WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2006 — -- During the 1992 presidential election, Bill Clinton's campaign prided itself on its quick and sharp responses to attacks from the Republican side.
Now, 14 years later, little has changed, except this time the Clintonistas have aimed their fire not at Republicans but at ABC Entertainment for its two-part miniseries, "The Path to 9/11," which is scheduled for broadcast Sunday and Monday evenings.
ABC Entertainment calls the film "a dramatization, not a documentary, drawn from a number of sources including the 9/11 Commission Report, other published materials, and personal interviews. As such, for dramatic and narrative purposes, the movie contains fictionalized scenes, composite and representative characters and dialogue, and time compression."
The five-hour film, with a large cast that includes Patricia Heaton and Harvey Keitel, will air with no commercial interruptions. But some people who have screened the film in part, or have heard reports from those screenings, have already issued their reviews.
Some former Clinton administration officials have demanded that ABC correct or simply dump the film because of "misleading scenes." Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and three other Clinton-era officials expressed their concern in letters to Robert Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Co., the parent company of ABC Entertainment (and of ABC News).
In recent days, several liberal bloggers have also complained that the film implies Clinton was too preoccupied with impeachment to deal with the threat from al Qaeda.
Meanwhile, some conservative bloggers, who are not the least bit disturbed that the film may suggest the Clinton administration was weak on national security, have praised the film.
In a statement, ABC Entertainment said the film is still being edited, leaving open the possibility that some scenes in the film could be altered in response to the criticism.
"No one has seen the final version of the film, because the editing … is not yet complete, so criticisms of film's specifics are premature and irresponsible," the statement said. "The attacks of 9/11 were a pivotal moment in our history, and it is fitting that the debate about the events related to the attacks continue. However, we hope viewers will watch the entire broadcast of the finished film before forming an opinion about it."
Clinton's national security adviser Samuel "Sandy" Berger, like the other former Clinton administration officials who expressed concern about the film, said he had not been given an advance copy of the film but had heard from others who have seen it that "it includes a number of contrived scenes which bear no relationship to actual events."
Berger complained that the actor portraying him refuses to authorize an attack on Osama bin Laden, despite "urgent pleadings of CIA officials."
"No such episode ever occurred," Berger said.
Albright was upset because she has heard the film portrays her as refusing to back a missile strike against bin Laden without first alerting Pakistan, even though U.S. military officials feared Pakistani officials might warn the Taliban or bin Laden that such an attack was coming.
Albright now says she "fully and unconditionally supported the strike against bin Laden," and that she and the Pentagon were in full agreement.
Other Democrats have joined in complaints aimed at ABC Entertainment, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevade and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York.
Reid said Disney's Iger told him there may be changes in the film before it is aired.
The executive producer of the miniseries, Marc Platt, told ABC News that it would be a mistake to read any political message into the film.
"It's certainly not intended as any kind of political statement," he said. "I think it's hard to watch and not come away upset in some fashion. Some will be angry."
For ABC Entertainment, the blowback from Clinton supporters and aides may not be an entirely bad thing. Conventional wisdom says there's nothing like a little controversy to boost ratings. And this time it is liberals -- not conservatives -- who are complaining about reputed Hollywood bias.