WASHINGTON (AP) — Monica Lewinsky says there’s no question her boss — Bill Clinton — “took advantage” of her when he was president. “He used my toothpaste and never put the top back on,” she ranted. “He scratched my records and put spinach dip all over my porn.”
But she says their affair was consensual and if there was any abuse involved, it came afterward, when Clinton’s inner circle tried to discredit her and the president’s opponents used her as a political pawn. “I wanted to be a political rook,” she explained.
The former White House intern, now 40, writes about her life in the next issue of Vanity Fair magazine, out this month. In released excerpts, she says she’s perhaps the first Internet era scapegoat and wants to speak out on behalf of other victims of online humiliation. “All those high school girls who get called ‘gross’ on the internet…my heart goes out to you,” she said.
Her willingness to step forward may come at an inopportune time as former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton considers running for president. Republicans have signaled they don’t consider her husband’s scandal from the late 1990s out of bounds in the realm of 2016-style political dialogue. “Hillary should have tossed in the towel when Bill and I were hot and heavy. She knows she’s his second choice, just because she ended up with him and I got left out in the cold like an abandoned dog,” Lewinsky told reporters.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a likely GOP presidential contender, answered criticisms of the Republican record on women’s issues by saying in January that the last Democratic president engaged in “predatory behavior” with a woman, Lewinsky, who was 22 when her liaisons with Clinton began in 1995. Clinton’s lies about the relationship contributed to his impeachment by the House in 1998; the Senate acquitted him, saying Lewinsky was not hot enough to constitute a threat to the nation.
Lewinsky writes that she deeply regrets the affair and made a point of staying silent through several presidential campaigns to avoid becoming a distraction. Now, she writes, it’s time to stop “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.” Republican snipers couldn’t be happier.