Inside Job director Charles Ferguson, who in July announced his and CNN’s plans to film a documentary about ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s career, has completely scrapped plans for the film, citing the lack of Clinton acolytes (and enemies) who wanted to cooperate with the production. Writing for The Huffington Post’s Media vertical, Ferguson explains why:
When I approached people for interviews, I discovered that nobody, and I mean nobody, was interested in helping me make this film. Not Democrats, not Republicans—and certainly nobody who works with the Clintons, wants access to the Clintons, or dreams of a position in a Hillary Clinton administration. Not even journalists who want access, which can easily be taken away.
This is a bit mystifying. Inside Job, Ferguson’s well-received 2010 effort about the origins of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. That film depended heavily on interviews, sure, but it’s not as if the Clintons, and Hillary in particular, have been out of the spotlight for the past two decades. (Unlike, say, the captains of finance, whose names nobody really knew until their house went underwater in a matter of months.) And the Clinton clan’s own potential reluctance to cooperate—it’s unclear whether he ever approached the Clintons themselves—would be a story in and of itself. Remember when Tommy Davis stormed out of an interview with Martin Bashir?
Remarkably, Ferguson demonstrates his documentary eye, in a long paragraph critiquing Bill Clinton’s self-mythologizing Presidential tenure. At a recent dinner where Clinton spoke, he writes,
Mr. Clinton sorrowfully lamented his inability to stop the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which banned all regulation of private (OTC) derivatives trading, and thereby greatly worsened the crisis. Mr. Clinton said that he and Larry Summers had argued with Alan Greenspan, but couldn't budge him, and then Congress passed the law by a veto-proof supermajority, tying his hands. Well, actually, the reason that the law passed by that overwhelming margin was because of the Clinton Administration's strong advocacy, including Congressional testimony by Larry Summers and harsh public and private attacks on advocates of regulation by Summers and Robert Rubin.
This is a helpful insight! Coupled with more investigation into Hillary Clinton’s own talking points, for what now appears to be her inevitable presidential run, this could make for a compelling motion picture. You don’t need interviews with Clinton insiders to grasp the ramifications of either Bill or Hillary’s policy positions.
And yet Ferguson tries, unsuccessfully, to spin his own laziness as a shocking consequence of the Clinton family’s far-reaching network of allies. “It’s a victory for the Clintons,” he writes, referring to his decision to cancel his own film, “and for the money machines that both political parties have now become.” He goes on:
But I don’t think that it’s a victory for the media, or for the American people. I still believe that Mrs. Clinton has many virtues including great intelligence, fortitude, and a deep commitment to bettering the lives of women and children worldwide. But this is not her finest hour.
This is conspiracy-theorizing in its subtlest and most pernicious form. Hillary Clinton did not cancel Ferguson’s film. Ferguson did. It’s a bit worrying that a well-compensated, award-winning documentarian supposedly committed to exposing the truth would get such a simple fact so wrong.