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Regrets and insights: 6 major takeaways from Monica Lewinsky's Vanity Fair essay

By Emma Lacey-Bordeaux and Ed Payne, CNN
May 8, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Monica Lewinsky has many regrets
  • She's bracing for Hillary Clinton 2016
  • She had thoughts of suicide
  • Her "history" has cost her jobs

(CNN) -- Even before hitting newsstands, Monica Lewinsky's essay in Vanity Fair provoked its share of reactions across social media, from shrugs to bemusement to outright hostility. The reactions are easy to understand when you're talking about a former White House intern whose affair with Bill Clinton threatened to bring down his presidency.

Now that her essay is out, it reveals a woman still haunted by the events of nearly two decades ago. It also offers insights into someone who has moved on.

Here are the six major takeaways:

Monica Lewinsky embraces U.S. President Bill Clinton at a Democratic fundraiser in Washington in October 1996. Lewinsky, the White House intern who had a sexual relationship with Clinton during his time in office, has finally broken her silence on the affair in a Vanity Fair article. Monica Lewinsky embraces U.S. President Bill Clinton at a Democratic fundraiser in Washington in October 1996. Lewinsky, the White House intern who had a sexual relationship with Clinton during his time in office, has finally broken her silence on the affair in a Vanity Fair article.
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
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Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
President Bill Clinton speaks about the Monica Lewinsky scandal at the White House on January 26, 1998, as First Lady Hillary Clinton looks on. Fifteen years ago, on January 7, 1999, the U.S. Senate began its trial of Clinton, who was accused of lying under oath, obstructing justice and abusing his presidential power in an effort to conceal a sexual relationship with Lewinsky. He was acquitted a month later. The following images are from around that time period 15 years ago. President Bill Clinton speaks about the Monica Lewinsky scandal at the White House on January 26, 1998, as First Lady Hillary Clinton looks on. Fifteen years ago, on January 7, 1999, the U.S. Senate began its trial of Clinton, who was accused of lying under oath, obstructing justice and abusing his presidential power in an effort to conceal a sexual relationship with Lewinsky. He was acquitted a month later. The following images are from around that time period 15 years ago.
The impeachment of Bill Clinton
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The impeachment of Bill Clinton The impeachment of Bill Clinton
Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska used an ethnic slur when referring to immigrant workers, telling a Ketchikan Public Radio station: "My father had a ranch. We used to have 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. ... It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It's all done by machine." The slur "wetback" is a reference to those who illegally enter the United States by crossing the Rio Grande on the Mexican border.
The 21-term Republican, who is currently facing an ethics probe related to campaign finances, isn't the first politician to stick his foot in his mouth. Here are a few others: Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska used an ethnic slur when referring to immigrant workers, telling a Ketchikan Public Radio station: "My father had a ranch. We used to have 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. ... It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It's all done by machine." The slur "wetback" is a reference to those who illegally enter the United States by crossing the Rio Grande on the Mexican border. The 21-term Republican, who is currently facing an ethics probe related to campaign finances, isn't the first politician to stick his foot in his mouth. Here are a few others:
Rep. Don Young
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Politicians with their foot in their mouth Politicians with their foot in their mouth

1. She regrets the affair.

Lewinsky devotes considerable ink to her various forays into the job market. We all know about the handbags she peddled in the late 1990s and her stint as a Jenny Craig spokeswoman.

In her essay, she spells out awkward conversations in offices from Portland, Oregon, to London, hearing rejection upon rejection due to "what my potential employers so tactfully referred to as my 'history.'"

Lewinsky recalls an interview in 2008, in which fear of entanglements with the Clintons torpedoed her chances.

"There is a 25 percent chance that Mrs. Clinton will be the next president," she recounts being told. "We would first need a Letter of Indemnification from the Clintons."

"I gave a fake smile," she writes, a skill she apparently cultivated over 16 years of infamy, "and said 'I understand.'"

Lewinsky clearly holds her notoriety responsible for these difficulties -- from finding meaningful work to emotional and romantic struggles.

"I look back now, shake my head in disbelief, and wonder: what was I -- what were we -- thinking? I would give anything to go back and rewind the tape."

2. She's dreading a Hillary 2016 run.

"Despite what some headlines will falsely report about this piece, this is not about Me versus the Clintons," Lewinsky writes.

Then why speak out now? Because this ain't her first rodeo.

"In 2008, when Hillary was running for president, I remained virtually reclusive," she writes.

"When I hear of Hillary's prospective candidacy, I cannot help but fear the next wave of paparazzi, the next wave of 'Where is she now?' stories, the next reference to me in Fox News' coverage of the primaries," Lewinsky says in her essay.

Richard Nixon, who resigned as president after the Watergate scandal, famously said during a 1973 press conference: "In all of my years in public life, I have never obstructed justice. ... People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook." Richard Nixon, who resigned as president after the Watergate scandal, famously said during a 1973 press conference: "In all of my years in public life, I have never obstructed justice. ... People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook."
Richard Nixon: 'I'm not a crook'
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Lewinsky's revealing Vanity Fair article
'She's the one who has been slut-shamed'

But despite her doubts, she decided to go on the record because she didn't want to wait "another 8 to 10 years" and because "I turned 40 last year" and because "I'm determined to have a different ending to my story."

3. At times, she had "suicidal temptations."

Another motivation for Lewinsky to write the piece: A young man named Tyler Clementi.

The 18-year-old's suicide in 2008 brought back memories for Lewinsky and her mother of some of the darkest times following the scandal, she writes.

The Rutgers freshman took his own life after his roommate streamed a video, surreptitiously recorded, of him kissing another man.

Clementi's death struck a chord with Lewinsky's mother

"It was an unbearably tragic event," Lewinsky writes, but "I couldn't quite grasp why my mom was so distraught."

After the news of the affair broke, her mom "stayed by my bed, night after night, because I, too, was suicidal. The shame, the scorn and the fear that had been thrown at her daughter left her afraid that I would take my own life -- a fear that I would literally be humiliated to death."

Lewinsky adds that she never attempted suicide but that she had "strong suicidal temptations several times during the investigation and one or two periods after."

4. She was a "foolish" 24-year-old.

Throughout the essay, Lewinsky acknowledges her own complicity in her misery, but also steps back to mull over the spectacle of the affair, which she says was consensual.

"At the time -- at least from my point of view -- it was an authentic connection, with emotional intimacy, frequent visits, plans made, phone calls and gifts exchanged," she writes. "In my early 20s, I was too young to understand the real life consequences."

Looking back, Lewinsky muses on how difficult it was for her to move on. "Unlike the other parties involved, I was so young that I had no established identity to which I could return."

"If you haven't figured out how you are, it's hard not to accept the horrible image of you created by others," she observes. And also one of frustration "I remained 'stuck' for far too many years."

5. She dates.

"Yes. I date!"

6. She's penned a compelling essay.

Many may only read the headlines but that's a mistake. The whole piece is worth consideration.

Lewinsky's story is, for better or for worse, part of America's political history.

Opinion: Stop judging Monica Lewinsky

Clintons' relationship with media still testy after all these years

In political extramarital affairs, the mistress rarely emerges unscathed

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