I watched Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia over the weekend and one of the things that has really been on my mind since are his comments about the money required to run a presidential election in America and what impact that has on the people who are ultimately elected.
In particular the compromises that he believed this results in, the favours that need to be returned and how presidents’ decisions in office are affected by it.
It’s something that director Charles Ferguson touches on in a piece he has written for the Huffington Post explaining his reasons for cancelling his Hillary Clinton documentary for CNN. His commentary on this growing issue is one of the many things that I think we are really missing out on now that his documentary is no more.
In his piece at HuffPost he brings up the cost of running a presidential election and the difficulty in being at someone else’s mercy.
And since Bill Clinton first became Governor of Arkansas, the cost of Presidential campaigns has gone from $66 million (both parties combined, in 1976) to an estimated $5 billion for 2016, when Hillary will run. So more than ever, the Clintons need money and the people who supply it.
$5 billion really is an extraordinary figure, isn’t it?
Ferguson’s documentary has been somewhat controversial since it was first announced and in August the Republican National Committee threatened CNN over the film, and NBC over their upcoming Hillary Clinton mini-series.
It wasn’t just the Republicans that wanted the documentary film canned, with Ferguson making it clear that the Democrats certainly weren’t on his side either.
He began to get the sense too that he might not be able to get the archival footage secured that he needed and most crushingly he was finding it incredibly difficult to get anyone to talk on camera about Hillary Clinton.
After approaching well over a hundred people, only two persons who had ever dealt with Mrs. Clinton would agree to an on-camera interview, and I suspected that even they would back out.
A sad position for a respected documentarian – Ferguson’s The Inside Job was excellent and critically lauded – to find himself in and a worrying situation when one considers the media coverage of the 2016 elections.
Ferguson signed off his piece with the following, which highlights the seriousness with which he takes the cancelling of his documentary and what he feels the wider implications are,
It’s a victory for the Clintons, and for the money machines that both political parties have now become. 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.