By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK
Brent Bozell informed us in a recent column that the plans for two movies about Hillary Clinton — one by CNN, the other by NBC — have been shelved. Bozell reports that Charles Ferguson, the left-leaning filmmaker assigned to make the film about Hillary by CNN Films, couldn’t deal with the control over his project demanded by the Clintons. “Hillary would not agree to an off-the-record conversation,” said Ferguson. He added that Clinton aides tried to stonewall his attempts to persuade people to talk on camera. “They knew this wasn’t a whitewash,” he said. “And my very strong impression was that anything other than a whitewash is something they don’t want to support.”
Good news, but only in the short run. You can bet the ranch that there will be someone in Hollywood willing to give the Clintons the whitewash they want just in time for her run for the presidency. It will be a revealing moment for the Hollywood movers and shakers who congratulate themselves on their willingness to “talk truth to power.” There are elements in Hillary’s life that would stir up serious problems for a Clinton campaign for the presidency if they were included in a film about her life. That is why the Clinton team applied so much pressure to Charles Ferguson and his CNN team.
I’m not talking about the charges against her based on circumstantial evidence: the stories about Vince Foster’s death and the Clintons’ involvement in drug-running out of Arkansas’ Mena Airport, for example. I realize there are serious people who believe these things, but they simply have not been proven. Anyone making a film about Hillary would be exercising good judgment to ignore them. I would argue, as well, that an honest filmmaker would be within his rights to ignore the silly stuff, even if it casts doubts upon Hillary’s character: her claim to have been named after the first man to climb Mr. Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, for example. Sir Edmund did not reach the peak until years after Hillary’s birth. Also her flip-flop on her claim when she was First Lady that she was an ardent Chicago Cubs fan as a girl, to appearing in public in a New York Yankees hat when she decided to run for the Senate in New York. She told the New York crowds that the Yankees were her secret love while growing up in Chicago.
I say her story about her spine-tingling escape from the Bosnian snipers cannot be dismissed as easily. Remember the incident? During her run for the presidency in 2008, she repeatedly tried to burnish her image by telling audiences about the day she landed at the Tuzla airport in Bosnia in 1996: “I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”
Unfortunately for Hillary, there were cameras there that day. The news video footage of her arrival at the airport shows her walking calmly from an Air Force plane with her daughter Chelsea, then 16. Both Hillary and Chelsea held their heads high — no crouching to escape the snipers. They walked unruffled to the Bosnian group that greeted them, including an eight-year-old girl who presented the visiting American dignitaries with a poem. When confronted with the video, Hillary had to come clean. She admitted that she “misspoke” in describing the day in Bosnia, insisting that mistakes like that can happen when one makes as many speeches as she does. I say an honest filmmaker making a film about Hillary would include this incident to give a full picture of her character.
But some may disagree with me in good faith about that. I say there can be no good-faith disagreement about excluding the story of Hillary’s claim to have turned $1,000 into $100,000 through a series of highly successful cattle futures contracts in 1978 and 1979 — through “a little research.” Even the most ardent Clintonistas raise their eyebrows at that story. It simply doesn’t pass the smell test, since the contracts were purchased for Hillary by James Blair of Tyson Foods, a company seeking favorable legislation in Arkansas during the time Bill Clinton was governor. The best defense that Hillary’s defenders can come up with is that accepting political favors of this sort is standard operating procedure for politicians, a minor indiscretion of a young woman not used to the hurly-burly of political life. (The explanation given most often is that Blair cherry-picked successful trades from his personal account and assigned them to Hillary’s account.)
Someone making a film about Hillary would not be out of line in depicting Hillary’s version of this incident, showing her staying up late studying the ins and outs of cattle futures contracts, side by side with the testimony of commodities traders who insist Hillary’s story is implausible — letting audiences judge for themselves where the truth lies. Ignoring it all together? Whitewash.
As it would be to ignore the story of the firing of the staff at the White House travel office when the Clintons took office. Remember “Travelgate”? It is a blatant rewriting of history if this story is ignored. It involved character assassination. The Clintons spread stories about the “false statements” and “financial irregularities” of the government officials who ran the travel office at the White House when the Clintons took office in 1993. Billy Dale, the head of the travel office, was accused of embezzling funds by the Clintons. The Clintons used these accusations to remove the travel office staff and replace them with friends and political supporters from Arkansas.
Investigations by the FBI and the Justice Department exonerated Dale and the others fired by the Clintons. In 2000, an independent counsel assigned to investigate the firings concluded that Hillary had made false statements about the travel office officials who were fired, but that there was insufficient evidence to support the charge that she did so knowingly. The irony is that the Clintons had full authority to remove the travel office officials and replace them with whomever they wanted. But the Clintons were willing to fabricate unwarranted charges against the travel office employees just to make themselves look good, as politicians not willing to engage in the spoils system.
I would argue the most film-worthy escapade of Hillary’s is the story of the missing Rose Law Firm billing records. Let’s see if it makes the final cut. Hillary was working for the Arkansas firm when it represented Madison Guaranty, a savings and loan association owned by a friend of the Clintons. The bank failed, costing taxpayers $65 million. Hillary testified 99 times under oath that she did not recall what work she had done for the bank. This led federal prosecutors to subpoena the billing records from the bank. Hillary insisted she couldn’t find them, until they turned up with no explanation two years later on a desk in the White House. Hillary has never explained how they got there.
You would think that a film about her life should feature a scene where the billing records are shown on the White House desk, with Hillary’s voice insisting she had no idea who put them there. The film could leave it to the viewers to decide if she is telling the truth.
If that film were not a whitewash.