I see Monica Lewinsky has started her big comeback tour. As Jeff the mild-mannered likes to say, grace and peace to her. You can’t say this poor woman ever tried to cash in on her bad luck, and in fact has really suffered for it. Imagine being her, carrying that name and face around for the last 18 years. Imagine going on a date. (Imagine being the guy who dates her.) Imagine just walking down the street, with her famous, fabulous mane of hair. And imagine introducing yourself: Hi, I’m Monica. Better that she be named Kate or Heather or any other, more common young-woman name. Anyone who lived through Lewinsky 1.0 would know her instantly.
I just can’t imagine. All for a little fling with a married man who flung with so, so many. The wheel spins around and you, yes you are the one who gets to pay. And pay and pay and pay.
Funny that she’s apparently chosen cyberbullying as her issue, when her ordeal happened largely before cyber was a thing — her shaming was more old-school. But she can certainly speak with authority about what it’s like to see your privacy go up in smoke, justlikethat. I’m glad the NYT story didn’t skimp on the fact this was a story in which both left and right disgraced themselves:
Ms. Lewinsky was quickly cast by the media as a “little tart,” as The Wall Street Journal put it. The New York Post nicknamed her the “Portly Pepperpot.” She was described by Maureen Dowd in The New York Times as “ditsy” and “predatory.”
And other women — self-proclaimed feminists — piled on. “My dental hygienist pointed out she had third-stage gum disease,” said Erica Jong. Betty Friedan dismissed her as “some little twerp.”
“It’s a sexual shaming that is far more directed at women than at men,” Gloria Steinem wrote me in an email, noting that in Ms. Lewinsky’s case, she was also targeted by the “ultraright wing.” “I’m grateful to [her],” Ms. Steinem said, “for having the courage to return to the public eye.”
Yep. She was collateral damage in the right’s effort to destroy Bill Clinton, and in their reflexive defense of him, the left lined up to kick her, too. Besides, isn’t she what every married woman fears? The office girl with the glossy hair and the big boobs, lingering by the copier to bat her eyes at your husband? We don’t blame him, we blame her. I know I did, and I hadn’t been married five years yet. I took my turn putting her through the wringer; they’d have pulled my columnist card otherwise.
I still don’t think young single women should go putting the make on older married men, but I’m older myself now, and I no longer see her as the villain. I recall my friend Lance Mannion fuming, “I can forgive him the sex, but not the stupidity. It’s not like Washington isn’t full of beautiful, promiscuous, discreet thirtysomething adulteresses; he could have had anyone he wanted. But he picks an intern.” Yep, exactly. For a man so practiced in the art of extramarital stepping out, he really, really should have known better.
And while Monica bore the brunt of all of this, the whole country was put through the wringer. The impeachment was a nightmare of comic misery; I remember sitting in the Meijer parking lot, my chin on my chest, listening to …who was it? Larry Flynt? Talking about the dirt he had on Bob Barr? I think so, but it could have been any number of other freeze-frame moments from that very weird interlude that gave us Linda Tripp, Linda Tripp’s plastic surgery, Lucianne Goldberg and her spawn, a million pearl-clutching mommies moaning about having to explain oral sex to middle schoolers, Ken Starr and his ewwww report, blue Gap dresses and Maureen Dowd’s Pulitzer and all the rest of it. I loved the ’90s as much as anyone, but not that part of it.
So, some bloggage:
Congratulations, white guys! You win the race again! In the age of exquisite sensitivity to diversity, how the hell does this happen?
Dahlia Lithwick looks at the demented decision to try 12-year-olds as adults. One our own juvie-justice guy, whose name has already been dropped once, might like to read.
I haven’t finished this Michael Kruse piece on Jeb Bush and his problems on the GOP right, but I will. The first third looks pretty good.
So! Let’s have us a week, why don’t we? Hope yours is great.