Monday, May 31, 2010


What this HBO movie does for Memorial Day, to my mind, is remind us how to avoid (or at least reduce) casualties of war.

It's about the "special relationship" between Britain and the USA as demonstrated in the history of the special relationship between Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.

There's a lot of verbatim historical dialogue and speeches etc. as well as imagined private conversations that mostly come across as plausible given the people involved and the circumstances they're in.

Blair is played by Michael Sheen who also played Blair in THE QUEEN and is good at it. Clinton is played by Dennis Quaid and though he's obviously doing his best, and gets Clinton's speech patterns and mannerisms down pretty well, he misses what's so charming and personable about Clinton that made him so popular and successful, Clinton's famous charisma that made world famous movie star friends of mine who met him say they got weak in the knees. Quaid doesn't have that.

Plus he plays Clinton's superior energy, mastery of details, incredible intelligence (except in private matters obviously) more like overbearing seriousness and bullying. It doesn't work, not for me. (Quaid's personality seems much more suited to playing "W." than Clinton).

But Hope David is incredible as Hilary. Nails her intelligence, her toughness, her tenacity and unexpected insecurity perfectly. A really nuanced but brilliant performance.

If you get HBO or if it becomes available otherwise it's worth checking out just for the opportunity to get some other angles on the Clintons and that whole period of history. But I bring it up today because one of the things Clinton doesn't get credit for that bugs me is his capacity to avoid or defuse almost any major crisis that occurred on his watch (except for the personal ones obviously).

It is said that he would have gone down as one of our greatest presidents if he hadn't presided over a period of peace and prosperity. But he had something to do with that peace and prosperity. Crisis after crisis occurred on his watch that he handled so well they never blew up into the kinds of catastrophes Bush Junior created by bungling the crises that occurred on his watch.

For example, when it looked like all of Asia was going to collapse financially which would have led to a worldwide financial crisis, Clinton made exactly the right moves to avoid it (while rightwing Republicans squealed, as they did when he bailed out Mexico in their financial collapse with enormous loans that the Republicans said would never be paid back but were with interest etc.).

Don't forget the first Twin Towers attack occurred while Clinton was president, the bomb in the basement parking lot. Not only did Clinton's team find the mastermind and those who carried it out but he brought them to trial with no problem, not turning them into martyrs and symbols of resistance but instead into common prisoners serving their time etc.

He also put people in charge of FEMA that made it run more smoothly under his administration than under any other in recent history (and they had major natural disasters to contend with just like now, hurricanes and fires etc.—my oldest child, my daughter, lost everything in a fire in Southern California that destroyed thousands of homes and businesses and etc. and FEMA was not only there almost immediately with help, they cut her a check to help her start over before, at least the way it seemed, before the embers were hardly cold. etc.).

But the main one for this day is he managed to stop the war in the Balkans and then get Serbia to stop the violence against Kosovo and bring that conflict to an end without any "American" troops dying, preventing a wider war and more deaths. For this he isn't remembered as "great" but as lucky. I wish I had his luck.

Anyway, SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP gets some of this history correct, even if Quaid's (and the writers' and director's and producers') Clinton is more a brooding ex-quarterback than one of the smartest presidents we've ever had.

(And no need to point out what he didn't accomplish or compromised on or neglected. Which all may be true. But he was really fighting "a vast rightwing conspiracy" as well as the usual entrenched corporate and political interests and still managed to change most things in this country for the better during his time in office as opposed to his successor.)

1 comment:

harryn said...

i agree on it all - and what i really enjoyed is the portrayal of just a couple of guys dealing with issues of the day - intelligently - particularly the Clinton team who seemed to be aware of the shadows and simply dealt with them by reducing it to the lowest common denominator - and by doing so, were able to communicate to the world audience ...
also interesting to see how the less experienced Blair capitulated to public opinion and his eventual subservience to the Bush agenda ...
totally worth the watch - and it made me think that if Hillary would have won the election, the right wing brat klan would have crucified her before she ever got to Waterloo ...