The chorus of "poor Monica Lewinsky"—alone and miserable, a memory of something indecent and tawdry in America, a soiled Gap dress, a beret, something-something to do with the commander-in-chief, that man, Bill Clinton—is about to change. Arguably not for the better, though a "better" view of the woman who, as a 22-year-old White House intern, became sexually involved with a much older, much more powerful man, is a story that has not and never will be truly forgotten. It's a sad truth that we're largely willing and able to remake Bill in our minds, helped along by media coverage and not unimpressive ensuing accomplishments, while Monica has stayed pretty much the same, falling into a couple of buckets: Sad and miserable and alone, punishable for her sins, or, now, the "lady" bent on revenge.
That "lady" is in quotes, because... can you be a lady if you're shopping a tell-all book about what happened between you and the President of the United States (including love letters and descriptions of his taste for three-ways) for (allegedly) $12 million? The tabloids don't think so. A week ago, Page Six alerted us to the happenings of the new Lewinsky memoir, her new "top-secret book project" publishers were reportedly slavering over. Today there's a dishy follow-up in the New York Post, a piece that relies largely on an "exclusive cover story" from the National Enquirer—quotes from anonymous sources and "friends" abound! The Enquirer dubs the book "her ultimate revenge on Bill!" and their article begins, "Now 39 and still looking for love, the infamous former White House intern desperately wants vengeance on the man who sullied her name, the sources add." And her dream: Via the Daily Mail, "friends say it could simply be a matter of cash for Lewinsky, who was left with massive legal debts and could never achieve her dream of 'losing 30 lbs, finding a boy, moving to Westchester County and having a family' after revelations of her Oval Office trysts with Clinton surfaced." (With friends like these...)
It's strange timing for a book, given that so many years—we're heading toward 15, so help us—have separated us from the moment the news broke on a Drudge 1.0. Lewinsky ultimately claimed she'd had nine sexual encounters with the president. It's hard to imagine that a tell-all will do anything other than bring out more bad feelings, further cementing those memories—and not about Clinton, about the writer of that tell-all. That's already happening, so some degree. As the New York Post's Jeane MacIntosh writes,
Lewinsky, who turns 40 next year, is out for “revenge” and ready to air bombshell details from her Oval Office trysts with the former Horndog-in-Chief in a $12 million memoir, according to friends.
Lewinsky never got explicit in past interviews about her Clinton encounters, but now plans to describe his “insatiable desire for three-way sex, orgies and the use of sex toys of all kinds,” one pal told the National Enquirer.
Meanwhile, as I've written before, Bill Clinton is just fine. He's no longer painted with the same old scandal brush that still colors Monica. She's done other things—gone to the London School of Economics, started a handbag line, tried her hand at being a news correspondent, co-written a much-earlier book with Andrew Morton about her story (that one did not get explicit). Still, the first thing the news-minded public thinks of when "Monica Lewinsky" appears, spoken or in print, is of what came out back in the late '90s. That may well be the only thing that comes to mind.
In what's happened since, Clinton has had the luck of constant exposure and infinite charisma, while Monica is a figure to be traipsed out and used as necessary (as the A.P. did recently and bizarrely) to remind us that we can't trust Bill, or to remind us of the bad things that will happen to a "fallen woman." On her own, she's nothing, to be pitied. As related to Bill, she's been a lusty schoolgirl, a pawn used by many—not excluding the media—a broken, pathetic, or lonely person. Now, as she nears her 40th birthday, she's the bitter, aging spinster, a villainess bent on the extraction of justice over love lost and her lack of success. Some of that involves smack-talking Hillary, per MacIntosh:
According to her friends, Lewinsky also will recount how Clinton referred to wife Hillary as a “cold fish” and “laughed” about their “non-existent sex life.”
She’ll also release love letters she wrote to Clinton. “In them, she opened her heart about her love for Bill and how much happier she could make him,” said the source. “Some of what she wrote was so raw that she never sent them."
Someone must pay! But hasn't she, already? As one "friend" tells the Post in a statement that's a bit hard to believe, “No one will hire her and she can’t get a job because of Clinton. She needs to make money somehow.” (Another "friend" tells the Daily Mail that Monica's not the revenge type.) Very few of us, perhaps not even those "friends," know who she really is, but those are the ways our world sees for Monica to be: from bitter and single and 40 to pathetic and used and back again. Whether we blame her or see her as a victim in what happened with Clinton way back in the '90s, it's a shame—not just for her but for all women—that those are our only choices.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.