When Monica Lewinsky wanted to write about amendments that would upgrade the US Constitution, she turned to Neal Katyal, the celebrated Supreme Court litigator. In her Vanity Fair column, she called Katyal “my pal,” leaving some readers wondering about their seemingly unlikely friendship.
Turns out that the connection dates back to 1998, when Lewinsky was the most famous intern in the world. Katyal asked her to speak to his Georgetown University constitutional law class, and she improbably said yes.
Lewinsky and Katyal talked about their history and the proposed amendments on this week’s episode of Inside the Hive. “I was teaching a class actually called Clinton during the Clinton impeachment,” Katyal explained. Lewinsky agreed to visit, provided it would be kept a secret since she was being mobbed by cameras at every turn. “I have never seen a hundred students so riveted,” Katyal said, “because she was so articulate, so human, so legally sophisticated.”
Katyal later wrote Lewinsky a letter of recommendation when she applied to the London School of Economics. She was especially thankful because, at the time, it “wasn’t kosher to like me,” she quipped.
On the podcast episode, Lewinsky mentioned a couple of additional proposals she didn’t broach in the column. One was about the presidency: She said she supports allowing a single six-year presidential term rather than two four-year terms.
Another amendment was suggested by several Vanity Fair readers who wrote to Lewinsky in support of having “a real, true right to privacy” codified into law. “That’s certainly something that I felt I didn’t have protected 25 years ago,” Lewinsky said, adding, “It should have been easier for me to be able to figure out whether or not my constitutional rights had been violated back then. And it wasn’t so easy to figure out. It wasn’t clear-cut.”
“You’re calling for these constitutional reforms,” Katyal observed, “but you’re also calling for a kind of change in our culture to bring attention to these issues…. ‘Hey, do we really want a president to be above the law and be able to pardon himself? Hey, do we really want to have a world in which state legislatures can outright, flatly ban abortion, or the national Congress can take it away from every woman in this country?’ I mean, these are really important discussions to have—not just as a legal matter, but as a cultural matter.”
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