Monica's put on weight. Now that really is unacceptable...

She behaved like a sad, stressed, deserted human being. She broke the rules and got fat
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The Independent Culture
AMERICA HAS always wanted its own Diana, Princess of Wales. Now it is going to get one.

The President's most troublesome squeeze has just signed a book deal with Andrew Morton, the ghost-writer who channelled the late Princess's unhappiness into the public domain.

Apparently, Mr Morton and Monica Lewinsky met, looked into each others eyes and "saw something in each other". Dollar signs, probably. Mr Morton will be Ms Lewinsky's most effective make-over artist.

By the time he is finished with her, she will have hidden depths. We will get to know the Monica we never knew. She will become an icon for jilted women everywhere. Camille Paglia will write a polemical defence or attack - it matters not which - of her. She will give a tear-drenched TV interview. Shortly afterwards, there will be a Monica relaunch, in a sober suit and shorter hair, as a women who wants to be Taken Seriously From Now On.

But all of this is in the future. First Monica must do what America expects, indeed demands. She must lose weight. Monica's increased size is regarded as a sign of her moral laxity or as divine punishment. "She doesn't have any discernible muscles," was the leak from personal trainers hired to oversee the downsizing. Shame, horror, humiliation.

New York has a new sport: Monica hunting. It works like this. You seek out that curtain of black hair and well-upholstered form in order to pass instant, negative judgement. The Daily News has printed a helpful map of her haunts. Manhattan is the largest village in the world, so it is actually very hard not to meet America's most discussed woman.

She was one day behind me last week at the hairdressers, one ahead at the Metropolitan Club and a few restaurants away for lunch. "Why," mused a puzzled American friend, "does she go out to eat so much when she's so fat?" Staying home in purdah would, of course, be required behaviour at this point.

One tabloid called her "a portly pepperpot". Another headlined her restaurant outburst at gawping waiters and customers "Monica's Big Fit" (geddit?) and detailed her meal's calorie count. You do not have to be Woody Allen's shrink to catch the transference here. Monica has sinned. She was a willing sexual adventuress and now she has tuned into an over-sized slattern. Thin America, which is to say respectable middle class America, finds her "gross" in both her sexual willingness and her large appetite for comfort food. To be an over-weight female is deemed normal only for the poor ethnic minorities or the struggling white residents of trailer parks.

It was Bill Clinton's good fortune that his weakness for sexual as well as alimentary gratification should attract a wide coalition of forgivers. Liberals stood by a Democrat, however tarnished, rather than give their Republican enemies a scalp. Constitutional Conservatives fretted that pressing for impeachment would undermine the dignity of the Presidency. I now find myself in a minority, outside the wider shores of Republican fundamentalism in Little Nowheresville, which believes that the President's behaviour was consistently wrong, that he misled America and sought to cover up his misdemeanours. The kind of President who gets oral sex while discussing policy on Bosnia on the phone shows that he cares very little for Bosnia.

He doesn't seem to believe in anything much else either, besides the importance of remaining in office. For a Democrat, the traditional defenders of the poor, he has allowed some pretty unpleasant things to be said about Paula Jones when she accused him of harassment. Remember the smear of his aides about Ms Jones's law suit: "That's what you get when you drag a hundred dollar bill through a trailer park."

Ms Jones has just found $850,000 in settlement from Mr Clinton. She deserves it for sticking with her case for so long while the White House unearthed every trick in the book to undermine her. Clinton's tireless battle for personal survival has ended any chance of achieving the reforms he promised. He messed up the change to health care, the one that really mattered. For all the Democrats' triumphalism about holding up in the recent Congressional elections, it is Republicans who are setting the reform agenda in welfare and education and determining the future of social policy in America.

But he has luck like dogs have fleas. The media hyped up rumours of the unspeakable acts in the Oval office, but the TV networks and newspapers shied away from detailing the sexual contact between Ms Lewinsky and Mr Clinton. The gap between expectation and actual reporting of the Starr report was so wide that he could emerge as a regular, rueful guy who fumbled around a bit, and carry on as before.

Monica, on the other hand, is still in the purgatory of public opinion. She is alone in a crowd of agents, trainers, publishers, busybodies. She is disliked by middle American women who are none too keen on women offering married men instant satisfaction at the drop of a thong and despised by middle American men as an easy lay. All her hunger for celebrity cannot shield her from the universal mockery.

For the tabloids, she is too fat. For up-market columnists like the New York Times's Maureen Dowd, she is an inelegant parody of seductresses such as the late Pamela Harriman, who had the sexual morals of a tomcat but is lauded in a new book for being more rich, more sophisticated and more cunning than the naive Ms Lewinsky.

It is a commonly held British belief that America is a classless society. It is not. America has replaced class with status as the central ordering principle but it reinforces its chosen hierarchy with ruthlessness. "The problem with this scandal is not illicit sex," writes Ms Dowd. "It is that we need a better class of illicit sex ... Pamela would have been appalled by Monica. One talked in the deep rolling cadences of Winston Churchill, the other like a Valley mall rat."

Ms Lewinsky actually has quite a nice voice, but as far as the New York establishment is concerned, she is an inexperienced ingenue and therefore must sound horrible.

Meanwhile Ms Harriman, a scheming, pampered and manipulative woman, is glorified by Ms Dowd as "a disciplined siren ... She never admitted to being dumped, she simply picked herself up and moved on to the next target." Monica cried and whined, cared too much, talked too much and ate to much. She behaved like a sad, stressed, deserted human being. She broke the rules and got fat. That will never do.