Saturday, March 14, 2009

'Hillary: The Movie' Free Speech? Hate Speech? Where do we draw the line?

I was in shock that I had never heard of "Hilary: The Movie" before reading this article today. This may be old news to some but about a year ago a documentary called "Hillary: The Movie" was released. But trust me, it's not at all what it seems... Click here to watch the trailer.

Clearly, some grudges just can't be let go. This 90-minute film was funded by Citizens United (yuck!) and created by David Bossie, who in the 90s, worked as an investigator for Rep. Dan Burton's government-reform committee. Burton was an antagonist to Bill and Hillary Clinton, leading never-ending investigations of Whitewater, campaign finance and any other scandal you can think.

All the sniffing around didn't really pay off for either of them. Fast forward to 2007, seven years after the Clintons left the White House, Burton is a hardly-known member of the dying Republican party, and Hillary Clinton is the front runner to be the Democrats' nominee for president in 2008. Who is the loser in THAT situation? And Bossie, well, he was working on a little project of this own, his great anti-Hillary movie.

The film had a cast of old Clinton foes: former House speaker Newt Gingrich, Clinton pollster and confidant-turned-antagonist Dick Morris, and conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who takes a break from her denunciations to deliver the film's solitary compliment about the now-secretary of state: "Looks good in a pantsuit." Hell yes she does? Is that all you could come up with Ann? Come on!!

Was this movie to be the great cultivation of all those years of unproductive investigation? Was it finally going to pay off? Was Bossie actually going to get his revenge on the Clintons?!

The movie was released in the fall of 2007, in the thick of the Democratic presidential primary season. Bossie's target audience: a new generation of voters who don't remember the old Clinton wars. He said someone who is 18 this year was "4 years old when the scandal broke." He thinks these young voters will be hungry for Hillary dirt.

So did Bossie get his long awaited revenge? Ummm... no.

They planned to show the film in selected theaters and distribute it on DVD, which they did... although, I don't think ANYONE saw it! But they also planned to run radio and TV ads promoting the film and hoped to broadcast the documentary on television. That wasn't gonna fly.

Strangely enough, the McCain-Feingold Act (read about it here) prohibited this movie from being shown on television. The McCain-Feingold Act forbids corporate-funded broadcast ads that attack a candidate within a month of a primary or general election. And, The Supreme Court sided with the FEC, Federal Election Commission, and deemed this "movie" to be more like a really long anti-Hillary campaign ad than a movie. They claimed it told "the electorate that Sen. Clinton is unfit for office... and that viewers should vote against her."

"Every element of the film, including the narration, the visual images and audio track, and the selection of clips, advances the clear message that Senator Clinton lacked both the integrity and the qualifications to be president of the United States," argued the Supreme Court.

"The very fact that Citizens United was willing to pay cable companies to make its film available on video-on-demand shows that it is no different from an "infomercial," they said. This "movie" was not getting shown! Whoo!

But Bossie and lawyers for Citizens United, say limits on "core political speech rights" are unconstitutional. They fought back. Calling on their 1st Amendment rights.

It has been an interesting ride in the courts with other cases similar to this because with the arrival of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the court has shifted toward the view that campaign laws, like the McCain-Feingold Act, violate the free-speech rights of political groups. Roberts said, "The 1st Amendment requires us to err on the side of protecting political speech."

But actually, the ultimate impact of "Hillary: The Movie" comes to a head this week when justices of the Supreme Court once again will be challenged to decide how congressional intentions to curb the power of special interest groups can coexist with the First Amendment's protection of free speech.

Which brings me to the end. I am interested in all of this for two reasons. One, to ask a question to you guys. Seeing clips of "Hillary: The Movie" and other vicious attacks on politicians, on both the Republican and Democratic side, do you agree that they should be protected under which law, the 1st Amendment right to free speech, or the McCain-Feingold Act?

And two, to make a point about Hillary Clinton and to send out a warning to the anti-Hillary industry. It is truly amazing to say that for all the charges through the years, NONE have ever stuck. The harder the anti-Hillary industry tried to bring Hillary down, the more they have attacked, the higher she has risen.

She is arguably the most-investigated, most-judged woman in contemporary American culture. She always been a tabloid target on top her successes. Probably, because of her great successes. From being a groundbreaking First Lady in the White House, to winning a Senate seat in the nation's most contentious state, to being the first woman to come within reach of the Presidency, to working as the nations top diplomat as Secretary of State. I find no other reason than her resilience, unwavering strength and stoic demeanor that fuels her haters' fury.

So, I say and I think Hillary would too: bring it on, let's see how high she can rise.


Stray Yellar Dawg? said...

I believe that this movie has been in the works for a long time. And it is one of the reasons that the DNC selected Obama.

So... long story short.... the producers may have kept Hillary out of the White House this year.

But, too bad for them... they got someone they'll hate even more as the next four years progress.

It's sad for our country, really. That the haters pack so much punch. Isn't it?

Nancy in Cali said...

after the long primary campaign - most people now agree that the media, in particular, treated Hillary (and Palin) unfairly and that sexism played a big role in ensuring Obama's nomination. THAT coupled with the Dem leadership backing him instead of her.

No one knows about this movie and no one cares about this movie. The only people that would go see it are the true hillary-haters that produced this film. but I have now met soooo soooo many people that "hated" Hillary before the primary and then actually wound up supporting her!! That I think this movie is actually irrelevant.

If it does get released, I would encourage women's groups everywhere to use it as an example of sexism. Bossie, Morris and these MEN HATE powerful women and it would be a great study in how Evil, Old, White Men try and bring down powerful women. Because everyone already knows that the crap in this movie is just that - CRAP...

But what a great opportunity for women to jump on this as a vehicle of known sexism.

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing this on youtube not knowing what it was, so I checked it out. What a crappy "movie." Not only was it full of crap, it looked so cheap and laughable. I think a 9 year old could have done a better job.

Mahlers5th said...

I can't believe anybody -- first and foremost the Supreme Court -- is wasting time on this crap. Oliver Wendell Holmes said it best: "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic."

I wish I had the money to produce a movie about sexism in the 2008 Presidential campaign because, unlike Nancy in Cali, I fear there are still many, many people out there, including many younger women, who don't think sexism played any role whatsoever in Hillary's loss or the attempt to assasinate Palin's character. Though she supported Obama in the Dem primary, Eleanor Clift said it well in her Newsweek column in January:

"Hillary’s campaign illustrates how far we’ve come and how far we haven’t come. The tone and tenor of the debate around Hillary, and around Sarah Palin, was far more personal and mocking than toward their male counterparts. Maybe the material was richer, but there was no attempt to dance around gender issues the way there is with race. As a society, we still condone sexism; we view it as a part of nature, a given that isn’t worth bothering our pretty heads about.

Older women whose lives and careers were constrained by sexism felt disrespected by a media captivated by a serious black candidate in a way they weren’t by the prospect of an equally serious woman contending for the job. Younger women who haven’t experienced as much sexism wondered why their mothers thought it was such a big deal;’ if not Hillary, there’ll be someone else."

A lot of women didn't get it -- not then, not now.

Sarah said...

wow. really great insight from everyone! I agree this movie is total crap, put out there by hateful, scared, sexist people. ugh!

Mahlers5th, you are right, this is a great quote: "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic." It really makes you re-think everything.

I am such a firm believer in the 1st Amendment and when I think about people abusing that right and using it to spread hate and fear... it is really scary.

LittleIsis said...

Number of people who care about this movie = Zero.
I have to disagree with Stray Yellar Dog. This movie is so irrelevant that not even the DNC cared about it when they were propping up Bam for the nomination.
All this stuff is so laughable that only Clinton Crazies still think that anyone actually cares about them.
I think everyone who still believed the loony scandals and false caricatures of Hillary from the nineties by the time the election started changed their minds when they saw Hillary for themselves. Like Nancy in Cali said, Hillary won too many hearts and minds for this movie to be relevant.
And I also have to agree that most everyone knows that sexism played a big role in the media character assassination of Hillary and Palin.

PYW said...

I'm with Littlelsis. The DNC didn't care about this. Their reasons for pushing Obama over Hillary lay elsewhere.

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