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Monica Lewinsky speaks out

A magazine article puts "that woman" back in the news.

The Monica Lewinsky spread in Vanity Fair magazine.
The Monica Lewinsky spread in Vanity Fair magazine.Read more

THIS OUGHT TO blow your mind: "Monica Lewinsky" trended on Twitter yesterday.

Like a mash-up of Pearl Jam and Kendrick Lamar, the 1990s collided full-force with 2014, with word that "that woman" at the center of the sex scandal that nearly brought down Bill Clinton's presidency is speaking out for the first time in 10 years.

In the latest irony in a story fraught with them since the day Clinton sought to redefine "sexual relations" (not to mention the word "is"), Lewinsky reminded everyone of the story in a cover essay in Vanity Fair that urges everyone to forget about the story.

"It's time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress," wrote Lewinsky, who turned 40 last summer.

As always with the affair that led to Clinton's 1998 impeachment, there are still more questions than answers. In the prosaic sense, will Lewinsky's (presumably) brief return to the headlines have any impact on Hillary Clinton and her likely 2016 White House bid?

More cosmically: Why now, and why do we - well, a lot of you, apparently - still care after all these years? Let's break it down:

Q: Why now?

A: Lewinsky - in short excerpts released yesterday by Vanity Fair - said she now believes that she can help others who've been shamed by an overdose of Internet publicity. In particular, she said the 2010 death of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi - who committed suicide after his roommate put on the Web a video of him kissing a male friend - brought back painful memories for her, and for her mother.

"She was reliving 1998, when she wouldn't let me out of her sight. She was replaying those weeks when she stayed by my bed, night after night, because I, too, was suicidal," Lewinsky wrote.

Q: Is that really the reason?

A: Well, Lewinsky also denies a rumor that she had shopped the inside story of her Oval Office affair for $12 million, writing in the magazine that she actually turned down "offers that would have earned me more than $10 million, because they didn't feel like the right thing to do."

Interestingly, just two months ago it was reported that Hillary Clinton told a close friend at the time of the scandal that she thought Lewinsky was "a narcissistic looney toon" - but that wasn't addressed in the excerpts released yesterday.

Q: What has Lewinsky been up to, anyway?

A: Keeping an amazingly low profile, considering. The former White House intern moved to England in the mid-2000s and earned a master's degree in social psychology from the London School of Economics in 2006, but little is known about her professional or personal life since.

Q: Will this affect a Hillary Clinton presidential bid?

A: "No, no, no, no," said Larry Sabato, University of Virginia history professor and author of The Kennedy Half-Century. Jokingly recalling that Richard Nixon once declared that "one year of Watergate is enough," Sabato said that nearly 20 years of Monica is plenty. "It's over. We got it. We all know what there is to know."

Sabato also played down the risk of Clinton fatigue - the weariness of old stories like Lewinsky that never go away that had arguably hurt Hillary in 2008 when many Democrats wanted a new face in President Obama. Remember: A 30-year-old voter in the 2016 race was only 12 when Clinton was impeached.

Q: So who cares what Lewinsky says 16 years later?

A: Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture at Syracuse University, said the stories of sex taking place under the presidential desk, and all the spin-offs and catchphrases like "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," the beret and the infamous cigar are still irresistible.

"Why wouldn't people be interested? This is a great story, this is a world leader behaving this way," he said, adding that his current college students who were just in grade school when the scandal broke are now fascinated to watch newscasts in his History of Television course. "Most of them are astounded that this happened," he said.

Q: Does Lewinsky have anything to say to Beyonce?

A: Why, yes. Yes, she does! In the Vanity Fair piece, she responds to the singer's racy 2013 song "Partition," which referenced the testimony about her sexual acts with the leader of the Free World:

"Thanks, Beyonce. But if we're verbing, I think you meant, 'Bill Clinton'd all on my gown,' not 'Monica Lewinsky'd.' "