Monica Lewinsky Gets Masters from London School

Libby Copeland uses the occasion of Monica Lewinsky earning a master’s degree to reflect on the smart-but-dumb phenomenon.

There are moments that make you question your fundamental assumptions about the world. One of them took place a few days ago, when news emerged that Monica Lewinsky had just graduated from the London School of Economics.

She did not!!

Lewinsky, 33, is known more for her audacious coquetry than for her intellectual heft, and the notion of her earning a master of science degree in social psychology at the prestigious London university is jarring, akin to finding a rip in the time-space continuum, or discovering that Kim Jong Il is a natural blond.

Even more staggering, the same bubbly gal who once described the act of flashing her thong at the president as a “small, subtle, flirtatious gesture” has now written a lofty-sounding thesis. Its title, according to Reuters: “In Search of the Impartial Juror: An Exploration of the Third Person Effect and Pre-Trial Publicity.”

Monica! We hardly knew ye!

A revelation on this order suggests Lewinsky belongs to a fascinating subspecies, dumb-but-smart. Dumb-but-smart folks defy our low expectations. They appear dull or ditzy but possess unpredictable pockets of intelligence.

Jeralyn Merritt is proud: “You Go. Girl. More power to you. I spent years on tv night after night sticking up for you (and trashing Linda Tripp) and I’m glad it turned out so well for you.”

This is interesting on two levels. First, I’m not sure that there was any reason to think Lewinsky was dimwitted to begin with. She was educated at an expensive prep school and went on to a private liberal arts college. Even if one’s parents are wealthy, White House internships are difficult to secure. Second, I’m not sure that an MSc in a program designed “To qualify you for MPhil/PhD research in the social sciences” (i.e., essentially pre-Masters remedial work) is evidence that she’s on track for a Nobel Prize.

The jokes about Lewinsky centered on her chubbiness, her skankiness in keeping a semen stained dress around as a souvenir, her stupidity in thinking a president was going to leave his wife for that woman, and so forth — not a lack of intellect.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Break out the cigars!!

  2. Eneils Bailey says:

    I like the way that Lewinsky has handled her public image since her association with Clinton. Don’t blow any opportunities, just suck it up and move on.

  3. Bithead says:

    The one factor not accounted for in a commentary, seemingly, is the number of unexplained enigmatic smiles the males of the London School of Economics Staff.

  4. Eneils Bailey says:

    Remember, she showed up to get a Msc degree. These boys thought that was a Masters degree in Sucology. I am glad JJ clarified that point.
    The woman will always be remembered for one thing, no matter how educated and smart she becomes.

  5. Her program is only one year full-time so I’m not sure how that exactly translates in the U.S. A friend went through a masters program in foreign relations that was a similar length. He’s not working for the DIA. It does display intellectual capability.

  6. NoZe says:

    >…just suck it up…

    Poor choice of words!

  7. Boyd says:

    Don’t blow any opportunities, just suck it up and move on.

    I think it’s an excellent choice of words!

  8. Bithead says:

    The woman will always be remembered for one thing, no matter how educated and smart she becomes.

    Yes, well, the real question here is whether not she qualifies for a fellowship at the Hoover institute.

  9. Bithead says:

    And isn’t it interesting that the “Democrats Suck” ad keeps showing up pages with this discussion?

  10. Eneils Bailey says:

    I have never given much thought to what type of organization Lewinsky could serve with her degree. Based on her past experience and what she has to offer, the Hoover institute sounds like a nice fit. You know, we could use a person like her to help clean up the world.

  11. Anthony C says:

    “Her program is only one year full-time so I’m not sure how that exactly translates in the U.S.”

    British Masters degrees (except the MPhil, which tends to be a 2 year PhD halfway-house) are almost invariably 1 year long and there pretty much isn’t an equivalent of the all-singing, all-dancing two year MAs that are offered by the top US universities (the closest is probably the Oxford IR MPhil).

    Speaking as a Brit student, it seems to me pretty obvious that the US version is superior, though it takes twice as long and costs many times as much money unless one gets a scholarship (although a US Masters is undoubtedly generally superior to a British one, especially at a top univeristy, without a pretty hefty scolarship it’s highly debateable whether it’s thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars worth of superior). On the other hand, a lot of US students are quite happy to come to Britain to do Masters work and a lot of them don’t seem to suffer too much upon their return. For example, there are quite a few members of the US defence community and military acadaemia who have a 1 year MA from the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London and who have then gone on to do a US or British PhD, or simply gone home and carried on up the career ladder and it doesn’t seem to have had a negative impacy on their career relative to their home-trained counterparts.

    As for Ms Lewinsky, I’d be more impressed if she’d spent 2 years at SAIS or Georgetown, but even so not being as thick as a plank is generally considered to be a prerequisite for Masters work at LSE.

    James – I might be misconstruing what you’re saying here, but the fact that a Masters degree is seen as qualifying someone for MPhil/PhD research does not make it “pre-Masters remedial work”.

  12. James Joyner says:


    Fair enough. My point is that the MSc is not, as you acknowledge, equivalent to an American MA/MS degree. Indeed, it would be rather odd to get a masters degree to qualify to study for a master’s degree in the American context.

    That’s not to demean Lewinsky’s study. LSE is a fine school, although I know nothing about the social psychology program. I just wished to indicate that the ooh-ing and aah-ing is rather misplaced.

  13. floyd says:

    What’s the surprise? Degrees have always been much more a function of time and money than of intellectual prowess.

  14. anjin-san says:

    I guess Bit has little left but Monica jokes. Nothing funny about the war Bush started and lost at the cost of so many lives and so much national treasure…

  15. LJD says:

    Interesting how easy to demonize the young girl in the situation, the ‘giver’ if you will, but not the supposedly mature, responsible person in the position of power- who should have known better.

    If an employer sexually harasses one of his young workers, then SHE is to blame?

    Regardless of what any one has to say about the current President, I will never forget that man wagging his finger at me and the American people, and LYING, as if we were the contemptuous ones.

  16. Grace says:

    If she manages to massage her way into a gig on Court TV, I’ll cut off my cable.