Monica Lewinsky’s Story Isn’t a Clinton Hit Piece. It’s a Condemnation of 1998’s Feminists

She’s just trying to clear the air.

National Journal
Emma Roller
Add to Briefcase
Emma Roller
May 8, 2014, 6:37 a.m.

Don’t be­lieve the hype.

Des­pite the su­per­nova level of buzz that it has gen­er­ated in the polit­ic­al pun­ditry, Mon­ica Lew­in­sky’s Van­ity Fair piece — out now for sub­scribers — says vir­tu­ally noth­ing we didn’t know about Lew­in­sky’s 1998 af­fair with Bill Clin­ton. Nor is this a Mon­ica-versus-Hil­lary smack­down — al­though every­one knows the me­dia loves a good cat­fight nar­rat­ive. But what does it mean for Hil­lary Clin­ton in 2016?

Sorry to dis­ap­point, but to an­swer your ques­tion, “Very little.”

What Lew­in­sky’s story does of­fer, however, is a view in­to the world of a wo­man whose life has been ruined by the polit­ic­al cir­cus. Lew­in­sky read­ily takes re­spons­ib­il­ity for her ru­in, but is right­fully em­bittered that she’s the sole scape­goat.

It’s a weird time warp — the me­dia por­trayed 24-year-old Lew­in­sky as a con­niv­ing, power-hungry vix­en. Now, the 40-year-old Lew­in­sky is a limp pup­pet for the Clin­ton agenda. Lynne Cheney sug­ges­ted that the Clin­tons put Lew­in­sky up to this to get her story out of the way be­fore 2016. Oth­ers, like The New York Post‘s An­drea Pey­ser, ad­dressed Lew­in­sky more bluntly: “Shut up and go away.”

In The Wash­ing­ton Post, Ruth Mar­cus wrote that Lew­in­sky is do­ing a big fa­vor to the Clin­tons by dredging up the 1998 af­fair. As Jonath­an Chait put it, it’s hard to be­lieve that when she wrote the piece, Lew­in­sky was think­ing, “I really owe Bill Clin­ton a fa­vor.”

That is not to say Lew­in­sky ig­nores the Clin­tons en­tirely in the piece. She does take is­sue with Hil­lary Clin­ton’s as­ser­tion that she was a “nar­ciss­ist­ic loony toon,” and vaguely ref­er­ences the Clin­ton op­er­at­ives who tried to co­erce her in­to com­pli­ance.

What Lew­in­sky’s es­say does well is re­mind us of how shame­fully so-called fem­in­ists failed her when she needed them most. Maur­een Dowd — or as Lew­in­sky called her at the time, “More­mean Dowdy” — painted Lew­in­sky as a crazy bimbo, and won a Pulitzer for do­ing so. While they leapt to de­fend An­ita Hill, who ac­cused Su­preme Court Justice Clar­ence Thomas of sexu­al har­ass­ment, the fem­in­ists of the day treated Lew­in­sky as per­sona non grata.

Read­ing this New York Ob­serv­er story from 1998 — titled, hil­ari­ously, “New York Su­per­gals Love That Naughty Prez” — the big-name fem­in­ists quoted in it seem to per­son­ally re­sent Lew­in­sky for set­ting back their noble Cause. How dare she work her fem­in­ine wiles on the pres­id­ent! Clin­ton couldn’t help him­self — you know how he loved those South­ern beauty queens. (Lew­in­sky is from Los Angeles.) And be­sides, he’s just so gosh-darn charm­ing!

Look­ing back on this con­ver­sa­tion is pos­it­ively cringe-worthy. The wo­men com­ment on her in­tel­li­gence (“not so bril­liant”), her looks (“not that pretty”), and even the state of her dent­al hy­giene. To put a fine point on it, it’s Slut-Sham­ing 101.

Mean­while, they are happy to fawn over the oth­er per­son who en­gaged in that ill-ad­vised af­fair. “This is a pres­id­ent who takes risks,” says fem­in­ist writer Katie Roi­phe. “He is the most in­cred­ibly charm­ing man,” says fash­ion de­sign­er Nicole Miller. “He’s quite cute,” says former Sat­urday Night Live writer Pa­tri­cia Marx. (I won­der if Marx still thought of Clin­ton as “cute” after read­ing Sec­tion 272 of the Starr Re­port.)

It’s only made more up­set­ting that, 16 years later, the same fem­in­ist lead­ers who were so eager to as­sas­sin­ate Lew­in­sky’s char­ac­ter now con­sider them­selves ar­dent de­fend­ers against sex­ism — proud war­ri­ors who stand Ready for Hil­lary.

What We're Following See More »
MORE DISAPPROVE OF COUNTRY’S DIRECTION
Trump Approval Rating Steady
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

According to a new CNN poll, "37% of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling the presidency, 57% disapprove—virtually identical to his marks in late September. But the percentage who say things in the country are going well has fallen from 53% in August to 46% now."

Source:
Doesn’t Express Confidence in Marino
Trump to Declare Opioid Emergency Next Week
11 hours ago
THE LATEST

After initially promising it in August, "President Trump said Monday that he will declare a national emergency next week to address the opioid epidemic." When asked, he also "declined to express confidence in Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), his nominee for drug czar, in the wake of revelations that the lawmaker helped steer legislation making it harder to act against giant drug companies."

Source:
IN LIGHT OF 60 MINUTES REVELATIONS
Manchin Asks Trump to Drop Marino’s Nomination for Drug Czar
20 hours ago
THE LATEST
WOULD OVERTURN MARINO LEGISLATION ON DRUG DISTRIBUTORS
McCaskill Will Introduce Bill in Response to “60 Minutes” Scoop
20 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In the wake of Sunday's blockbuster 60 Minutes/Washington Post report on opioid regulation and enforcement, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has introduced legislation that "would repeal a 2016 law that hampered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to regulate opioid distributors it suspects of misconduct." In a statement, McCaskill said: “Media reports indicate that this law has significantly affected the government’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are failing to meet their obligations and endangering our communities."

Source:
EVACUATION DRILL STARTS NEXT MONDAY
U.S. Military to Practice Evacuating Americans in S. Korea
21 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The United States military said on Monday that it would practice evacuating noncombatant Americans out of South Korea in the event of war and other emergencies, as the two allies began a joint naval exercise amid heightened tensions with North Korea. The evacuation drill, known as Courageous Channel, is scheduled from next Monday through Friday and is aimed at preparing American 'service members and their families to respond to a wide range of crisis management events such as noncombatant evacuation and natural or man-made disasters,' the United States military said in a statement."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login