Monica Lewinsky blows back: what's she trying to prove?
A message for Hillary Clinton about that affair - and a correction for Beyonce about that lyric
HAS Monica Lewinsky got her claws out for Hillary Clinton? The 40-year-old who will be forever known as “the former White House intern” is breaking a silence more than ten years long with an essay under her own name in next month’s Vanity Fair.
The magazine posted a teaser this week, instantly generating headlines proving that neither age nor custom can stale the story of how an affair involving oral sex in a White House closet and semen stains on a blue dress brought Bill Clinton to the edge of impeachment.
“It’s time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress,” writes Lewinsky as she instead dusts off the two iconic garments of the 1998 scandal for the scrutiny once again of a salacious public.
She writes 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.)”
“Other people’s futures” is, needless to say, a reference to Hillary and her presumed run for her husband’s old office next year.
Lewinsky claims that one reason she has kept mum for so long was to avoid becoming an issue during Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, in which she lost to Barack Obama.
“I remained virtually reclusive, despite being inundated with press requests. I put off announcing several media projects in 2012 until after the election,” Lewinsky writes. “And recently I’ve found myself gun-shy yet again, fearful of ‘becoming an issue’ should [Hillary Clinton] decide to ramp up her campaign. But should I put my life on hold for another eight to ten years?”
It is worth remembering that in Congress's impeachment hearings the unfortunate Lewinsky revealed her belief that Clinton had promised to leave Hillary and marry her in due course.
For a while at least, from Lewinsky's perspective Hillary really does seem to have been the “other woman” standing between her and marital bliss with a rather spectacular catch. It was one of the more curious, and saddening, details of the affair – and it might certainly motivate revenge.
Lewinsky notes the recent revelation that Hillary once described her to a friend, Diane Blair, as a “narcissistic loony toon”.
“If that’s the worst thing she said, I should be so lucky,” Lewinsky writes. “Mrs. Clinton, I read, had supposedly confided to Blair that, in part, she blamed herself for her husband’s affair (by being emotionally neglectful) and seemed to forgive him.
“Hillary Clinton wanted it on record that she was lashing out at her husband’s mistress. She may have faulted her husband for being inappropriate, but I find her impulse to blame the Woman — not only me, but herself — troubling.”
Within hours of the Vanity Fair press release, Daniel D’Addario had noted at Salon: “It’s Lewinsky’s desire to defend herself against Hillary Clinton’s years-old criticisms that seems to have motivated the piece — she’s staking out ground before Clinton runs for president (if she indeed will).”
Lewinsky also makes it clear that she does not consider that her affair with Clinton amounted to an abuse of power because he was the President and she an intern in her 20s.
She regards the affair as one “between consenting adults” and that it was the humiliation she suffered in the aftermath that has blighted her life.
“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.”
And who steered the “Clinton machine” to survival - not just that of Bill as president, but of the family brand? Hillary, with consummate control and skill.
Officially, Lewinsky has decided to break her silence in defence of others who have suffered shaming in the media. The headline of the piece, above a portrait of the woman once described as “the portly pepperpot” lounging on a settee looking shapely but fit, is 'Shame and Survival'.
According to the Vanity Fair release, Lewinsky was brought to tears when she learned of the 2010 suicide of Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutgers freshman who had been secretly streamed via Webcam kissing another man.
But it was Lewinsky's mother was was most distraught at Clementi's death. “She was reliving 1998," writes Monica, "when she wouldn’t let me out of her sight. She was replaying those weeks when she stayed by my bed, night after night, because I, too, was suicidal.
"The shame, the scorn, and the fear that had been thrown at her daughter left her afraid that I would take my own life — a fear that I would be literally humiliated to death.”
Lewinsky clarifies that she has never actually attempted suicide, but had strong suicidal temptations several times during the investigations and during one or two periods after.
Lewinsky writes that after Clementi threw himself off the George Washington Bridge, “my own suffering took on a different meaning. Perhaps by sharing my story, I reasoned, I might be able to help others in their darkest moments of humiliation."
FOOTNOTE on that blue dress: Lewinsky takes the opportunity to correct Beyonce for her use of her name in her recent raunchy hit Partition, in which she sings: “He popped all my buttons, and he ripped my blouse/He Monica Lewinsky-ed all on my gown".
“Thanks, Beyonce,” writes Lewinsky, “but if we’re verbing, I think you meant ‘Bill Clinton’d all on my gown,’ not ‘Monica Lewinsky’d’.”