It was stunning, and yet it was eerily reminiscent of the extraordinary discipline of Team Clinton. Days before the ABC miniseries "The Path to 9-11" was to air, they determined the network fudged in its commitment to follow faithfully the facts in the 9-11 commission report. A scene or two in the otherwise remarkable presentation was false.
And this was the angle Team Clinton needed in order to pounce. The Clinton campaign kicked into high gear in the days before it aired, with the ex-president and his lawyering aides and Democrats in Congress all pressuring ABC to dump the film.
It's important to understand that Team Clinton didn't demand the film be edited for accuracy. They wanted everything -- including all the accurate criticisms and findings -- thrown in the garbage. Clinton had his usual cleanup squad write letters to ABC chief Bob Iger demanding the $40 million movie be deep-sixed: "We expect that you will make the responsible decision to not air this film."
The usual lowlight was Bill Clinton himself, claiming he was the guardian of truth: "I just want people to tell the truth, you know, and not pretend it's something it's not." Other Clinton players were equally shameless.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer interviewed Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, who wanted it killed. "I don't think this is just a question of fixing something around the edges, Wolf. My impression is that this is a misleading film to the core. And it seems to me the only appropriate thing at this point is for ABC to withdraw the series."
Blitzer didn't note, maybe to avoid audience laughter, that Berger's last prominent act around the 9-11 commission was illegally hiding documents on himself to prepare Clinton for his (almost unnoticed) testimony.
Liberals across America cried foul, citing CBS's decision in 2003 to cancel its TV-movie called "The Reagans" in the wake of conservative pressure. They suggested conservatives were hypocrites to support pulling that film while defending this one. But there are significant differences between the two projects.
Most obviously, "The Reagans" had at its center a dangerously doltish Ronald Reagan and a witchy Nancy Reagan. By contrast, "The Path to 9-11" was not designed as a deeply personal attack on Bill and Hillary Clinton. There was no actor playing Bill Clinton in the ABC movie. He only appeared in the ABC movie in news clips, which were hardly fictional. Hillary Clinton made no appearance of any kind.