"Unbeknownst to me, I was on the abyss of the rabbit hole," says Monica Lewinsky of her first meeting with the then President Bill Clinton in November 1995. Interviewed for A & E's new docuseries The Clinton AffairLewinsky is frank, if not particularly nostalgic, about the terrible affair between her and Clinton that would define his presidency and, at the risk of sounding dramatic, the rest of her life.
The six-part series, which will premiere on November 18, is another investigation into the presidency of Clinton and the various scandals – in particular the controversy over the White Water and the Paula Jones case, which ultimately reveals the Lewinsky affair. would bring – which drew his attention time in the White House. What is it about The Clinton Affairhowever, it contains interviews with Lewinsky herself – and enables her to redefine the narrative years later, amidst MeToo-inspired indignation about poisonous men.
Not that Clinton was initially toxic in the eyes of Lewinsky. She admits in the series that shortly after her start as trainee at the White House, she crushes & # 39; crush & # 39; has developed on the charming, saxophone player. Her attempts to draw Clinton's attention to Clinton have just left the university and are working her first job. They are barely innocent at the start of official White House events, where Clinton would regularly deal with trainees and staff. After Clinton was finally met at such an event, Lewinsky ran home the next day at lunch to switch to the same green suit she had worn the day before when Clinton had noticed her. "I thought," Maybe he'll notice me again, "she explains." And notice me, he did it. "
"There were always stories of secrecy in this relationship. We were both cautious, but not careful enough."
For the coming months, as Lewinsky puts it, their flirt escalated, although there was never more than flirtatious jest or light fame, at least until the government was closed in November 1995. Most full-time staff members were sent home, who left a skeleton crew and the White House interns to pick up the slack. Clinton would often wander around in the West Wing, where Lewinsky worked. "He came by the office, looked in and saw me sitting there and smiled," she says. "And I smiled back." From there the flirt reached new heights.
At a birthday party for a staff member later that day, Lewinsky did not consciously adjust her pants (to let her underwear peek through) and went to wash her hands. "When I passed George Stephanopoulos' office, I looked a bit in the open door," she explains in the second episode of the show. & # 39; And Bill just happened to be there. And he beckoned me – I do not think my heart ever beat that fast. Unbeknownst to me, I was on the abyss of the rabbit hole. "
The rest of the details about the affair of Lewinsky and Clinton are, on this point, general knowledge. It took almost two years on and off, until the ghost of Ken Starr and his research brought it to an end. "I was completely over his mercy," says Lewinsky about the dynamics of their relationship. She could never contact him directly and instead would spend the weekends at her desk idle, waiting for the moment he would call. And of course there was the clandestine aspect of the relationship that further complicated things. "There were always stories about secrecy in this relationship," explains Lewinsky. "We were both cautious, but not careful enough."
Lewinsky was wrongly demonized by the press at the time the accusations broke; she showed off her weight and appearance, but was alternatively portrayed as a malicious homewrecker or an empty-headed bimbo, and above all a threat to democracy. But The Clinton Affair shows that Lewinsky was perfectly aware of her actions and, like so many of us, was only blinded by the charm and magnetism of someone who manages to attract admirers, and who in this case has just become the president of the United States. States.
"It is not as if it did not register with me that he was the president," says Lewinsky in the first episode of The Clinton Affair. "Of course it did, but I think in a way, the moment when we were actually in the back office for the first time – the truth is that I think it meant more to me that someone who wanted other people wanted me. How wrong it was … for who I was at that moment, at the age of 22, that's how it felt. "
It is a relatively sentimental feeling, to be sure – the feeling you desire is intoxicating and exciting, and everyone who says something else is absolutely lying. And there were tender moments in the relationship, emphasizes Lewinsky, and it was not purely sexual. She and Clinton would often talk about their days, with Lewinsky offering her input to global affairs. "It just felt like connecting," she said about the good times. Clinton often gave her gifts, including a hat pin and a copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of grass, and occasionally sang the Otis Redding hit "Try A Little Tenderness" to Lewinsky in moments of frivolity during their secret appointment.
The relationship complicated Clinton's marriage and, of course, the fact that Lewinsky was a young trainee, and her lover the leader of the free world at the time. Eventually, their affair would come to light, exposing the presidency and Clinton's reputation and acting as the ammunition that bloodthirsty republicans needed to accuse him.
For Lewinsky, however, the after-effects of her relationship with Clinton have permanently changed the course of her life. Her promising career in Washington was broken down and the cruel attention of the media eventually forced her to flee to Europe. She now works as an advocate against bullying.
More than twenty years after Lewinsky and Clinton's first sexual encounter, it is easy to write off the relationship if a schoolgirl's love has gone wrong, or, as Lewinsky suggested with her use of the #MeToo hashtag in October last year after the allegations from Weinstein, a textbook predatory relationship. Indeed, Lewinsky's powerful essay for it Vanity Fair earlier this year she sees her reconsider the relationship in the light of #MeToo; previously she wrote that the affair was "consensual" and "any form of abuse" came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat to protect its powerful position. "Lewinsky now writes in her most recent essay:" I now see how problematic it was that we even came to a place where there was a matter of consent. Instead, the path that led to it was riddled with inappropriate abuse of authority, station and privilege. & # 39;
It is easy to wonder how Monica Lewinsky would be received today; Most likely she would be taken more seriously and there is a fair chance that her career and life would have been considerably restored. Lewinsky deserves an opportunity to redefine the relationship on its terms – and with The Clinton Affairshe finally has her chance.