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Clinton Quiet About Own Radical Ties

Former SDS president Carl Oglesby talked about the 1960s with Hillary Rodham Clinton at a hotel in Massachusetts in November 1994 when the first lady was campaigning for candidates in the mid-term elections.
Former SDS president Carl Oglesby talked about the 1960s with Hillary Rodham Clinton at a hotel in Massachusetts in November 1994 when the first lady was campaigning for candidates in the mid-term elections. (Photo courtesy the W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts. )

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The Clinton campaign suggested last week that she did not meet Oglesby until the 1990s, long after his activist years. But in recent interviews, Oglesby has made clear that she stood out in his memory as he traveled across the country speaking at rallies.

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In 1994, Clinton told Newsweek that Oglesby's writings in the 1960s helped persuade her to oppose the Vietnam War and to become a Democrat. She visited Oglesby in 1994 in Massachusetts, a meeting that was omitted from the First Lady's official schedule. Oglesby told the Boston Globe at the time, "We mostly discussed the '60s. I may have been a little gushy in my praise of the administration, but she was extremely impressive."

Oglesby now talks warmly about Clinton. In an interview with Reason magazine, he called their association "a friendship, a comradeship, within the context of the movement. She and I, for a while, were warm with each other. She and I were semi-close."

But Oglesby said he has not contacted Clinton because he is afraid that he could harm her candidacy.

"A friend of mine mentioned me to her not long ago, and according to him she got a case of the shakes. I think it was because she could imagine if any of her considerable enemies on the right wanted to do her in, they would be happy to discover a relationship between her and me," he told the magazine.

Clinton interned at Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein while attending Yale Law School. The firm defended the Black Panthers, including Angela Davis, and Clinton had been editor of the Yale Review of Law and Social Action, which included articles about Black Panther leader Bobby Seale's murder trial in New Haven, Conn.

Author Gail Sheehy wrote about the internship in her book "Hillary's Choice." Sheehy, who also wrote a 1971 book about the Black Panthers, interviewed firm partner Robert Treuhaft, who described Hillary Rodham attending a New Haven fundraiser for Seale's defense that he threw with his wife, author Jessica Mitford. Treuhaft -- who, with his wife, left the Communist Party in 1958 -- died in 2001.

Clinton kept up correspondence with the British-born Mitford through the early 1990s. "Top students like Hillary were much sought after by huge prestigious Wall Street-type law firms -- some, like Hillary, were far more interested in left-wing firms," Mitford wrote to a friend in 1992.

In her autobiography, "Living History," Clinton details little of the firm's background. She wrote that she "spent most of my time working for Mal Burnstein researching, writing legal motions and briefs for a child custody case."

But members of the firm have different recollections. Burnstein recalled her working on a case involving Stanford University students who refused to sign an oath attesting that they had never been communists.

Walker said that Clinton probably worked on cases to help young men avoid the draft. "We did a whole lot of conscientious-objector work," she said.

Hayden, one of the Chicago Seven who were acquitted of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, said he is disappointed that Clinton has tried to taint Obama with guilt by association.

"Once you introduce the concept of guilt by association, everyone is in trouble because there is no end to it," he said. "The goal is to render Barack so unelectable that the party has to turn to her. Because the goal is so narrow and obsessive, she's not aware that she's also going to be collateral damage."

Researcher Madonna Lebling and research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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