The 1993 Clinton Documentary That Showed How Elections Are Really Won

The 1993 Clinton Documentary That Showed How Elections Are Really Won

As far as political documentaries go, 1993’s The War Room stands out for showing viewers what really matters in a campaign: Not the candidate himself, but the people working behind the scenes to get him elected.

The War Room follows the presidential campaign of Bill Clinton in 1992, starting from the state primaries, long before it was a given that he’d be the Democratic nominee. And even though it’s a movie about a political campaign, it’s almost never dry or boring. This is, after all, Bill Clinton we’re talking about.

The documentary doesn’t pull any punches about the Clintons’ personal life. Accusations about Bill’s infidelity were flying early and often when he was the governor of Arkansas — which from the perspective of 2014 plays like a bizarre foreshadowing moment for the rest of the Clinton presidency. Five minutes into the documentary we already see Gennifer Flowers at a press conference.

“Yes, I was Bill Clinton’s lover for twelve years,” Flowers says with camera bulbs flashing. “And for the past two years I have lied to the press about our relationship to protect him.”

After a reporter’s question, Flowers goes on to confirm that she’d been approached by members of an unnamed Republican party campaign to come forward with her story. Working backward from this immediate obstacle for the Clinton campaign, it really is incredible to see how they go into damage control mode and Clinton still somehow gets not only the Democratic nomination, but wins the presidency.

The people who got Clinton elected were pretty unknown to the American public at the time. But they would each go on to be very public figures. James Carville and George Stephanopoulos would become important operatives in the Clinton White House, and today both have roles as prominent political commentators showing up on TV news regularly. Stephanopoulos, of course, has his own Sunday talk show on ABC.

The documentary is a snapshot in political history that really can’t be missed. If you have 90 minutes to kill before watching the midterm election returns tonight* definitely check out The War Room. The film has a Criterion release and is available on Hulu Plus and iTunes.

*Overdosing on Wolf Blitzer can be damaging to your health so please consume Blitzer responsibly. If you have a Blitzer lasting over four hours please consult your doctor immediately.