Monica Lewinsky's 'Vanity Fair' Tell-All Has Absolutely Nothing To Do With Hillary Clinton's 2016 Campaign
No matter what Hillary Clinton accomplishes, she can't escape association with her husband's sex scandal. At times, it seems like Hillary is even more defined by the 1998 scandal than Bill, despite the fact that he was the one who nearly lost his presidency. As reports trickle in about Monica Lewinsky's new tell-all in Vanity Fair , commentators aren't wasting time speculating that this could be a Benghazi-esque pitfall for Hillary, who, in all likelihood, is busy prepping for a 2016 presidential bid.
- "With Hillary Clinton considering a White House run, the scandal has begun to percolate again in the news," writes the Christian Science Monitor .
- "Is this a minor nightmare for Hillary?" Salon asks.
- Gawker jumped on the nightmare train, too: "Monica Lewinsky Has Returned From the Clintons' Nightmares."
- Even U.S. News & World Report couldn't help wonder what it meant for Lewinsky's article to drop just a month before Hillary's new book hits stores.
- "[Lewinsky] is collateral damage in Hillary Clinton’s war on women," according to Rush Limbaugh.
- And of course, this lovely front-page graphic from the Drudge Report:
When sex scandals erupt, political wives tend to bear the brunt of the criticism. Take Huma Abedin, for example, who was under fire following the reveal of husband and former Congressman Anthony Weiner's extramarital affairs. The never-ending attacks on Abedin, which ranged from FOX News pundits saying she "should be ashamed" to the front-page "What's Wrong With You?" New York Post headline, prompted many "Leave Huma Alone!" editorials. The irony, of course, is that Abedin had zero role in her husband's affairs. Abedin, in fact, was more betrayed by her husband than anyone.
A former aide to Hillary, Abedin and her status as wife to an embattled politician closely resembles Hillary circa 1998. Then, the First Lady graced the covers of newspapers, magazines and tabloid rags as much as Bill and Lewinsky. And Hillary was heavily criticized for being an "enabler"; for sticking by her husband; and for her cold demeanor.
Occasionally Hillary was applauded for her strength, and for daring to call out her husband's critics.
But the public eats up the Bill, Hillary and Monica drama, with particular focus on the latter two. When pegged against each other, only one can come out on top, as is often the case with women in the media. In the late '90s, it was Hillary: Public admiration of her surged in 1998 because of her vulnerable position. It was the highest public approval she's ever received.
When Hillary left the White House and transformed into a politician of her own, the Monica Lewinsky scandal became more of a negative. During her 2008 presidential bid, it was practically inescapable; even The New York Times brought up "the Monica period" when questioning Hillary's first lady resume:
There were times, though, when Mrs. Clinton did not appear deeply involved in some of Mr. Clinton’s hardest moments on national security. ... Just days after he acknowledged to his wife, the public and a grand jury that he had had a relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Mr. Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes on targets suspected to be a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and a chemical weapons factory in Sudan.
“It was the height of Monica, and they were barely talking to each other, if at all,” said one senior national security official who spoke with both Clintons during that time.
It's much more difficult for female politicians to have redemptive narratives; redemption, it seems, is generally saved for their male counterparts. For women like Lewinsky caught in the middle of extramarital affairs, redemption is almost impossible.
While the timing of Lewinsky's Vanity Fair article may be suspect, she, like Hillary, has the right to redeem herself in the public eye. To constantly have these two women face off in a Wife vs. Other Woman media match is an exhaustive display of political sexism. As Lewinsky writes in Vanity Fair: “It’s time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress." It's about time everybody else did the same.