Clinton”, the former president’s achievements, fiscal policies and scandals are highlighted through extensive interviews with people who have been close to him.
The documentary is part of a series on PBS entitled “American Experience: Presidents Series”. The writer and director, Barak Goodman, said the series focuses on Clinton’s presidential successes but also the consequences of his infidelities, according to an NPR interview.
“I feel that we had no way of avoiding that story as one of the major centerpieces of the film – it consumes most of the fourth hour because it has such long-range consequences for the country,” Goodman said.
My generation knows Clinton more for what he did after he was president. At 64 years old, he has now been out of the White House longer than he was in it.
After leaving office in 2001 Clinton founded his nonprofit organization, the William J. Clinton Foundation. It started as an initiative to provide healthcare to victims of HIV/AIDS in developing countries. Since then the foundation has expanded to include strengthening small businesses, climate change, healthy eating and education.
My age bracket knows Clinton more for these achievements than what he accomplished during his presidency.
His wife’s bid for president during the 2008 election will stand out in my generation’s mind as the first time we remember a woman being a serious contender for the highest public office. His support during her campaign was helpful, but she did not need to rely on her husband’s credentials. She had plenty of her own.
That is the most crucial change to our generation’s perception of Bill Clinton: Hillary, his wife, has become the real political powerhouse while he takes the backseat.