1999Commentary

Monica Gets Her Man

By: 
Maureen Dowd
August 23, 1998

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Liberties


WASHINGTON -- It's not easy being in love with a President.

There are so many distractions. Whenever you want a little quality time, he's got some world crisis to handle.

I remember reading an interview with Judith Exner, where she talked about how lonely it was dating J.F.K. Whenever she wanted him to focus on her, he was focusing on Castro.

Cuba, Cuba, Cuba! That's all he cared about.

So I felt for Monica Lewinsky when she appeared before the grand jury on Thursday -- still pining for some attention from her ex-boyfriend -- and he was caught up in macho Commander in Chief stuff.

Sudan, Sudan, Sudan! That's all he cared about. And he wasn't even wearing one of her secret love ties.

The 25-year-old says she is eager to get on with her life. But does she still dream that her life will include an ex-President named Bill?

I just hope she is not over at the Watergate, flipping through designer swatches for the Clinton Presidential Library.

After the President's prime-time confession, the news media were abuzz about whether Mr. Clinton could repair his damaged relationships with his wife and daughter.

Suddenly, That Woman stamped her feet. Like the Glenn Close character in "Fatal Attraction," Monica Lewinsky issued a chilling ultimatum to the man who jilted her: I will not be ignored.

She let it be known that she was wounded that the President had failed to apologize to her and had dismissed their grand, 18-month romance, their shared passion for books and laughs, as trivial -- a mere mechanism for relieving Oval Office tension.

Mr. Clinton rejected a more contrite version of the speech written by Bob Shrum -- nicknamed the "Shoot Me" draft at the White House -- that contained an apology to "Monica Lewinsky and her family." Instead, with some brass-knuckle guidance from Hillary, he embraced his wife and daughter as "the two people I love most," while swatting Monica away as "inappropriate."

He portrayed himself, insultingly, as a passive participant in their trysts. What she called true love, he called "legally accurate."

Monica got cranky and complained about all the positive press and public sympathy heaped on her rival, Saint Hillary, while she was being portrayed as a vixen.

She had lied to protect her beloved. And she had believed, from hints he had dropped, that there might not be a Hillary in their future.

More in anger than hope, Monica returned to the grand jury and made it clear she was not simply servicing the President. The pleasuring, she insisted, contradicting his account, was mutual. Their relationship was not cheap. It was way unique.

The romance that rocked the White House seems so pathetically adolescent. Him, clinging to some juvenile belief that oral sex is not sex. Her, clinging to some juvenile belief that the President loved her.

It's hard to believe that this "feminist" President didn't see, or chose to overlook, the misogynistic and narcissistic nature of his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.

Before the President finally fessed up, his henchlings had whispered that Monica was a stalker who had fantasized a romance with him.

While she is not a stalker, since Mr. Clinton encouraged her interest for quite some time, she is certainly aggressive. Otherwise, as a mere intern, she could not have barged through all the protective layers around the President. And she was, according to the Tripp tapes, desperate to continue the relationship after the President had slithered away. I will not be ignored.

Monica has at least one special talent: she is relentless. It was the quality that got her noticed by Bill Clinton, and it is the quality that will prevent him from ever escaping her.

There is a sort of rough romantic justice here. It may be de trop to punish this President with impeachment or resignation. In his case, the punishment is the crime. Monica will never let him go. She will be center stage for the rest of his Presidency, doing a star turn at Congressional hearings, granting celebrity interviews, signing book and movie deals.

It will not be in the way she envisioned, but she will get to ride off into the sunset with her man after all. Monica Lewinsky is Bill Clinton's legacy. They are linked together forever and ever.

In its own way, it's a perfect ending.

Commentary 1999