Last chance to see start of Impeachment: American Crime Story

If, like me, you were waiting for life to calm down a bit before you binge watched the new drama about Bill Clinton’s impeachment and his appalling behaviour which led up to it, think again. The first episode disappears from iPlayer at 9:15 on Thursday (18th November) and the subsequent 4 every Thursday afterwards.

I watched the first two episodes on Sunday night and found it to be absolutely brilliant, made with sensitivity and understanding. That may well be because Monica Lewinsky is one of the producers and has the chance to tell her story in a way that she couldn’t at the time.  And it is very true to the way I remember it. Great care has been taken to make the scenes that took place in public, like the hug between Clinton and Lewinsky at a White House event after his 1996 victory look very authentic.

I remember Bill Clinton’s furious denial of sexual relations with “that woman”, I remember the fury I felt at the public shaming of Monica Lewinsky while Clinton basically got away relatively easily. It seemed to me that the women at the heart of this suffered so much more than the man. Hillary also came in for criticism for choosing to stay with him with little recognition of the agony she clearly went through. I could always feel her pain and understand why she would choose to stay, having been with him at that stage for almost 30 years.

As recently as last year, Clinton was trying to make excuses for his behaviour. The BBC reported his comments in a documentary:

You feel like you’re staggering around – you’ve been in a 15-round prize-fight that was extended to 30 rounds, and here’s something that’ll take your mind off it for a while. Everybody has life’s pressures and disappointments and terrors, fears or whatever, things I did to manage my anxieties for years.

It’s not the fact that he had an affair that is the issue, really. These things happen all the time and should be none of anyone else’s business. The fact is that if you are in a position of power over someone, you shouldn’t become involved with them. That is even more the case if you are a public figure and role model. And if you do, you should not invite the fury of the media on them by disowning and denying them in cruel terms in an attempt to save your own skin.

I wonder if Clinton could have survived in office if this had come out in 2018 rather than 1998. Mind you, by then, the US had a misogynistic president who boasted about sexually assaulting women and the Me Too movement passed him by.

I was surprised to see a relatively sympathetic portrayal of Linda Tripp, Monica Lewinsky’s co-worker at the Pentagon who taped the conversations they had about the relationship with Clinton. Sarah Paulson plays her so well, and was praised by Linda Tripp’s daughter in a Vanity Fair interivew:

She has helped soften [my mom’s image] and allowed for people to have a different vantage point of what really took place,” says Allison. “Because of that, I’d want to hug the shit out of her.”

The series has been oddly healing and cathartic for Allison. She hopes that the same has been true for Lewinsky.

“Monica certainly has her reasons for despising my mom during that time and in front of the grand jury. I understand from a twentysomething perspective why she could feel that way. But I feel like, if roles were reversed and Monica was the 40-something single mother of two, who didn’t come from money, who worked her ass off, with a modest education, and spent her life serving our country—I feel like maybe she would have a little bit more understanding towards my mom.”

For me, this is a series about the women and the impact of Clinton’s behaviour on them, but I have to praise British actor Clive Owen’s portrayal of Clinton. He captures his mannerisms, his charisma, his personality so very well.

I am looking forward to watching the rest of the series. I’ve heard a couple of great interviews with Monica Lewinsky about her life and current work supporting those who, like her, have been shamed online. She talked to Jon Favreau for his Offline series, and to Alyssa Mastromonaco on Hysteria.

She comes across as a wise, balanced person who is motivated by compassion to help others who have faced public humiliation. In the series she is played by Beanie Feldstein who portrays her bubbly character and the angst of her relationship with Clinton in such a sympathetic way. Lewinsky says that she resisted the temptation to give her younger self a free pass by excluding some of her own flaws. Many of will recognise from our own lives how she basically put her own life on hold while waiting for Clinton to call her and the excuses she made on his behalf. I particularly enjoyed a scene when her best friend is trying to help her grasp the realities of the situation. Most of us will know what it is like to support a friend through a very much one-sided relationship.

I am looking forward to seeing the rest of this series. It’s a very human story at the heart of one of the biggest scandals of our lives. Don’t miss your chance to see how it begins.  You can watch it all here. 

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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3 Comments

  • Couldn’t agree more. This series is a fascinating insight into (presumably) something like the truth behind the tabloid treatment of a rather sad story – for all three, especially Monica. They all seem to have acted stupidly at times, but much more forgivably at other times, rather as one might expect of mere mortals.

  • I’m not sure that “man has consensual sex with woman” is “one of the biggest scandals of our lives”? Republicans tried to get Clinton for all kinds of things and Lewinskygate came out of the partisan Whitewater investigation when nothing bigger stuck. Clinton was impeached only because Republicans controlled the House and was a complete joke.

  • Brad Barrows 17th Nov '21 - 4:46pm

    @Russell
    I disagree with you if the story is one of ‘breach of trust’ rather than merely two people having sex. If a politician who has taken marriage vows chooses to betray their vows and their partner, why should voters be willing to trust any promises that politician may utter? Of course many, if not most, voters appear to be very willing to ignore character flaws and vote for the candidate of the party they support regardless of their personal failings.

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