In 1998, then-first lady Hillary Clinton called the Lewinsky allegations “politically motivated,” part of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” designed to destroy her husband’s presidency.
Fast forward 17 years. The right-wingers are striking back with some Lewinsky-related conspiracy theories of their own.
The former intern’s recent revelations in Vanity Fair – including the assertion that her relationship with Bill Clinton was consensual – came just as Hillary Clinton, poised for a potential 2016 presidential bid and under fire for her role in the Benghazi controversy, plunges back into the spotlight.
Noting Lewinsky’s “uncanny” timing, some pundits seem to think president’s former mistress isn’t the only one who, in her own words, wants to “burn the beret and bury the blue dress.”
Lynne Cheney, wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, suggested that the Clintons may have pushed Lewinsky to publish the Vanity Fair story now so that it will be “old news” if Hillary runs for president in 2016.
“I really wonder if this isn’t an effort on the Clintons’ part to get that story out of the way. … Would Vanity Fair publish anything about Monica Lewinsky that Hillary Clinton didn’t want in Vanity Fair?” she asked on Fox News. “Getting it out of the way so we can say one more time, ‘it’s old news,’ seems like a strategy or a tactic, perhaps.”
Conservative activist Grover Norquist had a different theory. He seems to believe the Clintons orchestrated the article to distract from more substantial issues that might plague Clinton in 2016.
“This is the same trick the Clintons pulled on us back in ’98,” Norquist told Buzzfeed. “We didn’t campaign against the massive overspending or anything else. We were distracted by this bright, shiny object they handed out, which was Monica Lewinsky. … It will be the same thing this time. ‘Pay not attention to the reset of foreign policy with Russia or Libya. Oh look, it’s Hillary the victim!’”
The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus put it bluntly: “Monica Lewinsky may not have intended it this way, but she just did Hillary Clinton a big favor,” Marcus wrote.
Of course, not everyone believed the timing was fortuitous for the Clinton family. Some have called Lewinsky’s reemergence “Hillary’s worst nightmare.”
After all, Lewinsky doesn’t paint Hillary Clinton as the glass ceiling-cracker she claims to be.
“Mrs. Clinton, I read, had supposedly confided to [Diane] Blair that, in part, she blamed herself for her husband’s affair (by being emotionally neglectful) and seemed to forgive him,” Lewinsky wrote in the article published yesterday. “I find her impulse to blame the Woman — not only me, but herself — troubling.”
Clinton supporters also worry Lewinsky’s reemergence could lend credence to Sen. Rand Paul’s crusade against Democrats who accept money from “sexual predator” Bill Clinton – though Lewinsky seems to dispute that notion, claiming that the only “‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat.”
In the article, Lewinsky acknowledged that she “could be used as a tool for the left or the right,” and addressed the timing issue head-on.
“Why speak out now? Because it’s time,” she said. “I turned 40 last year, and it’s time to stop tiptoeing around my past – and other people’s futures.”
“I’ve decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past,” she added.
According to Lewinsky, the story of Tyler Clementi, the gay Rutgers student who committed suicide after his romantic encounter with another man was streamed over the Internet, inspired her to share her story in order to “help others in their darkest moments of humiliation.”
She also offered a response to Hillary Clinton’s recently released characterization of Lewinsky as a “narcissistic loony toon.”
Clinton’s comments “make me bristle,” wrote Lewinsky, noting her refusal to further implicate the president by wearing a wire.
So no matter how much her response may cost, Lewinsky said, “I cannot help but fear the next wave of paparazzi, the next wave of ‘Where is she now?’ stories, the next reference to me in Fox News’ coverage of the primaries. [But] I’ve begun to find it debilitating to plot out the cycle of my life based on the political calendar.
“It’s time to … move forward,” she said.