LOS ANGELES, Jan. 25 (UPI) — Former Secretary of State and former first lady Hillary Clinton sat down with documentary filmmaker Nanette Burstein for 35 hours of interviews. Clinton called the resulting four-part Hulu docuseries, “Hillary,” humbling.
“Hillary” premieres Saturday at Utah’s Sundance Film Festival, and will run on Hulu starting in March.
Clinton and Burstein first spoke with television reporters on Jan. 17 in Southern California.
“There were a lot of humbling moments,” Clinton said. “One was the recognition that I have been often, in my view, obviously, mischaracterized, misperceived, and I have to bear a lot of the responsibility for that.”
“Hillary” chronicles Clinton’s education, during which time she met Bill Clinton, and her career in politics. Looking back gave her some insight into how the public viewed her over the years.
“I became a kind of Rorschach test for women and women’s roles as soon as I burst onto the public scene when Bill was running for president,” Clinton said. “I’d lived more than 40 years before that, and I had no real understanding of what it meant to be thrust into this highest, brightest platform.”
As the first lady of Arkansas when Bill Clinton was governor, Clinton led statewide political initiatives. She also practiced law in the state before entering politics.
“When Bill asked me to lead our efforts on universal healthcare, it seemed pretty standard to me because I had done similar things in Arkansas on education,” Clinton said. “Little did I know that it would create the most extraordinary backlash that the first lady would be involved in trying to make sure everybody had quality, affordable healthcare in our country.”
The docuseries brought back some painful memories for Clinton. Burstein found footage of protesters burning Clinton in effigy over her healthcare policy. Clinton believes timing played a role in negative perceptions of her that began brewing during President Clinton’s two terms from 1993 to 2001.
“I was the sort of ‘first first lady’ of my generation and had been working ever since I was a young woman in the professional workforce,” Clinton said. “I’m sure there were personal reactions, but I think it was even more rooted in the time we were in and the kind of challenging impression that people had of me at that time.”
Revisiting the 2016 election was painful, too. Clinton acknowledged that negative feelings toward her had grown strong enough to cost her votes.
“Whatever the combination of reasons might be, I certainly didn’t do a good enough job to break through a lot of the perceptions that were out there,” Clinton said. “Perhaps I could have and should have found ways to better present myself or deal with some of the misperceptions that were out there.”
Asked what she could have done differently, Clinton had no answer.
“I don’t know,” she said. “That’s a very good question. I don’t know.”
Burstein said Clinton’s career could serve as a portrait of women’s history in the last half-century. She could show Clinton’s involvement with the issues of different eras, but also explore how women in public fare differently than men.
“Being on the national stage, you have to be careful about what you say,” Burstein said. ‘You say something that’s very honest and forthright and it gets taken out of context which is, like, 20 million times worse today. How does this happen, not just to you, but to many other people who are in public life on this level?”
Clinton acknowledged that intense scrutiny could have caused her to become overly rigid about how she spoke. She regrets that her demeanor might have prevented connecting with more voters.
“I was constantly being surprised how things that I said that I did not think were that far out of the ordinary were taken,” Clinton said. “I think that did cause me to get even more cautious and more careful and more guarded. It became a kind of vicious cycle, unfortunately.”
From a historical perspective, Burstein said tracing Clinton’s story could illustrate the evolution of partisan politics.
“Once Secretary Clinton entered the national stage, I think you really see how it has gone from that administration to today,” Burstein said. “It’s just become more extreme. When you actually get to know her and really understand the intimate moments of her life, you realize how misguided we can be in the way that we understand history and media.”
Hillary will premiere on Hulu on March 6 during primary season. Looking ahead to the 2020 election, Clinton hoped voters would engage with the political process.
“Please vote,” Clinton said. “There is no substitute for voting.”
Having won the popular vote but losing in the Electoral College, Clinton advised voters to avoid repeating her 2016 situation.
“For the Democratic voters, try to vote for the person you think is most likely to win because, at the end of the day, that is what will matter,” Clinton said. “And not just the popular vote, but the Electoral College, as we’ve learned.”
Clinton also hopes female candidates can feel less inhibited than she may have felt in 2016.
“It’s really an unfair, double-standard disadvantage,” Clinton said. “The more women who get out there, whether it’s politics or entertainment or journalism or anything else, the more we should realize that women have the same right to have a full range of emotions and approaches to how they make decisions.”