A look at Monica Lewinsky's narrative

Will a beret and a blue dress cast a shadow on Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House in 2016? Will controversy’s child, Monica Lewinsky, get her back up against the Clinton couple for her humiliation in the years after the Cigargate scandal? Is Monica’s essay in Vanity Fair a revenge drama or a desperate attempt to move on in life?


Published: Sat 17 May 2014, 8:11 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 10:18 PM

Monica Lewinsky’s name is not one that will easily be forgotten. The young White House intern’s relationship with then President of the United States, Bill Clinton, resulted in his impeachment and a public washing of much dirty linen. Lewinsky gave an altogether different connotation to the humble cigar, a beret and a blue dress before she dropped of the national radar.

Lewinsky’s life after the scandal was a headlong descent into a kind of infamy that left her deeply humiliated and suicidal on many occasions, as she confesses in the June issue of Vanity Fair, excerpts of which have now gone viral.

After 10 years of silence on the traumatic aftermath of her affair with the First Citizen of the USA, a period in which she relocated to London to do her Masters in Social Psychology from the London School of Economics, to search for a job and a new identity, Lewinsky is back in the limelight and how. Her first person account of her days at the White House, her relationship with the president and everything in between, forms part of a powerful first person narrative that has already set the cat among the pigeons in powerful political circles in the USA.

“Its time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress… 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.)”

Surprisingly though, this is not the revenge of a jilted, scorned woman, as one would imagine. Instead, it seems to be a coming of age story of a woman who has dealt with, or is the process of dealing with, the demons that have haunted her since her summer at the White House.

Reacting to reports that Hillary Clinton had labelled her a “narcissistic loony toon” in conversations with friend Diane Blair, Lewinsky plays social psychologist to the hilt. “If that’s the worst thing she said, I should be so lucky. 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. Although she regarded Bill as having engaged in ‘gross inappropriate behavior,’ the affair was, nonetheless, ‘consensual (was not a power relationship).”

We are not sure how the Clintons will take the appearance of this skeleton from their past, into their new life. In the years in between he has become a respected international figure, thanks to the Clinton Foundation that he steers and she has done a turn as Secretary Of State in Barack Obama’s government and could well be the first woman President of the USA, if all goes well in 2016. We suspect some fresh rumbles in the Clinton household after this categorical statement from Lewinsky though and makes us wonder about the timing of the essay.

There is something about Lewinsky’s account of the days immediately after the affair hit the national headlines, that makes the heart go out to her. She speaks of the days in 1998, immediately after the affair was exposed, when she lay in bed, distraught from the things that were happening around her. Her mother stayed by her bed night after night fearing that the shame, humiliation and, indeed the fear that had been thrown at her, would drive her to suicide. Remember, she was only in her mid- twenties then and possibly had no idea that the consequences of her relationship with a President would haunt her through her life. As it does, even today.

After a job interview in 2008 —when Hillary was in the race for the democratic party’s nomination to be their presidential candidate — a prospective employer had this to say to Lewinsky : “So here’s the thing, Monica. You’re clearly a bright young woman and affable, but for us — and probably any other organisation that relies on grants and other government funding — it’s risky. We would first need a Letter of Indemnification from the Clintons. After all, there is a 25% chance that Mrs Clinton will be the next president.”

Now that it is fairly clear that Hillary Clinton will throw her hat into the ring for a shot at the Presidency of the United States, Lewinsky says in her essay that she is apprehensive about the “next wave” of paparazzi and the “’Where is she now?’ stories” if Hillary Clinton decides to run in 2016.

“I’ve begun to find it debilitating to plot out the cycle of my life based, to some degree, on the political calendar. For me, it’s a scenario in which the personal and the political are impossible to separate.”

We will keep you posted about the developments on this front. But we do hope that Lewinsky gets another chance at life. Fifteen years is a long time to live in obscurity. Everyone deserves a second chance. We are sure Hillary Clinton will agree.


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