I watched the first part of Path to 9/11 last night, and I'm watching the second half this evening. I'll probably switch over to Fox at 9:00 to watch Vanished (I'm addicted to that show - it's this season's 24). So far, I've found the miniseries to be engaging and a sober reminder of how woefully unprepared we were for what happened on that day.
I paid some attention to the controversy surrounding the showing of this program, although not too much. I know the basics, though. I know there were some scenes which Bill Clinton and his camp claimed were fabricated, casting an unfair shadow on his efforts to combat terrorism. ABC edited those scenes amidst an avalanche of criticism from people on both sides of the political spectrum (although primarily from the left). I can't say if those protests served to boost the program's viewership, but I can say it made me more interested in watching.
Having watched a goodly portion of the program, I regret that the producers of this film felt the need to "dramatize" certain key events. I believe the truth would have been more than sufficient. Detractors naturally claim the fiction was politically motivated. I honestly don't think that's the case; after all, we live in a society where the most popular programming on TV, so called "reality" tv, is anything but. Face it, if ABC really wanted to appeal to the mainstream, they would have cast Flavor Flav as the intrepid FBI agent, and Cabinet members would have been voted out at a tribal council.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not as "up" on the intricacies of the path to 9/11 as I could be. I haven't read the 9/11 Commission report, and I know as much about terrorism in the 90's as can be learned from a moderate awareness of current events. Frankly, I have other, more important matters to occupy my mind. Perhaps that's not a proper mindset, but it's the truth. I'm not a scholar or historian, but I do have an opinion on the subject.
For me, the issue isn't whether the Clinton administration dropped the ball on terrorism during the 90's; it's obvious they did. I don't say that maliciously, but the fact remains that 9/11 did happen. They pulled it off. And we did nothing to stop it. It's easy to lay the blame on President Bush; the attacks happened on his watch, blah, blah, blah. But that's a technicality, and a lame one at that. The planning of the attacks - all of the training and preparation - surely didn't start the day after Clinton left office. It started long before that. So where was the intelligence? Where were our contacts, our assets on the ground, and all that other spy shit we rely on to keep a step ahead of the bad guys? If we can hold President Bush accountable for the eight months before the attack, then surely we can at least question President Clinton's efforts in the eight months before that...if not the entire eight years.
It seems to me that the Clintonistas' objections had less to do with dramatized scenes and more to do with wanting to avoid any negative feedback on his adminstration's actions. One thing which Path to 9/11 does do, fictionalized scenes notwithstanding, is spotlight how political considerations were a factor in every decision, often to the detriment of decisive, positive action. Fine, politics is a nuanced business. But any suggestion that Clinton acted authoritatively in every instance, political fallout be damned, would be as much a fantasy as anything else in this movie. But it seems that's what they want us to believe. It's not about not looking incompetent, it's all about looking heroic.
It's about looking Presidential.