Monica Lewinsky wants to be heard.
Which is another way of saying she wants her life back—or at least a plausible second act.
Having been “possibly the first person whose global humiliation was driven by the Internet,” thanks to the Drudge Report, she is taking to the pages of Vanity Fair to offer her reflections on the sexual encounters that led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
Did we really think we were going to get to a 2016 presidential campaign involving Hillary without hearing from Monica?
In excerpts posted by the magazine, Lewinsky doesn’t let herself off the hook: “I, myself, deeply regret what happened between me and President Clinton…Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship.”
Lewinsky says she is done “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.)”
What it will cost her, I suspect, is a new round of media ridicule. My Twitter feed has already exploded, and there was no social media back in 1998 when the scandal exploded.
Lewinsky made a huge series of mistakes, from flashing her thong to shooting off her mouth to her erstwhile pal Linda Tripp. But it’s only fair to point out that the 42nd president of the United States, who took advantage of a lowly intern, is now hailed as a global statesman, while Lewinsky has been struggling to get by.
And that is the pattern in most political sex scandals: the man gets absolution and the woman suffers in obscurity.
So why is Lewinsky going public now? Well, she gets the nice hair-and-makeup spread in Vanity Fair. She tries to “bury the blue dress” and belatedly tries to salvage her reputation. Maybe someone offers her a cushy job.
After the scandal, after getting a master’s degree, she interviewed for various communications and branding jobs, but “because of what potential employers so tactfully referred to as my ‘history,’ I was never ‘quite right’ for the position.”
But there’s also the get-even factor. Lewinsky responds (mildly) to Hillary having called her a “narcissistic looney tune” years ago in a private conversation with a friend whose diaries recently surfaced. But while Lewinsky writes that she and the Big Dog had a consensual affair, she also says:
“The Clinton administration, the special prosecutor’s minions, the political operatives on both sides of the aisle, and the media were able to brand me. And that brand stuck, in part because it was imbued with power.”
So this is in part a plea to the media to stop treating her as a bimbo for life. The message is simple: I’m 40 years old now. This all happened a long time ago, when I was a kid. I’m a smart woman with something to offer.
She even offers to have a drink with Maureen Dowd, whose acerbic take had prompted Lewinsky to refer to her as “Moremean Dowdy.” And I bet MoDo takes her up on it.
Does this hurt Hillary in 2016? It dredges up the national embarrassment and reminds people that Bill Clinton would be moving back to the scene of the trysts if she wins. But I think that’s already priced into the stock, and Republicans might stir sympathy for Hillary if they keep pounding away at the tawdry episode.
The least persuasive part of Lewinsky’s piece, even though she was moved by a college student’s suicide after video surfaced of him kissing another man, is this: “Perhaps by sharing my story, I reasoned, I might be able to help others in their darkest moments of humiliation.” Lewinsky already shared her story back in the ’90s. What she wants is to soften history’s verdict.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.