Get a grip on reality, Monica
You'd think Monica had had enough of being a victim, but she will never have enough of it
Wednesday 03 March 1999
And so it begins. Tonight, Monica Lewinsky's first television interview will be broadcast in the US. Tomorrow morning, extracts from Andrew Morton's book about her will start serialisation on both sides of the Atlantic. Tomorrow evening, an interview by Jon Snow will be screened on Channel 4 News. On Friday, Andrew Morton's book about her will hit the streets, and Lewinsky will begin a book tour to publicise it. The rebranding of Monica Lewinsky has begun. It is already working its magic on me.
Until now, I've regarded Monica Lewinsky sympathetically. She was young and attractive and clearly did not know how to control or respect her own sexuality. She embarked on an ill-advised affair with a man who should have known better, but didn't. She was tricked and betrayed by people posing as her friends. She was publicly smeared, slandered and lied about. She had her life, as she had known and imagined it, ruined as part of a political witch hunt that wouldn't have gained any currency were it not for one fact: the President of the United States is a sexually predatory hypocrite so obsessed with power that even when he'd become "leader of the free world" he still craved the validation he gained from seducing impressionable young women.
She has been humiliated before the eyes of the world. Now that her ordeal is over (or could be if only she'd let go), Clinton is still President, and she is $2m in debt.
But she is, so her supporters say, intelligent. An intelligent woman in her position could earn $2m quite easily. She could grant just one interview to a commercial television network, accept no fee for it, but strike a deal whereby her legal fees are paid off by the television company. In fact, she has received no payment from ABC, which has the rights to tonight's interview. The company will earn $35m from advertising during the broadcast alone, before they even start to syndicate it around the world. ABC could have wiped out Lewinsky's debt at one fell swoop.
But Lewinsky is clearly, however, not intelligent enough to have learned anything, either from her own five-year ordeal or from scrutiny of the rest of the life of the last woman to process her life through the agency of Andrew Morton, media photographers and high-profile television interviews. No good can come of this. The early signs are that the entire media fest will be cloying, sentimental, self-pitying and pointless. If Lewinsky wants to put this most sorry of affairs behind her, she is going about it in an extraordinarily counter-intuitive fashion.
First, the US television interview in which Lewinsky reveals to heavy- hitting Barbara Walters that although she no longer loves President Clinton, and while she is sometimes "angry", she still has "warm feelings" towards him.
Warm feelings? What's wrong with her? Does she imagine that her "Big Guy" returns warm feelings towards "that woman"? Does she think it's all right to be dropped, denied, accused of being a stalker and branded as mentally deranged? If she forgives this man, then that goes a long way towards explaining why the rest of America has found it so easy to do so. It has to be because they're all misogynists, including Lewinsky herself. Not only can they not tell right from wrong any more, they can't even tell right from left.
During this interview, Lewinsky also apologises for the first time to the "official Clinton women", telling Chelsea that she is also from "a dysfunctional family". That's quite a comfort to Chelsea, I'm sure, and as for Monica's own parents, well, they've been told how dysfunctional they are plenty of times already, and now have therapists to ram that message home to them.
Any further message to other impressionable young girls, like: "don't have affairs with married men with children because generally they use you and dump you, even when they're not president, and it's you who pays the emotional price"; or "when a superior in an office says he'd like to see what's under your skirt, think before you flash your thong, then point out to him that it's none of his business", is conspicuous by its absence.
Learning from your mistakes, and hoping that others might too, is something that a responsible woman might do, and if you take responsibility for yourself, then it's hard to stay a victim. You'd think that Lewinsky might have had enough of being a victim, but instead it's beginning to look like she'll never have enough of it. That's certainly been the message so far in the newspaper serialisation. From The Mirror's several days of pre-serialisation serialisation, we've already learned that "Monica was a bright, outgoing strong-willed child. Open and friendly, she was popular, but never quite fitted in with the blonde, thin brat pack".
Sorry, what's the message here? Get the peroxide out from an early age, and pick yourself up an eating disorder. Then you'll never become embroiled in a political sex scandal. No, instead the message is that not being blonde and thin is a genuine disability, which could blight your life, just as it has Lewinsky's. What a pity it wasn't Glenn Hoddle who came up with that one. It would then have been greeted with the contempt that it deserves.
Then there's the Jon Snow interview. Lewinsky was able to talk in much greater detail during this interview, due to reporting restrictions which remain in the United States. Leaks have already flushed out one exclusive revelation, which is that Lewinsky at one point contemplated suicide during her ordeal. Hurrah! Not only is that a healthy reaction to her situation, but it's also healthy that she only considered suicide. If only her desire for self-preservation was greater than her desire for attention. Then we could be sure that she will never contemplate suicide over this matter ever again. Instead, it is her actions now which imperil her most of all.
Finally, there's the Morton book, which from Lewinsky's motives for wanting it written alone, make it sound utterly excruciating. "I'd like to think I will live on in a book. I like to be able to reach up on my bookshelf for one of Shakespeare's plays and I would like to think that people will do that with this book." Or: "I want to be happy. I deserve that much." Or: "I'm not a princess in a royal sense, but I was also wronged by a man who said he loved me." Most appalling of all, is the report from Andrew Golden, who introduced Lewinsky to Morton, on what Lewinsky has told friends she hopes for her future. "All I ever wanted was to be as internationally famous as Princess Diana. I want to be a movie or a media star and I do not want to be known for ever as the woman who brought down a president. I deserve better than that." My, my, Monica Lewinsky believes she deserves a lot. She does indeed have much in common with Princess Diana.
Like Diana, Lewinsky is the victim of a dysfunctional family background which has left her with feelings of inadequacy. While Diana's feelings of inadequacy did not leave her so riven that she doubted her ability to be first, Princess of Wales, then Queen, and to bring up children who would also be monarchs, nor did Lewinsky's disturb her belief - which she still maintains despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary - that she was just the sort of woman that a president would fall in love with, in the early days before she was an icon to everyone.
Like Diana, she has been hounded by the media, but rather than pack up and live quietly out of the photographers' gaze for a couple of years, and work out a way of living her life that can really make her content, she just wants to stay in that hated spotlight for as long as she can.
Like Diana, she wants lots of money, and she wants too earn it without too much effort. And she wants everyone in the world to love her, admire her, understand her, and feel her pain. Thank heavens that both of these women suffered from low self-esteem. What might they have considered their worth to be if only each of them had had a little self-confidence?
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