There’s no way around it. The Clintons, as everybody and her mother has pointed out, have baggage. Lots of it. More than any other American political family at this point. And their baggage is relevant at this point for one reason alone: Hillary may run for president in 2016.
And so we can look forward to the Endless Rehash: a relentless stream of reminders from the vast-right-wing-conspiracy people about the distracting foibles of the Clinton White House -- the travel office escapade, the suicide of a dear friend and counselor, the government shutdown that led to a dalliance that led to an investigation that led to an impeachment.
So, welcome back, Monica Lewinsky!
The Republican Party has been waiting for you.
The June issue of Vanity Fair magazine, excerpts of which were released Tuesday, features an essay by the “portly pepperpot,” as the New York Post once snidely dubbed the zaftig seductress.
In a photo released by Vanity Fair, Lewinsky lies on her side on a maroon velvet couch, her knees bent under her, wearing a demure white dress. Her lustrous black hair is still silky, her complexion is still porcelain. Tiny crow’s feet are beginning to show at her eyes. At 40, she looks happy.
And though Lewinsky has been having her say for years, she believes it’s time to have her say again. When you’ve been dragged through the kind of mud she has, by her president/lover and his angry wife, who characterized her as a “narcissistic loony toon” in private correspondence that was recently released, I guess you’ve earned the right to blab as much as you want about the most humiliating and traumatic episode of your life.
We all know the story: In 1998, a horny 21-year-old White House intern flashes her thong at a horny commander-in-chief. A bad affair ensues. She falls apart and confides to her “friend” all the things they’ve done and how she loves him. She lies in an affidavit about their relationship. The “friend” stabs her in the back and hands secret recordings of their conversations to a special prosecutor. The horny commander-in-chief contorts the language to conceal the affair. There are depositions, trials, semen-stained dresses. Breaking the most salacious details, blogger Matt Drudge emerges from the Internet’s primordial ooze. What hath Bill Clinton’s vital bodily fluids wrought!
After a decade of what Vanity Fair describes as “virtual silence,” Lewinsky has decided it’s time to go public again, because, you know, it’s not that a Clinton is running for president, it’s just that she’s feeling stifled.
She writes in Vanity Fair that it is time to stop “tiptoeing around my past — and other people’s futures. I am determined to have a different ending to my story. I’ve decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past. (What this will cost me, I will soon find out.)”
“Take back my narrative?” This is a hilarious misstatement considering she spent a decade leveraging her infamy and earning who-knows-how-much money, exploiting her affair with Clinton. In fact, the only person who ever really wants to talk about the Monica Lewinsky scandal is Monica Lewinsky. (And Republicans, the better to taint Hillary.)
How did she profit from the scandal?
She was interviewed by ABC’s Barbara Walters in 1999, reportedly drawing a record audience of 70 million. Lewinsky cooperated with Andrew Morton, who wrote a biography called “Monica’s Story,” which was excerpted as a Time cover story.
She appeared twice on “Saturday Night Live” and became a handbag designer whose pricey haute hippie knit bags were retailed at Henri Bendel. Not too shabby.
In 2000, she became a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig Inc., which required her to very publicly lose 40 or more pounds in six months. She also appeared on an MTV show. Later that year, she worked as a correspondent for a British TV show reporting on U.S. culture and trends. She also starred in an HBO special, “Monica in Black and White,” and answered a studio audience’s questions about her affair with Clinton.
In 2003, she hosted a reality dating show for the Fox television network, and appeared as a guest on television shows in the U.K., Sweden and the U.S. In 2005, she moved to London to study social psychology at the London School of Economics.
So, silent? Hardly.
What does she want us to know that she hasn’t already shared, or over shared, at this point?
Well, this, I guess: “Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: It was a consensual relationship. Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position. ... The Clinton administration, the special prosecutor’s minions, the political operatives on both sides of the aisle, and the media were able to brand me. And that brand stuck, in part because it was imbued with power.”
It’s not clear what that “brand” was, but perhaps we can infer what she means when she wags a finger at Beyoncé for her song “Partition,” which contains the line “He Monica Lewinsky-ed all on my gown.”
“Thanks, Beyoncé,” Lewinsky writes, “but if we’re verbing, I think you meant ‘Bill Clinton’d all on my gown,’ not ‘Monica Lewinsky’d.’ ”
I take her point. Bill Clinton has gone on to become president of the world, globetrotting his way into hearts with his good works and Clinton Global Initiative. He may very well end up back in the White House in 2017. He hasn’t suffered a whit for his transgressions, not really.
Lewinsky has. It’s not fair that her young life was derailed by a stupid sexual error. She was poorly treated by everyone around her. Still, she was technically an adult and has paid an adult’s price.
Lewinsky says she deliberately kept a low profile when Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2008.
“I remained virtually reclusive, despite being inundated with press requests. I put off announcing several media projects in 2012 until after the election. (They were subsequently canceled — and, no, I wasn’t offered $12 million for a salacious tell-all book, contrary to press reports.) And recently I’ve found myself gun-shy yet again, fearful of ‘becoming an issue’ should she decide to ramp up her campaign. But should I put my life on hold for another 8 to 10 years?”
Well of course not. But what does she mean by putting her life “on hold”?
Refusing to grant interviews to discuss her affair with Bill Clinton because his wife may run for president? That’s simple self-preservation, and self-respect.
“How do I find and give a purpose to my past?” she wonders. She hopes to “get involved with efforts on behalf of victims of online humiliation and harassment and to start speaking on this topic in public forums.”
Let me gently suggest to Ms. Lewinsky that although her goal may seem noble, she is allowing herself to be defined by the worst mistake she ever made.
She should stop exploiting her past. Time to move on.