Pro-Clinton Movie 'The Hunting of the President' Begins Filming

By Steve Brawner | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

( - Production has begun in Little Rock on a documentary film based on the book, "The Hunting of the President: The 10-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton."

The book was co-authored by Joe Conason, columnist for the New York Observer, and Gene Lyons, a Little Rock writer. Lyons said production credit will probably be given to Clinton friend Harry Thomason. Production should end by fall and be followed by a limited theatrical release. The movie does not yet have a title.

Filming will take place over an eight or nine day period in Arkansas, followed by trips to Washington and New York. The cameras will return to Arkansas in the spring.

The book and movie operate under a generally pro-Clinton context, but both supporters and detractors are being interviewed. According to Lyons, "We're getting a whole lot of cooperation. It's history now, and a great deal of the passions have died, at least here."

Lyons said there are no plans to interview Clinton.

The book opens with a scene in the office of now-deceased Republican strategist Lee Atwater and ends with the breaking of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. "We tried to describe what I think we both believe is the torturous route of a federal sex investigation of the president of the United States," Lyons said.

The book has been released in hardback and paperback. Reminded that many readers who are not Clinton supporters might buy his book, he said, "If they're using the same legal tender as the rest of us, we don't care. We do this for money."

Lyons has become somewhat of a folk hero to Clinton loyalists after writing two books critical of the investigations that dogged the Clinton presidency. The first, "Fools for Scandal," was an attempt to debunk the Whitewater investigation. His newspaper column is often the only pro-Clinton voice on the opinion pages of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the sole statewide newspaper.

In a telephone interview, Lyons said that like any politician, Clinton could be selfish and insincere. But by and large, he said Clinton was a good president who led the country through a period of peace and prosperity and returned the Democratic Party to the political center.

Despite his occasional insincerity, Lyons said Clinton could show great concern for others. He said he has heard several times from ordinary citizens who remarked that Clinton had called them after a relative died.

Clinton handled the criticism as well as anyone could be expected, he said, referring to Sen. Robert Dole criticizing him on the campaign trail the day Clinton's mother died.
"Show me a time when he turned on his critics the kind of venom they turned on him," he said.

Dole later personally apologized to Clinton.

More than a year after he left office, Clinton remains a polarizing figure, as hated as any politician since Richard Nixon. Lyons said many people who have a visceral dislike for Clinton project their own flaws onto him. "I think the people who are obsessed with Clinton's 'wickedness,' I think it's close to a psychological disorder," Lyons said.

Lyons gave other reasons for Clinton's unpopularity in some quarters. The fact that he has been so successful fuels some people's anger. Clinton became a symbol for what some think is wrong with the country. Some critics are bigots, he said.

After occupying the White House from 1968 to 1992, with the exception of four years in which Jimmy Carter was president, Republicans began to believe they owned it, said Lyons. Many Clinton detractors, he said, are simply jealous.

"Arkansans wouldn't be the only group that didn't like one of their own who got above their raising," he said.

Lyons said the impeachment process occurred at a time of peace and prosperity, and similar misdeeds by a president today would never receive such intense scrutiny. "We thought we didn't have any serious problems, so we could worry about who the president was sleeping with," he said.

The filming occurs as organizers of the Clinton Presidential Library raise a planned $200 million, half for the library and half for an endowment. Construction of the library near downtown Little Rock is expected to begin in the spring and continue until 2004. The library will also feature a master's degree program in public service organized in conjunction with the University of Arkansas system. Clinton was present as ground was broken in December.

Spokesperson Jordan Johnson said plans are still being made on the library's content but that it would include all facets of the Clinton presidency. "It's going to hit on every aspect of the history of the era," he said.

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