The 1998 revelation of L'Affaire Lewinsky and its fallout should have made one thing clear to American women. Forget “You've come a long way, baby.” When husbands cheat, the other woman usually ends up the odd man out.
Bill Clinton's presidency and poll ratings survived his self-serving definition of sex. Hillary Clinton had to live with her husband's betrayal, but the scandal helped boost her career from first lady who blamed “a vast right-wing conspiracy” to U.S. senator to presidential front-runner and then to secretary of state.
Lewinsky's professional life did not fare so well. In the first few years after the scandal, she gave interviews that demonstrated how clueless and reckless she had been in hooking up with the “big creep.”
Largely silent over the past decade, “that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” has wised up. “I look back now,” she writes, “and shake my head in disbelief, and wonder: what was I — what were we — thinking? I would do anything to go back and rewind the tape.”
A gal's gotta make a living. Lewinsky used her name to peddle handbags and a weight-loss program. She earned a master's in social psychology at the London School of Economics, but the world wouldn't let her keep a low profile.
“I eventually came to realize,” she writes, “that traditional employment might not be an option for me.” Only employers who wanted to hire her for “the wrong reasons” made offers.
When you think of how the infamous ex-intern could have cashed in, you appreciate that over time Lewinsky became selective.
Monica 2.0 is on a mission. Thanks to the Drudge Report, she writes, she was “possibly the first person whose global humiliation was driven by the Internet.” The 2010 suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, after a roommate secretly recorded and broadcast him kissing another man, spurred her to take on the modern culture of humiliation.
She calls her own experience “the humiliation derby.” I am no stranger to that turf. During the impeachment follies, I was critical of Lewinsky's decision, at age 21, to consort with the president, as well as her post-internship demands for the president's time, attention and help in procuring jobs. But I always held Bubba as the most culpable in the group.
Not so the many self-styled feminists who trashed Lewinsky, including America's feminist first lady. Recently released archives report how the first lady told friend Diane Blair that she considered Lewinsky to be a “narcissistic looney tune,” while Clinton blamed herself for her husband's extramarital junket.
“I find her impulse to blame the Woman — not only me, but herself — troubling,” Lewinsky writes.
The sisterhood got buried in an avalanche of excuses, starting with: Boys will be boys.
The pro-Clinton mantra during impeachment held that if Hillary could forgive Bubba, surely the country should, too.
I never thought Hillary Clinton owed Lewinsky anything, but she did owe the voters the truth — and that took a long time coming. Now with the passing of time, perhaps Hillary should come out and forgive Lewinsky, too, if only to assuage those Dems who saw Hillary Clinton's forgiveness as the great indulgence, the cleaner of all slates.
It's time to let Lewinsky, as Clintonistas used to say, move on. She has graduated into an elite group: people who learn from their mistakes.
Email Debra J. Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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