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Everything You Wanted to Know About Monica . . . and Then Some

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  • By David Streitfeld
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, March 4, 1999; Page C01

    The president of the United States is complaining to his mistress: "You told me when this affair started that when it was over you would not give me any trouble."

    "Trouble?" replies Monica Lewinsky. "You think I have been trouble? You don't know trouble."

    All too true, President Clinton must have come to feel. In a similar vein, it's fair to say to the potential readers of "Monica's Story," piled high in bookstores as of this morning: "You think you know sleaze? You don't know sleaze."

    "Monica's Story," which was written by Andrew Morton, makes the Starr report look as cheery as "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm." Of course, this is all Lewinsky's take on things, and much of it is unverifiable. Who knows if these quotations are true? Perhaps it's coincidental that all her enemies look horrible, while she merely appears mixed up.

    That said, let's get right to the highlights:

    Move aside, Altoids. We've got another product placement. After a presidential sexual encounter, Lewinsky writes, "we were always concerned about appearances. I would always leave with a Diet Coke; it looked a little more friendly and less sexual."

    Latest addition to the list of immortal quotations about our nation's capital: "I didn't know," says Lewinsky, "it was a crime in Washington to be nice to people."

    Kinkiest moment: After Lewinsky visits Bosnia, Morton writes, Clinton calls and "they chatted away far into the night, the president enthralled, actually sexually aroused, by her excited description of the Bosnia visit."

    Commenting on her first sexual encounter with Clinton, Lewinsky sets the record straight: "People have made it seem so demeaning for me but it wasn't, it was exciting and the irony is that I had the first orgasm of the relationship."

    Thanks for sharing. She can't stop, actually. It's all here. Monica's first kiss. Monica's stay in an eating disorder clinic. Monica does it in unusual places. ("Later, they had sex in the light booth of the auditorium.") Monica encounters the real world. ("When it was her turn to do housework in the house she shared, she phoned her mother in a panic for instructions on how to clean the bathroom.") Monica discovers poetry. Monica writes poetry:

    I crouch in a corner all by myself fighting the war of emotions,
    Battling against FEAR, ENVY, DEPRESSION and REJECTION,
    I struggle.

    Clearly, this couple were meant for each other. The first time the intern meets the president, while a friend is getting a White House tour, she sucks in her stomach. The first time she sees the president without a shirt, he sucks in his stomach. "I thought it was the cutest thing," she remembers. "I said, 'Oh, you don't have to do that I like your tummy.'"

    During a conversation about teenage sex, Lewinsky tells Clinton that she was glad she had waited until age 19 because that meant she was "more comfortable with herself, and much more familiar with her body's responses." Clinton says he, too, was a late starter.

    While trying to make up for lost time, they nevertheless remain fundamentally teenagers. In other words, they didn't have an ounce of sense or responsibility. When they're indulging in their first clinch, for example, Lewinsky tells Clinton that she had done this before i.e., had an affair with a married man and knew the rules.

    That affair, with a drama teacher, had brought her such anguish that you would have thought the rule she had learned was: Don't have an affair with a married man. But no, she says, the purpose of her comment to Clinton was: "I didn't want him to be worried, I wanted him to feel comfortable with me. I wanted him to trust me."

    "Monica's Story" will be studied not only by future historians of the Clinton presidency, but by literary stylists as well. Written in less than two months, it's longer than anyone would expect (nearly 300 pages of small type) and in places ridiculously padded: "Portland, the largest city in the state of Oregon, on the northwest coast of the United States, is a jeans-and-sneakers kind of place. . . . It is not a great surprise to learn that Portland is the birthplace of the late Kurt Cobain, legendary lead singer of Nirvana, the quintessential grunge band," begins one chapter.

    Perhaps Lewinsky and Morton were being paid by the word. Or maybe by the adjective. When the couple are alone for the first time in the president's inner office: "I remember looking at him and seeing such a different person than the one I had expected to see. There was such a softness and tenderness about him, his eyes were very soul-searching, very wanting, very needing and very loving. There was, too, a sadness about him that I hadn't expected to see."

    Lewinsky reports that she once told Clinton "that he was like rays of sunshine, but sunshine that made plants grow faster and that made colors more vibrant."

    In holding nothing back, "Monica's Story" is more like the kind of sunshine that makes everything seem tawdry.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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