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RedBlueAmerica: What is Monica Lewinsky's legacy in American life?

With a Clinton campaign in the offing, are we doomed to more discussion of Bill Clinton's peccadilloes? Is it time, after nearly two decades, to move on? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.


Posted on May 11, 2014 at 3:00 p.m.

Just as Hillary Clinton appears to be preparing a run for president in 2016, here comes Monica Lewinsky again. She emerged last week from more than a decade of relative silence to tell Vanity Fair how the affair with Bill Clinton — and its aftermath — affected her life.

"It's time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress," she says.

With a Clinton campaign in the offing, are we doomed to more discussion of Bill Clinton's peccadilloes? Is it time, after nearly two decades, to move on? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

JOEL MATHIS: Three things we should've learned from Monica Lewinsky that are still applicable today.

1) Personal honor doesn't matter nearly as much in leadership as you'd hope. Let's look at the last two decades: Would you rather live in a country presided over by a libertine with only the barest impulse control, but which is mostly at peace and has a growing economy? Or would you rather be run by a decent mediocrity who ambles in to war and leaves the economy in shambles while remaining faithful to his wife?

For most Americans, it's not that close. We look back at the time with cheerful nostalgia and chuckle at ourselves: How did we let a consensual sexual affair become a constitutional crisis? Seems crazy right?

2) It takes two to tango, but women will always get the worst of an illicit sexual encounter. Today, Bill Clinton is one of our most popular ex-presidents, running all over the world to give speeches and still a politician of formidable bearing: His speech at the Democratic National Convention last year may well have saved Barack Obama's presidency. And where he goes — I've seen this with my own eyes — crowds still swoon for him. It's remarkable.

Monica Lewinsky can barely show her face in public, meanwhile, and according to the Vanity Fair article, has found it nearly impossible simply to find decent work over the last 16 years. That's a shame, and a sign that the work of American feminism is yet to be completed.

3) Republicans will do just about anything to destroy a Democratic presidency. Nowadays, Clinton is remembered correctly as the business-friendly moderate he was, but back in the 1990s he was depicted as drug-dealing murdering socialist bent on imposing a different way of life on real Americans.

Sound familiar? The names have changed — and Barack Obama isn't depicted as sexually voracious like Clinton was, probably because isn't — and while history doesn't quite repeat itself, it sure does rhyme.

BEN BOYCHUK: Monica Lewinsky deserves our pity and perhaps our prayers. But not much else.

Her return to the national spotlight — her fourth or fifth in the past 15 years, including a memoir and a documentary — is to make a stand against "Internet humiliation." How bold.

Lewinsky calls out Internet impresario Matt Drudge, among others, for ruining her life. Drudge became famous in 1998 with his scoop revealing President Clinton's dalliance with the twentysomething White House intern. One story led to a torrent of coverage and, eventually, to Clinton's impeachment.

The Left never forgave Drudge for his role in exposing Clinton, who made all the right noises about "progressive" feminist issues even if he acted like a power-mad sex fiend. But with rare exceptions, the Left has never had much to say about Bill and Hillary Clinton's role in making Lewinsky out to be a "deranged stalker."

So Lewinsky has spent much of the past two decades ducking the spotlight, while Bill and Hillary Clinton have spent that time basking in it and getting rich. Bear that in mind if Hillary runs for president again.

If Lewinsky and the Clintons have anything in common today, it's their shared desire to shut people up. At the height of impeachment fever, Mrs. Clinton famously denounced the "vast right-wing conspiracy" - the network of conservative talk radio programs and publications that exposed her husband's mendacity - and mused about reviving the Fairness Doctrine for conservative broadcasters.

Lewinsky's newfound activism seems aligned with current anti-bullying trends, but it's driven by a similar censorious impulse. It's a shame what happened to her. Plenty of 22-year-olds make dumb mistakes, but few of them make those mistakes with U.S. presidents and have the whole world find out.

Yet Lewinsky compares herself to Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers freshman who committed suicide in 2010 after his roommate secretly recorded then posted a video of him engaged in a homosexual act. One of these things is not like the other. Lewinsky is alive, after all, with a glamour shot in Vanity Fair. Clementi isn't.

Ben Boychuk is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal. Joel Mathis is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine. Visit them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/benandjoel.


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