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Monica Lewinsky Turns Constitutional Scholar

When thinking of constitutional scholars, one might conjure up people like Lawrence Lessig or Laurence Tribe. Probably not Monica Lewinsky. Yes, she's famous, but for things other than her comprehensive knowledge of the Constitution. Nevertheless, she just wrote an op-ed arguing for six new amendments to the Constitution. We suspect that if these were put to a national popular vote, they would probably all pass. Of course, to actually amend the Constitution, they would have to pass Congress and 38 state legislatures, and that is not going to happen for partisan reasons. Nevertheless, they are worth looking at because they make so much sense. If nothing else, her op-ed could start a discussion about bringing the Constitution, which was written in the 18th century by a bunch of slave-owning rich white men, into the 21st century. To say that these men got everything right for the ages is, just maybe, a tiny bit arguable. Here are her six proposed Amendments:

  1. Pardon me, actually no: The pardon power in the Constitution is unrestricted. The founding parents very much understood the concept of Nemo iudex in causa sua (No man shall be his own judge), but the words aren't there. An amendment could explicitly ban self pardons and perhaps say that pardons of members of the president's family have to be confirmed by the Senate.

  2. Security clearances: Presidents sometimes abuse their access to confidential material. How about an amendment requiring the president, vice president, members of Congress, and Supreme Court justices to go through the process of getting a security clearance with the results being made public? If the FBI says that candidate [X] is a security risk, that is something the voters might be interested in knowing before voting for them.

  3. Suspension of the Constitution: In 1863, Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. Maybe not such a great idea. Even less good is Donald Trump's flirtation with suspending the entire Constitution. Maybe an amendment should make it explicit that no one, not even the president, can ever suspend the Constitution. It could even add that trying to do it is an impeachable offense.

  4. Retirements: Most companies require most employees to retire before 70 or even earlier. Donald Trump is 77. Joe Biden is 81. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is 90. Former senator Strom Thurmond celebrated his 100th birthday in the Senate, but probably wasn't even aware of where he was or what he was doing there. Since there are lower limits on age in the Constitution (25 for the House, 30 for the Senate, 35 for the presidency), maybe there should be upper limits as well. Sure, experience is valuable, but there are enough 50- and 60-year-olds with plenty of experience. A mandatory retirement age of 75 for all elected federal and state offices, as well as for the U.S. and state Supreme Courts, might not be a bad idea. It is not as though it would be impossible to find candidates under those conditions.

  5. The Electoral College: The Electoral College might have made some sense when most voters were yeoman farmers who didn't know anything about politics or governance. Then, picking some wise local people (the electors) to vote for president might have been justifiable. Now it is impossible to justify why a Wyoming voter has four times the clout of a California voter. If it is impossible to get the votes to abolish the Electoral College altogether, then Plan B could be to have one elector for each congressional district (and D.C.), since they all have roughly the same population. Then Wyoming would have 1 elector and California would have 52.

  6. I am a woman. Hear me Roe-r: While we're at it, how about finally passing the Equal Rights Amendment, which could be updated to include a section guaranteeing every resident of the U.S. the right to reproductive freedom?

Of course, all of this is just a pipe dream. None of these things could get through Congress, even though in a popular vote, probably all would pass. (V)

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