Oh, Monica Lewinsky, why did you have to make a comeback?
Curious timing, isn’t it, that Monica, known really for one thing in her life, made a splash on Monday at the Forbes Summit preaching against cyber-bullying. Calling herself “Patient Zero” (an Ebola reference, I guess), Monica, now 41, revisited her past during her first-ever public speech while declaring a “cultural revolution” against online trolling that she fell victim to in the 1990s.
“I was Patient Zero,” Lewinsky said in her speech. “The first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the Internet.”
Of course, it seems logical in a political sense that Monica staged her speaking engagement as Hillary Clinton prepares for her second White House run. The Clintons are everywhere, so why shouldn’t Monica get a little attention, too?
To ensure that she does, Monica also joined Twitter Monday, describing herself as “social activist. public speaker. contributor to vanity fair. knitter of things without sleeves.” As of Tuesday afternoon, she had over 61,000 followers after tweeting a mere three times.
Monica’s claim to fame – as we all know – is for an affair with Bill Clinton in the Oval Office involving a cigar, a semen-stained blue dress and a lengthy investigation by Special Prosecutor Ken Starr. She said in her Forbes Summit speech that the aftermath of the drama left her “shattered” and wanting “to die.” But yet, here she goes again – perhaps mentally stronger in her 40s than her 20s – drudging up her torrid past in the name of activism. Smart move? Magic 8-Ball says unclear.
I’ve always felt torn about Monica.
She often gained sympathy from people who said she was too young to know any better. I’m around the same age as Monica and I never thought that was a solid excuse. If she was smart enough to land an internship at the White House (the most famous residence in the world), she was smart enough to keep the cigar in the wrapper.
Monica also knew that Bill Clinton was the target of a right-wing investigation. She had to realize – regardless of her rose-colored love glasses – that Starr would find out about her. Sure, young love (or lust) is blind, but it ain’t that blind.
By no means am I blaming Monica for the whole Oval Office she-bang. Bill Clinton is/was no saint. He should have never traveled down the sex path with an intern. He should have known that having a fling with a girl just a few years older than his daughter was loco. But Clinton has always possessed the attitude that his sins are always forgiven – and they usually are. Forever the political chameleon, Clinton is brilliant at re-inventing himself and reshaping his legacy regardless of previous political scandals.
If Monica wanted to inflict maximum damage and shoot her past to hell, she should have taken up a different cause than cyber-bullying. Many columnists have said that Monica is merely taking ownership of her past by standing up to bullying, but I think she would have been better off waving the feminism flag and taking on powerful men who prey on young women who work for them.
Is Lewinsky’s timing bad for Hillary? Many pundits think so. In a Vanity Fair profile earlier this year, Monica said she was tired of “tiptoeing around my past—and other people’s futures.” Of course, she could damage a Hillary presidential run. She has an open platform on Twitter to rant and rave at will.
But the Clintons are a powerful machine, and they aren’t going to let Monica stop Hillary from getting what she wants. They’ve played this game for years. They have likely been prepared for a Monica return, too. At some point, if Monica continues to choose the limelight, Hillary will firmly chastise her with one firm and verbal swat. That won’t be cyber-bullying. That’s Clinton bullying. A whole different game.
Warning to Monica: Proceed into the social media universe, and 2015, with massive caution.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt” and “1000 Best Bartender’s Recipes.” She writes frequently for Reuters, TakePart, and numerous other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker.