In a fictional diary, President Bill Clinton recounts and ruminates about his notorious affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Petrovsky (If Only for Love, 2013, etc.) plumbs President Clinton’s innermost thoughts during the Lewinsky affair and the scandal, impeachment, and Senate trial that followed. After spotting Lewinsky in 1995, Clinton attends a staffer’s birthday party as a pretext to see the young intern again. “Besides, there’d certainly be some cake,” Clinton adds. Lewinsky hikes up her dress and flashes her thong at him. Pursuing her, he’s bothered by his “historical levels of hypocrisy” and thinks of himself as “nothing but a dirty old man trying to get his dick wet while the world burned.” Nevertheless, with the aid of his secretary, Clinton takes Lewinsky into the Oval Office, where they engage in oral sex—although Clinton rationalizes that it isn’t really sex. Smoothing things over with his suspicious, cold, and calculating wife, Hillary, whom he partly blames for his numerous trysts with other women, the president fantasizes about Lewinsky during government meetings and masturbates while on the phone with her. When the Washington Post exposes the affair, Clinton lies to Hillary and convinces her that the report is false. Things fall apart during the Kenneth W. Starr investigation, however, and Clinton undergoes a humiliating blood test that proves he had sex with Lewinsky, thanks to her famous blue dress with his semen stains. After undergoing marriage counseling and surviving impeachment, Clinton concludes that the episode will eventually be forgotten, and Hillary decides to run for public office. Petrovsky delivers an evenhanded account of the sensational and controversial affair that mesmerized the nation for months but is now practically ignored. The book contains dashes of humor mixed with pathos, gives a very human portrait of Clinton, and explores the all-too-human insecurities and demons that may have driven him to his aberrant behavior in office. Further, it suggests how Clinton (along with the rest of the populace) may delude himself as well as others through lies that rationalize even the most outrageous behavior. It’s a timely revisiting of a tacky and tawdry moment in U.S. presidential history that would be tragic if it weren’t so banal and farcical.
Well-written and nuanced, this work illuminates the Lewinsky scandal and provides valuable insights into the Clintons’ personalities as they attempt to retake the White House.