Hillary’s Letters to Saul Alinsky
By James K. Fitzpatrick
Should we cut Hillary Clinton some slack over her letters to Saul Alinsky, unveiled by Alana Goodman of the Washington Free Beacon in late September? The letters were obtained by Goodman from the archives of the Industrial Areas Foundation, a training center for community organizers founded by Alinsky, housed at the University of Texas at Austin. Hillary has gone to great effort for many years to keep these letters secret, along with her senior Wellesley College thesis on Alinsky and his theories.
Hillary deserves no slack. But not because of what we learned about her in the letters. (You can read the exchange in its entirety at www. scribd. com/ doc/ 240077031/The-Hilllary-Letters.) The letters reveal Hillary to have been in the late 1960s what most of us suspected she was: an impressionable, self-important, posturing, middle- class Baby Boomer from the suburbs, caught up in the radical counterculture politics of the era.
People like her were all over the place during those years. I can remember young teachers at the public high school where I was teaching at that time sitting around the faculty room pondering whether the time had come to resort to “direct action” to end the Vietnam War, in between making plans for their ski vacations and trips to see Broadway plays. Tom Wolfe, you will recall, described it as “radical chic.”
Hillary corresponded with Alinsky several times in 1968 while writing her thesis. “Dear Saul,” she wrote, “When is the new book coming out – or has it come out and I somehow missed it? I have just had my one- thousandth conversation about Reveille for Radicals and need some new material to throw at people.”
Reveille for Radicals was Alinksy’s book about community organizing.
Hillary called Alinsky’s work a “revelation.” In a letter written after she graduated from law school, she added, “The more I’ve seen of places like Yale Law School and the people who haunt them, the more convinced I am that we have the serious business and joy of much work ahead – if the free and open society is ever going to mean more than eloquence and frustration.” (I guess it could have been worse: Some of Hillary’s contemporaries were sending their breathless fan letters to rock stars.) What Alinsky meant by a “ free and open society,” as he explained in Reveille for Radicals, was “to advance from the jungle of laissez-faire capitalism to a world worthy of the name of human civilization . . . the hope for a future where the means of economic production will be owned by all of the people instead of the comparative handful.”
Alinsky worked for years with Chicago’s Communists, but never joined the party, preferring to work for his socialist goals through community organizing. It was the method of the Mensheviks and the Fabian Socialists: work for socialism, but gradually and through the system, “democratic socialism,” if you will.
Hillary knew all this. It is what drew her to Alinsky. At the end of her undergraduate thesis she wrote, “If the ideals Alinsky espouses were actualized, the result would be social revolution.” She agreed with his gradualism. After graduating from Yale Law School, rather than take to the streets as a community organizer, she joined the law firm of Treuhaft, Walker, and Bernstein, a law firm known for promoting left-wing causes. The Black Panthers were among their clients. Carl Bernstein in his book on Hillary describes the firm’s four partners as “two Communists” and “two who tolerated Communists.”
You can see why Hillary wanted this part of her life kept away from the public. She became a public figure during the time when Supreme Court nominee Douglas H. Ginsburg was forced to withdraw his nomination for the Supreme Court when it was discovered that he had smoked marijuana occasionally as a college student in the 1960s, and her husband’s run for the presidency was threatened by rumors about the extent of his anti-Vietnam War activities as a college student.
In a way, you can sympathize with Hillary. If she had been a Saul Alinsky groupie ten years or so later, she might not have had to hide a thing. Barack Obama admitted to drug use and his association with radical Marxists during his college years and much of the country reacted with a yawn. My suspicion is that Hillary and her advisers are hoping that the country has changed enough to react with a similar yawn to these disclosures about her youthful radicalism. She may be right. Elizabeth Warren makes no bones about her leftwing background, and remains a favorite among Democratic voters.
Why then do I contend Hillary should not be given any slack in this matter? Because of what it reveals about her character. We can’t view this attempt to deceive the voters in a vacuum. It is part of a pattern. It is true that the voters 20 years ago would have been more offended by these disclosures about Hillary’s youthful leftwing activism than the voters of today. But that does not mean her cover-up should be dismissed as irrelevant.
When George Bush was confronted with rumors about drinking and drug use as a young man, his response to the press was, “When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish.” His Democratic opponents tried to keep the issue alive, but it made little difference in the long run. People accepted his excuse. Al Gore reacted similarly when comments he made as a college student, reflective of the anti-war left’s view of the Vietnam War, surfaced. He shrugged and laughed, “I was young and stupid.” No one brought up the comments in his runs for public office.
Hillary could have done the same thing. Years ago she could have said, “ As a young woman, my idealism led me to believe, as with many of my contemporaries, that Alinsky’s view of democratic socialism would be good for the country. I’ve learned since then that things are not that simple.” And then rushed to the airport for her next $100,000 speaking engagement. (I wonder what Saul Alinsky would think about Hillary Rodham, circa 2014?) The people who intend to vote for her wouldn’t bat an eye.
Instead, she reacted the same way that she did when the stories came to light about her involvement in the Whitewater land deal, the profits she made in the cattle futures market, her false accusations of embezzlement against the head of the White House travel office she wanted to replace with cronies, her false claims about “running with head down” to escape sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996, the mysterious appearance of the subpoenaed Rose Law Firm billing records on a desk in the White House when she was First Lady, and the evidence contradicting her story about the attack on our embassy in Libya being the result of a demonstration over an anti-Muslim video.
She concocted a cover-up, a deliberate deception of the American people. As she always does when it is convenient and she thinks she can get away with it. This matters. She wants to be president.
Article originally published in The Wanderer, October 16, 2014 issue, page 4A. Reprinted with permission.