Hillary's Thesis

The Queen?
Originally uploaded by macsmind.

Back in 1999, the late great Barbara Olsen who perished on flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon on 9-11, published a portion of Hillary Rodham Clinton's college thesis. Because of Hillary's imminent run for the White House I'd thought I repost it here.

Hil's College Thesis
Reveals Her Mind


"He who fears corruption fears life."
— Saul Alinsky, "Rules for Radicals"

This quote immediately came to mind after my reading of Hillary Rodham's Wellesley College senior thesis — a document kept under lock and key since the 1992 elections.

Back then, when researchers and journalists were searching for information on the newly elected First Couple, Wellesley suddenly declared that it would seal the thesis of any graduate who became President or First Lady.

A few weeks ago, however, I came into possession of Hillary's suppressed thesis. In those 75 pages, the future First Lady reveals herself as someone steeped in the political lore and history of one of America's most political cities. No, not New York — Chicago. There she began her political journey from Goldwater girl to leftist icon.

The thesis' title, "There is Only the Fight ... An Analysis of the Alinsky Model," exposes Clinton's strong ideological attachment to her most influential mentor, Saul Alinsky.

Reading this work makes it clear why she had to remove it from public view, for Alinsky, who died in 1972, was a radical social activist who preached grass-roots organizing and intense, confrontational politics.

While Clinton was studying under Alinsky, he was preparing what would be his final and most important book: "Rules for Radicals," published less than two years after Hillary graduated from Wellesley and only one year before his death.

Alinsky's hold on Hillary is astonishingly evident in her thesis, which is replete with his yet-unpublished political tactics. The thesis reveals that he was moving from local organizing efforts to a new arena — the national stage.

She wrote: "His [Alinsky's] new aspect, national planning, derives from the necessity of entrusting social change to institutions, specifically the United States government."

Alinsky, we can now see, taught Hillary the political tactics that she successfully deployed in Arkansas and the White House and is now beginning to use in New York.

What were his lessons?

Alinsky defined "obtaining power" as a key tactic of organizing his "mass jujitsu." His formula for attack: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it."

This principle has become the essence of the Clinton rapid-response tactic and a key aspect of Hillary's attacks on what she has dubbed "a vast right-wing conspiracy."

The Clinton White House has adhered to Alinsky's rule that "ridicule is man's most potent weapon" and followed his advice to "let nothing get you off your target."

Hillary discusses another Alinsky rule — "power is the very essence, the dynamo of life" — in her thesis. Clearly, she had absorbed his lesson that one must first obtain power to achieve real change.

But nowhere in her thesis — or in her later life — does she seem to recognize the classical liberal critique that the relentless pursuit of power is antithetical to democracy.

Perhaps the most prescient part of the thesis is a quote from a profile of Alinsky in The Economist: "His charm lies in his ability to commit himself completely to the people in the room with him. In a shrewd though subtle way, he often manipulates them while speaking directly to their experience."

Although her thesis was written several years before she cornered Bill Clinton in the Yale Law School library, Hillary had come to recognize the potential power of a man of exceptional charm.

Alinsky recognized the potential of his student and offered her a paying job to develop organizers for "mass power-based organizations." Hillary's thesis confirmed the offer and called it "tempting." But she decided law school was a better place to develop the skills necessary to effect the changes in government she has spent so much of her life trying to achieve.

Hillary's thesis received an A. So far, her political acumen in New York has yielded her at best a C-. But her story continues to unfold.