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Susan Estrich: Monica Lewinsky Returns, But It’s Really Time for Her to Go

Does Monica Lewinsky really think she was a victim of cyber bullying?

Apparently so, according to her “coming out” piece in Vanity Fair, which is getting a lot of attention, ostensibly because of its potential impact on Hillary 2016.

Nice excuse. But, really, does anyone honestly think Lewinsky’s story will have any impact on who the next president will be? Hard to believe. Cyber bullying — as a justification for the piece and as a definition of a contemporary role for Lewinsky — makes almost as little sense as the angle offered by political reporters, who are just trying to come up with some reason to keep feeding us the Clinton stories we seem so hungry to consume.

Was Chelsea’s pregnancy really noteworthy because of the potential impact of the timing on her mother’s race for the presidency? Please. As if having a pregnant daughter would somehow mean Hillary couldn’t or shouldn’t run.

So, too, for Lewinsky. Young people, happily, barely know who she is. Older women, some of whom in the days leading up to Hillary’s 2000 run for Senate did hold it against her that she had not left her husband, ultimately came to her side, particularly after her Senate opponent put her down in a fashion that smacked of sexism. And then the issue basically disappeared.

There always will be “Clinton haters” out there, but there are far fewer than in the past. And a relationship that happened 20 years ago between a woman who will be in her 40s in 2016 and a former president who will be turning 70 that year is pretty hard to get worked up about, particularly when the candidate is not the former president, Bill Clinton, but his wife.

As for the Republicans, don’t forget that they came out of the impeachment mess looking worse than the president, not to mention the first lady, having so massively overreacted and under the leadership of Republicans who had their own issues with extramarital affairs with staffers and lobbyists. This is hardly a chapter they should relish reliving.

I feel sorry for Lewinsky, but not for the reasons she offers. She was not “cyberbullied” by the Drudge Report. There are plenty of people who wronged her: Bill Clinton, who, as he acknowledged, had no business having a consensual relationship with a White House intern; her best friend, Linda Tripp, who secretly taped their conversations and used them to advance political goals; the various investigators who lost all perspective on the proper scope of their mandate; Republicans on Capitol Hill and their allies on talk radio and television who just couldn’t stop themselves from overreacting.

As for her claim that she is troubled because Hillary is supposedly blaming the women (herself and Monica) and not her husband, believe me, I was there: She blamed him, too. Big time.

But Lewinsky is right about one thing: It’s time for her to move on, to have a life. On its face, it must seem horribly unfair that Bill Clinton is held in such high regard, while she has struggled. But this isn’t just sexism. It’s a reflection of the reality that their inappropriate relationship was, for him, a black mark in a lifetime marked by accomplishment, including after leaving the White House — while for her, there have been no great second or third acts. Maybe there won’t be; she has tried various projects, none of them successful. But the only way to move past a chapter is to move past it. I wish her luck. I hope this is the last article she writes about what happened in the 1990s, and not the first of many. You can’t move forward by dwelling on the past.

In the meantime, the Clintons continue to “sell.” If you look at Hillary’s schedule, it looks like nothing so much as a candidate’s schedule. President Barack Obama and wife Michelle are on their way into the history books. The Clintons, God bless them, have more staying power than any modern political figures. For her sake, not theirs, I hope Lewinsky unhitches her star from that wagon and finds a life of meaning of her own.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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