Understanding the young woman who has called the president her 'sexual soulmate' requires looking at her personality from many angles.


September 30, 1998|By Sarah Pekkanen | Sarah Pekkanen,SUN STAFF

When Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton were together, she saw in him two starkly different people. The one she knew best was his "Saturday night personality" -- the teasing, racy man who concocted cover stories to sneak his young mistress into the White House. But she also witnessed what she called the president's "Sunday personality" -- the religious, remorseful man who fought to quash his adulterous impulses.

Clinton, too, had long recognized his competing sides, she told Ken Starr's lawyers. In the third or fourth grade, the president told her, he began to split into two people. There was the good son who tried to please his mother, and there was the boy who lied.

Lewinsky didn't seem troubled by the paradox. An explanation may lie in documents released by Congress last week: In her own personal letters and grand jury testimony, Lewinsky paints a self-portrait full of contradiction.

There is Sleazy Monica, who flashed the president her underwear. Jealous Monica, who got huffy when she saw a photograph of the president and his wife acting romantic. And Manipulative Monica, who demanded help with a job search in exchange for her silence.

But other personalities have been less visible until now: Sweet Monica, who became protective of a White House steward she felt was mistreated by others. Yearning Monica, who sensed Clinton was pushing her away and wrote a friend that she "want [s] to hug him so bad right now I could cry." And Childish Monica, who scrawled hearts on cards to friends and was squeamish when testifying about the steamier details of the affair.

The picture grows muddier as those who know her weigh in:

To the president, she would become "that woman." To his staff, she was "the stalker." To her friend, she was a "lovebug." To her ex-lawyer, she was a "little girl."

So who is Monica Samille Lewinsky?

As we await the release of more evidence, here are the clues so far.

About Linda Tripp

There is something Monica wanted the grand jurors to know; something that was important to her.

She didn't keep the blue Gap dress as a souvenir.

She was going to get it cleaned and wear it on Thanksgiving, in front of her skinny cousins, the ones Monica always tried to look skinny around. But Linda Tripp told her she looked fat in the dress, and lent Monica one of her jackets instead.

Linda Tripp -- now that's someone Monica can barely stand to talk about.

They were close, once. Just read their e-mail to each other: "Boy, I look scary today," Monica typed on March 5 of last year. "People might think it was Halloween. Oh, well, [Clinton] should ... get my tie today. I sure hope he likes it. Make me feel better and tell me it's really pretty, o.k.?"

Tripp's response: "I am knot (ha!) particularly into ties but ... yours was stupendous ... a total hit."

Monica worried about the tie, worried about her weight and worried most of all about her relationship with the president. When he suggested she bring him pizza as a cover for an illicit meeting, her first instinct was to make sure she got the kind he liked. Vegetable or meat? she asked.

And yet, for all of her insecurity, she acted in a breathtakingly bodacious fashion: The thong flash; the grab at the president's crotch as he worked a crowd; the nine courier packages she sent him during a two-month period after he had broken off the affair.

She wanted to get Clinton's attention, but she also got his staff's.

They called her "the stalker." They said she wore provocative clothes. And when Monica moved from her intern job into a

paying one in the Office of Legislative Affairs, one of Clinton's top aides asked derisively, "They hired you?"

This fed her insecurity, but hardly slowed her pursuit. She scoured Clinton's schedule and showed up hours early at public appearances to nab a spot near the front, where he could see her. Once, after he mentioned he was out of zinc lozenges, she bought a new supply and stood in the rain for half an hour, waiting for his secretary. And on a Sunday afternoon in 1996, she paced 16th Street, hoping Clinton had gone to church that day and would drive by her on his way home.

When questions arose about their relationship and Clinton went on television to deny an affair with "that woman," Monica was glad: "That was the best thing to do," she told the jurors. After all, they both wanted to keep the affair hidden.

And yet, she felt conflicted about this, too. A part of her longed for him to stand up for her.

"... By saying something nice, he would have taken back every disgusting, horrible thing that anyone has said about me from the White House," she said. "And that was what I wanted."

Different images

By now, Monica's introductory gesture to the president is infamous: She lifted her jacket and showed him her underwear.

It's hard to reconcile that image with this one: A juror asks Monica to detail one of the White House trysts.

Monica: "Uh ---"

Juror: "I understand ---"

Monica: "Oh, my gosh. This is so embarrassing."

Juror: "You could close your eyes and talk."

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