The White House may be quietly hoping that a federal government shutdown slams the political prospects of the Republican Party like it did during the last crisis in 1995, but something else happened at the start of that shutdown that nearly destroyed the presidency: the sordid Oval Office sex affair between Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton began.

As that shutdown began November 14th after Clinton and Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich stopped negotiating, the White House was forced to slash its staff of 430 to a skeleton crew of 90, with unpaid interns helping out too.

One such intern was Lewinsky, then a chatty 22-year-old intern. She had been on the job since July and was tasked with answering phones and running errands for former Chief of Staff Leon Panetta.

While she had met Clinton twice before, including the famous rope line scene where she wore a black beret, author Sally Bedell Smith's 2007 joint biography of Bill and Hillary Clinton, “For Love of Politics,” reports that it was one day into the shutdown, November 15, when the duo got cozy -- and more.

It was then that Lewinsky and Clinton made eye contact outside Panetta's office, where the president visited four or five times that day.

In the late afternoon, Clinton arrived to attend a birthday party for Panetta's assistant, and he smiled at Monica before leaving. He returned a bit later, wrote Smith, and that’s when the intern flirted with the president by flipping up the back of her jacket to expose the straps of her thong above the waistline of her slacks.

Clinton gave her "an appreciative look,” wrote Smith.

Later that night, at 8 p.m., while Clinton was in top aide George Stephanopoulos' office next to the Oval Office, Lewinsky passed by and whispered to the president that she had a crush on him.

Clinton bit. He invited her into his private study, a windowless hallway adjacent to the Oval Office. They kissed. She wrote down her phone number. Clinton toyed her pink White House intern pass and said, "This could be a problem."

But that didn’t stop him. At 10 p.m., Clinton found Lewinsky alone in Panetta's office, and took her to his private study, where he had turned out the lights. She partially undressed, he fondled her breasts, and while he took a call from a congressman, Lewinsky performed oral sex on him for the first time.

They eventually had sex eight more times from November 1995 to March 1997, in part leading to Clinton’s impeachment in 1998.

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at