LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Bill Clinton’s presidential library, opening today, covers Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky in a single display that portrays the White House scandals as a “fight for power” and an exercise in the “politics of persecution.”
“We had to show this was a systematic attempt by Republican leaders to de-legitimize Bill Clinton and the administration,” said former Clinton adviser Bruce Lindsey, who worked with the ex-president through much of the exhibit-design process.
The nation’s second presidential impeachment is dealt with along with other scandals in an 8-by-6-foot alcove titled “The Fight for Power.”
“His supporters will say, ‘Oh, why did you give this so much space?’ ” library director David Alsobrook said as reporters received advance tours Wednesday. “But his detractors will come up and say, ‘Dave, where is the blue dress?’ “
In contrast, Clinton asked specifically for a double alcove on his diplomatic efforts in Northern Ireland, the Balkans and the Middle East, according to exhibit designer Ralph Appelbaum.
Advisers presented computer mock-ups of exhibits to Clinton for approval. A group of the president’s speechwriters drafted the text.
The scandal exhibit is split into sections called “Politics of Persecution” and “A New Culture of Confrontation.”
Quotations from former Arkansas Sen. Dale Bumpers in Clinton’s defense and from House Speaker Newt Gingrich in opposition are printed on the glass.
Former Whitewater business partner Susan McDougal is pictured in an orange jumpsuit in the custody of U.S. marshals. Kenneth Starr is pictured prominently, but so are newspaper headlines screaming “Acquitted” after the Senate failed to convict Clinton.
“It’s the way we believe history will record it. We have a point of view. I don’t know if we have influence,” Lindsey said.
Another highlight is the only full-scale replica of the Oval Office in a presidential library. Administration officials took thousands of photographs of the office to re-create the placement of every statue, photo and award.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., also has her own alcove, dedicated to programs she ran as first lady.
Last-minute changes were still under way Wednesday. One display of the Electoral College map from Clinton’s 1992 victory had to be sent back after Clinton noticed Montana, long a Republican “red state,” should have been blue because he won it.