GROUNDHOG YEAR! Nine years later, that woman—Miss Lewinsky—is still the first thing on his mind: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JANUARY 2, 2007
GROUNDHOG YEAR: Right in the middle of the Post op-ed page, all is perfectly right with the world. The Parson clears his throat before each paragraph—and he types his standard column about the role of religion:
MEACHAM (1/2/07): Time and again in the American experience, however, the culture has been more in line with Lincolns—and Ford's— views on the question of religious expression and thought in the public sphere than it has been to that of strict separationists. Guarding against excessive religious influence in our public affairs is an unending task, and the virtues of justice and mercy are universal (or should be).Youre right—that doesnt quite make sense. Presumably, an editor removed some phrase like Still and all from the start of that second sentence. But by now, The Parsons columns on this topic virtually type themselves. He owns the middle in this pseudo-debate. Boldly, he takes his stand with Lincoln—but he warns against vulgar excess.
But our Groundhog Year didnt really begin until we read Richard Cohens column, directly below The Parsons. This is the year 2007, brand new and full of promise, he says—perhaps as a taunt. Yes, a brand new year is starting. But who is Cohen writing about? You guessed it! That woman, Miss Lewinsky!
COHEN (1/2/07): In the various books I've read about the Bill Clinton impeachment scandal—a scandal because of what was done and a scandal because the president was impeached for it—the same story is told over and over again. When the prosecutors or lawyers or whoever finally got to meet the storied Monica Lewinsky, they were floored by her. She was smart, personable and—as the record makes clear—dignified. This is more than can be said about some of the people who write about her.Good God! Nine years later, he still thinks first of Miss Lewinsky! In this new and promising year, she is literally the first thing on his mind!
Please dont make us waste our time discussing the premise of Cohens column. But lets not miss the scribes obsession with the raven-haired source of great pleasure. [I]n recent days, Lewinsky has been back in the news, Cohen types—but, in truth, she actually hasnt. According to Nexis, Lewinskys degree from the London School of Economics hasnt even been mentioned by the AP, and it has received the tiniest coverage from the nations major newspapers. Except at the Washington Post, of course, where the standard idiot-piece was typed for the idiotic Style section (complete with a reference to Dan Quayles spelling—and with Monicas thong in the headline). It is this piece that has poor Cohen musing on Monica once again.
No, Lewinsky hasnt been in the news; Lewinsky has been in the Washington Post. The Post cant get her out of its head. Everyone else has long done so. Its Groundhog Year at the Washington Post. But uh-oh! Empty and addled beyond repair, theyre still in charge of our discourse.
CHERCHEZ THE MAN: As Cohen expresses his high-minded views, he still cant quite manage to get it:
COHEN: It would be nice, too, and fair, also, if Lewinsky were treated by the media as it would treat a man. What's astounding is the level of sexism applied to her, as if the wave of the women's movement broke over a new generation of journalists and not a drop fell on any of them. Where, pray tell, is the man who is remembered just for sex? Where is the guy who is the constant joke for something he did in his sexually wanton youth? Maybe here and there some preacher, but in those cases the real subject matter is not sex but hypocrisy. Other than those, no names come to mind.What man is remembered just for sex? One name comes to mind: Bill Clinton! And well add another name—Al Gore. A few months ago, we had occasion to re-research the official start of Gores White House campaign, in June 1999. We were amazed to see how deeply the press corps was focused on Lewinsky that weekend (were talking about major front-page coverage)—and we were struck to see how clear it was that the battering being handed to Gore was really all about Miss Lewinsky. (Roger Simon said so to Howard Kurtz, and its clear from the larger context. For a tiny part of this story, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/29/06. In real time, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/23/99.) Earth tones? Invented the Internet? Hired a woman to teach him how to be a man? These were all subtext for Miss Lewinsky. Trust us—Gore is remembered for Lewinsky just as much as Bill Clinton is. Simply put, Cohens crew was obsessed by those bl*w j*bs—but Clinton hadnt paid a sufficient price. So they began inventing weird tales about Gore—with Cohen reciting each one.
The U. S. Army is in Iraq because they couldnt get over those bl*w j*bs. And nine years later, its Groundhog Year! Its still the first thing on their minds!
FOREVER IN BLUE JEANS: Has that woman been in the news? Not really. At the Los Angeles Times, for example, Lewinskys degree from the LSE rated exactly 66 words. But God bless the children who run our discourse! Even in their 66 words, they worked in a treasured fake fact:
LOS ANGELES TIMES (12/21/06):Actually, Lewinsky was 22 and a half when she became involved with Clinton. But God bless them! They luvved that 21-year-old intern, the star of their bodice-ripping novel. And they insist on their fake facts today! That woman is forever 21.
Need more? The UPI posted a short item on Lewinskys degree. And they too retyped the novel:
UNITED PRESS (12/21/06): Monica Lewinsky has earned a master's of science degree from the London School of Economics, People magazine reported Thursday.Uh-oh! Lewinsky, 32, was no longer an intern during her White House affair. But so what! The press corps penned a thrilling novel about their darling, a 21-year-old intern. Even now, almost nine years later, they insist on their fake-but-fun facts.
By the way, the affair began in November 1995, during President Clintons first term. (His second term began fourteen months later.) The UPI and the LA Times devoted 183 words to this story. But God bless them! They crammed in a startling array of fake facts—fake facts from their long-treasured novel.
RULE BY THE WRONG: No, Lewinsky hasnt been in the news; Lewinsky has been in the Washington Post. For example, her degree wasnt mentioned in the New York Times. Except, of course, by Maureen Dowd, who asked Donald Trump to expound on the subject. Nine years later, the simpering columnist cant get a young wench off her mind.
For the record, this is closely related to rule by the wrong, the puzzling folkway of our millionaire press corps. By now, everyone on earth has moved on—except for the Pulitzer winners!
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Jay Leno knew Monicas age; Mark Shields didnt. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/4/99, with links to previous work.