Monica vs. Malala

23 October 2014
Published in Blog

By Seema Iyer, Esq.

October 23, 2014

This is not another opinion piece on Monica Lewinsky. (Well, if you want to get technical about it, it is, but read on and you will see what I mean.)  But her reemergence into the spotlight did strike me with a stark revelation.  I am surrounded, day in and day out, by whiny, ‘it’s everybody’s fault but mine’ complainers – and I just can’t take it anymore.

Sure most of my days are spent in the courthouse where perhaps you would expect criminals to play the blame game.  But a 40 year-old highly educated affluent white woman?  Lewinsky was the intern who had an affair with President Clinton almost 20 years ago.  And she has let it sculpt her into the “whoa is me, I can’t get a job, my life sucks,” pathetic-excuse-for-my-gender she has blossomed into.

When some of my clients say they were forced into criminal life because of poverty and drug-addicted or incarcerated parents, well that just plain makes sense.  But surprisingly all of my clients do not take that road.  Some drug dealers admit they enjoy the lifestyle that ridiculous amounts of money bring to a person who never even finished high school.  Studying is hard, working is hard.  Life is hard.  Why turn down daily stacks of tax-free cash?  What…..jail?  Simply an occupational hazard for many. 

My mentally incapacitated clients are the only ones who get a pass as far as I am concerned; those who literally (I hate that word but it fits) do not know what they are doing.  They don’t have the support system, access to treatment or frankly the knowledge that they are so gravely ill.  And when you are poor and you are sick it becomes easy to fall into criminal behavior.  These people are the blameless and the saddest. 

The others – the majority – refuse to take responsibility for their actions.  Maybe I shouldn’t be the one complaining now.  After all I wouldn’t have a job if they did, right?  But I grow tired of the endless excuses: “the drugs made me do it” (seven times???); “that’s not me in the video” (but you are sitting here in the exact same lime-green dress); “I am bi-polar” (ya, so is everyone else in New York City)… never ends.  And when they have to go to jail it is everyone else’s fault but theirs. 

Monica Lewinsky’s speech at a Forbes magazine event this week was more like a victim impact statement I hear ACTUAL victims make at sentencing hearings.  She distances her now self from her then 22-year-old-self as if to imply she had no understanding that she chose to enter into an affair with a married man - her boss - the leader of the free world.  I do not judge the morality of that choice, but make no mistake, that was her choice.  She was an adult, she was smart, she was educated and she certainly should have imagined the repercussions.

I dismiss her description of being “a completely private figure” outright.  If you engage in intimate acts with a public figure in places where many people have access (the Oval Office) you are by definition NOT private.  I reject her characterization of being a victim of “the shame game.”  Hey doll – you signed up to play; if you are ashamed that is on YOU.  So you had an affair with the President – so what?  Own it.  Walk away from it.  Use it. Whatever.  But don’t you dare say it prevented you from working.  Tell that to the 18.6 million people in this country who are looking for jobs.

What audacity to refer to herself as a survivor.  There was no life-threatening illness or injury, there was simply stupidity.  We don’t need Ms. Lewinsky to be the leader of the cyber bullying cause or any other when we have true leaders emerging from terrorism, fear and near death.  Who needs Monica when we have Malala?!  

For courage look to the 11 year-old who defies the Taliban.  For motivation, the 15 year-old who refused to allow getting shot in the head halt her activism.  For aspiration, the 17 year-old with a Nobel Peace Prize. All Malala Yousafzai.

Taking responsibility for your decisions can make you look foolish but it can also make you brave.  Fear is what keeps you locked behind closed doors hoping people will forget.  Open the door, let free will in, and tell fear “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”


Seema Iyer is a criminal defense & civil rights attorney with her own lawfirm in NYC.  Seema appears frequently on MSNBC, HLN, FOX and CNN as a legal analyst. Follow her on Twitter @seemaiyeresq

How Obama has weaponized wit

28 March 2013
Published in Blog

(CNN) -- Barack Obama would make a great stand-up comic, not because he's the funniest president ever but because he uses jokes the same way many of us comedians do: As a weapon.

Traditionally, the (intentionally) funny lines by our presidents have had one thing in common: They were self-deprecating. Sure, some presidents have used jokes to take jabs at their opponents, but not to the extent of Obama.

During his tenure, he has increasingly unleashed biting comedic barbs against his critics and political adversaries. These jokes are intended to do more than simply entertain you. They have an agenda.

Obama's humor is often delivered the way a comedian dealing with a heckler would do it. He tries to undermine his opponents with it and get the crowd -- in this case the public -- on his side. I can assure you that having a crowd laugh at your critic/heckler is not only effective in dominating them, it's also very satisfying.

Let's look at some of the more typical self-deprecating jokes made by presidents at past White House Correspondents' Dinners, where press and president unleash their biting wits on one another. In 1988, Ronald Reagan joked about his advanced age by commenting that his staff had claimed that "preparing me for a press conference was like reinventing the wheel. Not true. I was around when the wheel was invented, and it was easier.


President Clinton, at the 2000 Correspondents' Dinner, mentioned that he was a fan of that night's comedian, Jay Leno: "Because, together, we give hope to gray-haired, chunky baby boomers everywhere."

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