This former White House intern found Ryan Murphy’s take on Clinton’s impeachment at home
With friends like Linda Tripp, who needs …
You can surely fill in the rest.
For those of us on the Ryan Murphy train over the past two months – with his 10-part limited series “Impeachment: American Crime Story” doing for the Monica Lewinsky / Bill Clinton saga what he did before with the Storm OJ Simpson and the Gianni Versace’s bloodbath is something we know all too well. The series completes the story largely through the prism of two women caught in its cobwebs: the rowdy Tripp, who sparked the scandal, and the lover Lewinsky, the unsuspecting friend. (Notably, Lewinsky is one of the show’s producers.)
Betrayals, machinations, legal somersaults – you get it all in the show (reaching its penultimate episode next week). At the same time, it also offers a delight tapas platter of characters who still cut through the body politic and, surprisingly, had their own origins during those Clinton years: a young lawyer named Brett Kavanaugh, for example, or characters from the Trump era like Kellyanne and George Conway, or cultural figures like Ann Coulter.
With the show being one of the only things I’ve been bothering to discuss lately, I thought to myself: why not call my friend, Kate Casey? A White House intern around the same time as Lewinsky, Casey – now a supreme podcast living in Orange County – was watching, I know, “Impeachment” as avidly as I did. And I just knew she would have opinions.
“Sarah Paulson kind of turned into Linda Tripp, it’s almost weird,” she began to tell me, reinforcing what I said to anyone who wants to listen: that Paulson has gone so completely in Tripp, you don’t see Paulson.
“She even nailed her step, the way she hunched her shoulders… the way she hid behind her thick bangs,” Casey continued. “I think the filmmakers did a great job telling Linda’s story, which is often overlooked. He’s a fascinating character. In the end, she believed deep in her soul that she was saving America, which is obviously bonkers. She considered herself a heroine. I think she was the victim of her own quest for justice … based on this unreasonable hatred for the Clintons.
Some of the other performers of this Shakespearean drama are not as successful. “Although I think Clive Owen is a good actor, I don’t think he captures the charm of President Clinton. But can we talk about the great Mira Sorvino as Marcia Lewis (Monica’s mother)? She is fascinating, and the set designers deserve an Emmy for the reconstruction of the Oval Office and Marcia’s apartment at Watergate.
For Casey, watching the show was like stepping into a rabbit hole in her personal history, in some ways: in the summer of 1997, she interned at the White House press secretary’s office, her work involving arriving at dawn to cut newspapers from across the country, using scissors (ah, the pre-digital age!), which she then hand-delivered to various offices, including the Oval.
Not only that, but a different setting in the series – the place where Tripp was hooked up by FBI agents working with Senior Prosecutor Ken Starr – was in the same Pentagon City complex where Casey worked a few hours each week in a candy store On the top floor. What’s more, another job Casey had two years later was at Tony & Joe’s, around the corner from the Watergate apartment complex (where Lewinsky lived).
“Imagine my surprise when the Monica Lewinsky story began to unfold in the press in January 1998. As I walked the halls delivering newspaper snippets, Linda Tripp was secretly recording conversations with Monica. I walked around these offices as they all privately prepared for impact.
When asked if there are ways this series reflects her own curvy outlook on the scandal, Casey – whose “Reality Life with Kate Casey” podcast is a staple, twice a week, for intelligent conversation. on everything reality TV and documentary – now says, “I remember getting frustrated with it all because I felt like the country was going in such a good direction. There was optimism. It just seemed gloomy to me, especially to me, who until then had thought that politics was still a noble profession.
“Back then, I couldn’t fully understand the intricacies or power dynamics involved. I’m still trying to unbox it! This story consumed the news. Wall to wall coverage. Now you can see the veiled misogyny in the way the press covered the scandal. Monica was ashamed of a bitch. Hillary was called a foolish wife for staying with her husband. Linda Tripp was found to be fundamentally insane. What about the guy? Looking back, I think what I was most naive about was how powerful people cover each other up. ”
“One thing I’ve always enjoyed,” she continued, “is that Monica Lewinsky (played by Beanie Feldstein on the show) called it a mutual relationship. She always took her share of the blame. . Then I think about the humiliation. She was basically Hester Prynne. How long must someone be publicly humiliated? Can’t we let people get past their mistakes and give them grace? She graduated from London School of Economics She has lit the world by creating a safer, more compassionate social media environment. Maybe give her a little slack?
OK, so how hard is it to land an internship at the White House? “It’s very competitive,” said Casey. “You have an advantage if you apply during the school year and go to school in Washington, which I did. I went to Trinity College. I had also been interned for Al Gore before, so I’m sure that helped my chances. (Because it’s unpaid, it’s an internship that often attracts rich kids, but Casey always had multiple jobs back then.)
Noting that the show seems to capture Washington’s claustrophobic and super talkative nature well, she agreed, “Yeah, I think Washington DC is like Hollywood, but with less attractive people. In Hollywood, the person who worked in the mail room becomes a major agent. In Washington DC, a legislative assistant becomes chief of staff.
Finally, a question that haunts me: what about Linda Tripp and Christmas? (In the series, we see her having one of her extravagant Christmas parties, complete with a life-size gingerbread town!)
“Do you know she opened a Christmas store years after the scandal?” Casey reminded him. “I wondered if there was a story about her childhood – and how Christmas was the only time she was happy?” Am I reading too much in there? She was like a real housewife from Columbia, Maryland!