How smart is Hillary?

Our friends at Investor's Business Daily have been culling evidence from the two new books about the junior senator from New York on the question of her vaunted intelligence. IBD writes:

Here's why this matters: Voters are supposed to want to elect her because of her smarts and competence (because we all know it's not her honesty). Her brains are her entire selling point.
Based on some of the bone-headed political moves she has made, as well as on the lengths she has gone to cover her academic tracks, I have long suspected that she is much better at getting into elite schools than at actually excelling as a student. IBD puts together several pieces of the puzzle indicating these suspicions may be well-grounded.

IBD starts with a fascinating nugget of information drawn from one or other of the new books:
"...if she's so smart, how did she flunk the D.C. bar exam, one of the easiest in the nation?"
That's a great question. The first answer is that Yale Law School, the ultra-elite institution she attended (because of its small size and big name, Yale is reportedly the hardest law school in the country at which to be accepted), doesn't really place much emphasis on teaching the actual hum-drum business of lawyering. Instead, Yale asks its students to grapple with large question, especially those on the "cutting edge" of legal theory (translation: leftist ideology).

The theory at Yale Law, as I understand it, is that their students are so darn smart they can pick up the mundane stuff in a snap, at bar review courses and as junior lawyers. My guess is that Hillary, after having been told how smart she is and after hearing that the DC bar exam is a snap,  figured she had it made in the shade. Arrogance, in other words.

This is entirely consistent with her longstanding refusal to release her college and law school transcripts. As IBD notes,
Bush released his Yale transcripts (C student). So did the previous Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry (another Yalie with a C average). What is Clinton hiding?
IBD theorizes along the same lines I have suspected:
Another biography, published a decade ago by Joyce Milton [this is the best single book on Hillary that I have read so far - TL], suggests Clinton was a mediocre student who didn't even finish in the top of her high school class. However, she was a hard worker who had a reputation as a "teacher's pet" and was skilled at making the "right connections" to advance her career, Milton says in "The First Partner: Hillary Rodham Clinton."
Spot on. I have closely studied the practices and mentality of the admissions gatekeepers at elite schools. They get bored reading all the folders from students with perfect grades and high SATs and generic recommendations from teachers. They share an ideology that these factors alone are not enough. They crave "interesting" students who have done unusual things, and who have "demonstrated" they are more than just grade-grubbing drudges. They judge themselves on the basis of their ability to "discover" talents that go beyond the usual accouterments of suburban over-achievers.

Everything I have learned by reading and by talking with people who knew Hillary during her student days and early career suggests that her greatest skill was in cultivating powerful patrons who could help her along. Although her charms completely elude me, I am told that her full schmooze mode is highly engaging in a face-to-face encounter, and long ago mastered the art of creating the impression that she is something special and that your encounter with her is somehow meaningful.

Life magazine anointed the budding social activist as a voice of her generation, which no doubt sweetened her application to Yale, then a hotbed of radicalism.
One other secret of elite school admissions. They love student politicians who win office as president of their class in high school or college Hillary was class president at Wellesley just as anti-war activism became fashionable. The admissions officers' theory is that other students know better than everyone else who among them is really special (true enough) and that those who win elective office reflect those who are destined to go further. This corollary is much more dubious. In the schools I attended, I found the student pols were every bit as creepy as real world pols. More so in some cases. They mostly ran for student office out of the conviction it would be a career boost, and the petty offices they sought were mostly meaningless exercises in triviality.
Upon graduating, Bill quickly landed a professorship teaching law. But Hillary had no prospects and stayed behind in New Haven,Conn. Eventually, a Yale law professor tapped her to work on the House impeachment staff. Again, she had the right connections. Hitching her wagon to Bill propelled her into the statehouse, then the White House and now the Senate.
Hillary, in other words, is a consummate networker and climber.

But climbers need something higher up to scale. At the top, there is nowhere to climb. What would Hillary do as president, without an obvious higher office toward which to strive? The possible answers are frightening. One would be to aim at being the Secretary-General of the UN, on the theory that it is the closest job to head-of-the-world that currently exists. An alternative would be to seek to be the most popular government head among the G-8 leaders of major countries, going for the approval of other governments at the expense of American national interests.

But the worst possible substitute is that Hillary would aim at making history: doing things unprecedented in their ambition (remember health care?) and promising a large impact on future generations (the legacy factor). I prefer that our presidents seek to protect and defend the Constitution, as their oath of office requires. But then, of course, Hillary has never been about following the rules applying to others. Ambition plus certain social skills plus ruthlessness plus lack of discernment equals danger.

Hat tip: