Thesis Obsessions

For the life of me, I’ve never really understood why journalists are so obsessed with getting their hands on everyone’s college thesis. Not that the papers are out of bounds or anything like that, but by the time someone is running for President, they’re 20 to 35 years removed from the writing. So putting aside for a moment whether fundamental viewpoints change over that period of time, at the very least the relevant facts and situations in the real world change, and ideas built around the older context become dated.

Take this Obama example. If we believe Obama’s professor when he says, “My recollection is that the paper was an analysis of the evolution of the arms reduction negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States,” then what exactly are we supposed to learn about Obama’s public policy ideas today from that? Putting aside that the Cold War is over and the Soviet Union literally no longer exists, the current state of non-proliferation focus is completely different than it was in the 1980’s. It’s no longer about arms reductions between two competing superpowers, it’s about securing nuclear material and knowledge to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of rogue states and nongovernmental actors. So even if Obama’s paper might be an entertaining read, it’s unlikely that the focus is going to lend itself to anything of any value, but it might get some reporter a lot of face time on the nightly news.