While truth can be stranger than fiction, the one can complement the other.
This thought occurred to me when I began to read Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 1969 political science thesis, written in “partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Bachelor of Arts degree under the Special Honors Program, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts.” Its title is: “‘There Is Only the Fight…’: An Analysis of the Alinsky Model.”
Four or five pages into this paper, I was struck by the similarities between the relationships of Ellsworth Toohey and Catherine Halsey in Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, and of Saul D. Alinsky and young Hillary D. Rodham, college student. Copies of this 91-page typewritten paper, interspersed here and there with handwritten corrections, are now circulating all over the Internet, accompanied by commentary that is largely critical and often deprecatory in nature.
Ellsworth Toohey, as readers probably know, is the power-seeking arch villain in Rand’s novel, and Catherine Halsey his niece, whose self-esteem he mercilessly attacks at every opportunity and succeeds in destroying, reducing her to a selfless, public service drudge.
Saul David Alinsky (1909-1972) was a real-life “radical” who specialized in organizing “communities” for local political agitation rather than attempting the broader political machinations of Toohey. He was a second-rank power luster – certainly less charismatic than Toohey, to judge by his biography – but his fundamental methodology of acquiring power – not for himself, he always said, but for whomever he deemed the “dispossessed” – is essentially the same as Toohey’s, which Rand so brilliantly dramatized in Toohey’s character.
This commentary will focus on the parallels between the pairs – Toohey and Catherine, Alinsky and Clinton – though not to the exclusion of the political aspects of the relationships.
First, here is a description of Catherine Halsey when she is introduced in The Fountainhead, and, incidentally, into Ellsworth Toohey’s life:
“Toohey had not intended to keep her in his own home. But when she stepped off the train in New York, her plain little face looked beautiful for a moment, as if the future were opening before her and its glow were already upon her forehead, as if she were eager and proud and ready to meet it. It was one of those rare moments when the humblest person knows suddenly what it means to feel as the center of the universe, and is made beautiful by the knowledge, and the world – in the eyes of witnesses – looks like a better place for having such a center. Ellsworth Toohey saw this – and decided that Catherine would remain with him.” (The Fountainhead, pp. 310-311, Centennial Edition).
In subsequent scenes that feature Catherine Halsey, she is depicted as having a self that struggles to understand the world and her uncle, a self that progressively loses the struggle under her uncle’s malicious guidance. She is intellectually unarmed to defend herself against Toohey’s attacks, which are aimed at disarming her mind by denigrating it and her values. Her sole consolation or value in this period is Peter Keating and her love for him.
When Keating abandons her to marry Dominique Francon – an action encouraged by Toohey for his own malign ends – Catherine collapses spiritually. That is the last we see of her until much later in the novel (Part 4: Howard Roark, Chapter 10, pp. 621-628). Here is how Peter Keating, who once wanted to marry her, sees her after years of being out of contact:
“…But when he lifted his eyes to Catherine, he knew that no caution was necessary; she did not react to his scrutiny; her expression remained the same, whether he studied her face or that of the woman at the next table; she seemed to have no consciousness of her own person.
“It was her mouth that had changed most, he thought; the lips were drawn in, with only a pale edge of flesh left around the imperious line of their opening; a mouth to issue orders, he thought, but not big orders or cruel orders; just mean little ones – about plumbing and disinfectants. He saw the fine wrinkles at the corners of her eyes – a skin like paper that had been crumpled and then smoothed out.”
When Keating asks her what she felt when he failed to elope with her and when she learned that he was married to Dominique, that is, if she suffered, Catherine answers:
“Yes, of course I suffered. All young people do in such situations. It seems foolish afterward. I cried, and I screamed some dreadful things at Uncle Ellsworth, and he had to call a doctor to give me a sedative, and then weeks afterward I fainted on the street one day without any reason, which was really disgraceful. All the conventional things, I suppose, everybody goes through them, like measles. Why should I have expected to be exempt? – as Uncle Ellsworth said.”
At this point, even Keating, who himself has not only betrayed her and everything else he might have valued, is appalled by the dead, utter selflessness of Catherine. She has become what Toohey intended her to be, an interchangeable manqué, in her own eyes no better or no worse than anyone else, a person who finds “self worth” only in serving others, or the public good. She has become a humorless, miniature clone of Toohey. Instead of aiming for control of the country’s political life and directing it to collectivism, Catherine is satisfied with overseeing “plumbing and disinfectants” as a government social worker.
And the world was no longer a better place for the glow on her forehead. That glow had been methodically extinguished by Toohey.
“Plumbing and disinfectants” best describes Saul Alinsky’s brand of Toohey-ism. His whole political philosophy was definably collectivist. It was Marxism wearing a plastic Halloween mask. For all her adulation of him, Hillary was not satisfied with the range of Alinsky’s achievements in the political realm. They were, to her, not ambitious enough. He advocated merely “activism” on the part of the poor and ethnic to achieve “social justice,” and organizing “communities” or neighborhoods to engage the “establishment” in direct conflict. However, he thought in terms of groups.
Lessons were to be learned from Alinsky by young Hillary.
The ultimate goal of such groups, he wrote, was to acquire power. He had the hubris to rank himself as “radical” as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and Patrick Henry, overlooking the fact that these men advocated liberty and individualism in their political philosophy. Alinsky advocated rule by chain gangs and mobs via “democracy” – which in the Left’s lexicon is a euphemism for socialism or collectivism.
Hillary quotes Alinsky from his book, Reveille for Radicals, published in 1946:
“What does the Radical want? He wants a world in which the worth of the individual is recognized…a world based on the morality of mankind…The Radical believes that all peoples should have a high standard of food, housing, and health….The Radical places human rights far above property rights. He is for universal, free public education and recognizes this as fundamental to the democratic way of life….”
But, all this was government policy by the time Hillary wrote her thesis. She even acknowledges it in the paragraph immediately following the quotation:
“Much of what Alinsky professes does not sound ‘radical.’ His are the words used in our schools and churches, by our parents and their friends, by our peers. The difference is that Alinsky really believes in them and recognizes the necessity of changing the present structures of our lives in order to realize them.”
Alinsky’s means for attaining “social justice” is for groups to mobilize to achieve power, for power can “compel negotiations.” Only by “organizing” can otherwise powerless and voiceless groups win concessions from the “establishment.” In an article cited by Hillary, Alinsky asserted that,
“We have become involved in bypaths of confusion or semantics…The word ‘power’ has through time acquired overtones of sinister corrupt evil, unhealthy immoral Machiavellianism, and a general phantasmagoria of the nether regions.” Hillary comments, with implict approval, “For Alinsky, power is the ‘very essence of life, the dynamic of life’ and is found in ‘…active citizen participation pulsing upward providing a unified strength for a common purpose of organization…either changing circumstances or opposing change.”
The speech that reflects the spirit and contains the germs of everything that Alinsky advocated is on page 103 of The Fountainhead, when, during a building-trades union strike in New York, Toohey addresses a hall of strike supporters:
“…The lesson to be learned from our tragic struggle is the lesson of unity. We shall unite or we shall be defeated. Our will – the will of the disinherited, the forgotten, the oppressed – shall weld us into a solid bulwark, with a common faith and a common goal. This is the time for every man to renounce the thoughts of his petty little problems, of gain, of comfort, of self-gratification. This is the time to merge his self in a great current, in the rising tide which is approaching to sweep us all, willing or unwilling, into the future. History, my friends, does not ask questions or acquiescence. It is irrevocable, as the voice of the masses that determine it. Let us listen to the call. Let us organize, my brothers. Let us organize. Let us organize. Let us organize.”
This was Alinsky’s credo in a nutshell, a perfect encapsulation of his means and ends. It is doubtful that Ayn Rand had even heard of Alinsky while she was writing The Fountainhead – his first book, Reveille for Radicals , did not appear until three years after publication of The Fountainhead – but Hillary certainly had read her novels while in college (as a passing “phase,” as has been reported elsewhere). If she was lost in the “bypaths of confusion and semantics” – searching for a “cause” that would sanction her own life and give it direction – one can imagine that she would reject the notion that Toohey was a villain. She would have been as impressed with Toohey’s ideology and methodology as she was with Alinsky’s, but with fewer reservations.
The important point here is that Alinsky remains one of her primary ideological mentors, her denials and those of her defenders to the contrary notwithstanding. Her career after leaving Yale Law School was a frantic scramble to find a way to enter politics. Carl Bernstein, who wrote a biography of Hillary, A Woman in Charge, in a July 20th interview with Jon Wiener on the Truthdig site, claims that she is not an ideologue of the collectivist or any other stripe. “One of the real problems Hillary has had is a difficult relationship with the truth….One of the things she’s been most truthful about is that she’s not easy to compartmentalize in terms of ideology.”
But the power hungry do subscribe to an ideology of sorts, one of opportunism, of snatching at every issue or chance that would boost one’s place in the political power grid. Hillary found that opportunity in Bill Clinton, himself a consummate opportunist, whom she met at Yale. She rode on his political coattails all the way to the White House. She miscalculated when, as the power behind the Oval Office, she attempted to maneuver Congress into adopting full-scale socialized health care.
Whether she was slavishly working to apply Alinsky’s rules of thumb, to work both from “within” and “without” the system,” to effect change by organized confrontation, or adhering to some other leftist ideologue’s formula for acquiring power, is a moot issue. It is interesting to note that during Bill Clinton’s two administrations, Hillary’s Wellesley thesis was kept locked up by the school at the request of the White House, doubtless to prevent the public from getting the “wrong” ideas concerning her ideological leanings. But her actions before and since have tipped everyone off to her true leanings. The school did not need to keep her thesis a secret.
The London Daily Telegraph of August 7 reported Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani as saying that Hillary “wouldn’t admit she’s a liberal.” He made the remark when Hillary recently “disavowed the label and said she was a ‘modern progressive.'” One wonders what distinction there is between an old and a “modern” progressive. The labels “liberal” and “progressive” are virtually synonymous, and simply stand for the incremental creep towards a total welfare state.
In her thesis, Hillary seems to have mastered the sociological jargon necessary for anyone thinking of dedicating his life to “public service.” In one paragraph, she writes:
“Societal comparisons raise again questions about the meaning of ‘radical’ and even ‘revolutionary’ within a mass production/consumption state, particularly the United States. Must definitions perhaps be as fluid as the actions they purport to describe?….Alinsky would answer affirmatively.”
So would Hillary. It presages her future husband’s retort of what the meaning of “is” is. Bill and Hillary were and would remain soul-mates.
On July 29, the New York Times ran an article about Hillary’s college year letters to a high school classmate, John Peavoy (“In the ’60s, a Future Candidate Poured Her Heart Out in Letters”). What is most interesting about the letters the article discusses is that they reveal how emotion-driven she was in choosing her ultimate politics. Upon entering Wellesley, she morphed from being a Goldwater Republican and a member of the Young Republicans to a volunteer for Eugene McCarthy’s antiwar presidential campaign. No doubt her intellectual and moral rudderlessness made her susceptible to the antiwar rhetoric and activism of the period. This was also the period in which she discovered Saul Alinsky and his brand of activism.
I don’t think a glow of the future ever graced Hillary’s forehead. Catherine Halsey had a more adult and advanced sense of herself and what was possible to her than Hillary evidently had at the same age. No eagerness or pride is evident in Hillary’s letters or her thesis, just a kind of inverse narcissism, or a concern for what she thinks of herself through others’ eyes. In one of her letters to Peavoy, she remarks that she has “not yet reconciled myself to the fate of not being the star.”
By page 375 of The Fountainhead, Catherine is experiencing a personal crisis over her social work and turns to her uncle for guidance. “I have no selfish desire left, I have nothing of my own – and I’m miserable.” She tells Toohey that she has grown to hate the poor who depend on her.
Toohey tells her that her problem is that she expected to feel virtuous and personally happy for “doing right,” and that this was vicious and egotistical.
She replies, “But if you have no…no self-respect, how can you be anything?”
Toohey tells her that she must stop wanting anything. “You must forget how important Miss Catherine Halsey is. Because, you see, she isn’t. Men are important only in relation to other men, in their usefulness, in the service they render….You must be willing to suffer, to be cruel, to be dishonest, to be unclean – anything, my dear, anything to kill the most stubborn of roots, the ego. And only when it is dead, when you care no longer, when you have lost your identity and forgotten the name of your soul – only then will you know the kind of happiness I spoke about, and the gates of spiritual grandeur will fall open before you.”
“But, Uncle Ellsworth,” she whispered, “when the gates fall open, who is it that’s going to enter?”
Toohey, momentarily surprised by the perceptiveness of her question – he knows it was an important rebuttal, but she does not – replies with a put-down about her having made a “smart crack.” Catherine, intimidated by his “wisdom” and utterly ignorant of its nature, concedes. Alinsky and Toohey agreed that “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” (Alinsky enunciated it in his Rules for Radicals ; Toohey expounded on it to Peter Keating in Part 4, Chapter 16, p. 665.)
Compare that with Hillary’s quest for the meaning of her life in her letters to Peavoy. One letter to him she signs “Me,” parenthetically adding “the world’s saddest word.” That one brief signature can stand to represent the self-deprecatory remarks in all her other letters discussed by the Times. I do not think Hillary suffered from a crisis of self-respect, as Catherine Halsey did; I do not think she ever had a self to respect. She would have agreed with everything Toohey told Catherine, without Toohey having to exert much effort to convince her or having to resort to vicious put-downs.
It takes a village, or a Toohey, or an Alinsky, to fill such a void. This is a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. Hillary has progressed from doubting the effectiveness of massive government programs to help the poor to seeing them as the only answer, in the name of “social justice.” Like Alinsky, like Toohey, she wishes to crush the individualist independence of Americans and replace it with dependence on the state – and she would be the state – chiefly because she has grown to fear and hate independence in anyone.
No matter how slickly “human” she presents her made-over self to the public in debates or during interviews, one can still detect in her the desire to kill in every American his integrity, self-respect, sense of values, the heroic, and happiness. When she left Wellesley, she decided to become the “star,” someone whom uncounted others would come to depend on and thank for that dependence.
This is a would-be dictator, and dictators, as I have noted in other commentaries, are only as real to themselves as the number of people they need to rule and command.