Amid investigations into Russian election interference, perhaps we ought to consider whether the Kremlin, to hurt Democrats, helped put Chelsea Clinton on the cover of Variety. Or maybe superstition explains it. Like tribesmen laying out a sacrifice to placate King Kong, news outlets continue to make offerings to the Clinton gods. In The New York Times alone, Chelsea has starred in multiple features over the past few months: for her tweeting (it’s become “feisty”), for her upcoming book (to be titled She Persisted), and her reading habits (she says she has an “embarrassingly large” collection of books on her Kindle). With Chelsea’s 2015 book, It’s Your World, now out in paperback, the puff pieces in other outlets—Elle, People, etc.—are too numerous to count.
One wishes to calm these publications: You can stop this now. Haven’t you heard that the great Kong is no more? Nevertheless, they’ve persisted. At great cost: increased Chelsea exposure is tied closely to political despair and, in especially intense cases, the bulk purchasing of MAGA hats. So let’s review: How did Chelsea become such a threat?
Perhaps the best way to start is by revisiting some of Chelsea’s major post-2008 forays into the public eye. Starting in 2012, she began to allow glossy magazines to profile her, and she picked up speed in the years that followed. The results were all friendly in aim, and yet the picture that kept emerging from the growing pile of Chelsea quotations was that of a person accustomed to courtiers nodding their heads raptly. Here are Chelsea’s thoughts on returning to red meat in her diet: “I’m a big believer in listening to my body’s cravings.” On her time in the “fiercely meritocratic” workplace of Wall Street: “I was curious if I could care about [money] on some fundamental level, and I couldn’t.” On her precocity: “They told me that my father had learned to read when he was three. So, of course, I thought I had to too. The first thing I learned to read was the newspaper.” Take that, Click, Clack, Moo.
Chelsea, people were quietly starting to observe, had a tendency to talk a lot, and at length, not least about Chelsea. But you couldn’t interrupt, not even if you’re on TV at NBC, where she was earning $600,000 a year at the time. “When you are with Chelsea, you really need to allow her to finish,” Jay Kernis, one of Clinton’s segment producers at NBC, told Vogue. “She’s not used to being interrupted that way.”
Sounds perfect for a dating profile: I speak at length, and you really need to let me finish. I’m not used to interruptions.
What comes across with Chelsea, for lack of a gentler word, is self-regard of an unusual intensity. And the effect is stronger on paper. Unkind as it is to say, reading anything by Chelsea Clinton—tweets, interviews, books—is best compared to taking in spoonfuls of plain oatmeal that, periodically, conceal a toenail clipping.
Take the introduction to It’s Your World (Get Informed! Get Inspired! Get Going!). It’s harmless, you think. “My mom wouldn’t let me have sugary cereal growing up (more on that later),” writes Chelsea, “so I improvised, adding far more honey than likely would have been in any honeyed cereals.” That’s the oatmeal—and then comes the toenail:
I wrote a letter to President Reagan when I was five to voice my opposition to his visit to the Bitburg cemetery in Germany, because Nazis were buried there. I didn’t think an American president should honor a group of soldiers that included Nazis. President Reagan still went, but at least I had tried in my own small way.
Ah, yes, that reminds me of when I was four and I wrote to Senator John Warner about grain tariffs, arguing that trade barriers unfairly decreased consumer choice.
At first glance, of course, Chelsea seems to be boasting that at age five she was interpreting the news with the maturity of an adult. But we should consider whether it’s instead a confession that as an adult she still interprets the news with the maturity of—well, let’s just submit that perhaps she thinks what other people tell her to think. Which brings us to Chelsea’s Twitter feed.
Since Chelsea has 1.6 million followers, we can only conclude that some people enjoy ideas like “Yes. Yes. Yes. Closing the #wagegap is crucial to a strong economy.” And maybe there’s no sin in absorbing and exuding nothing but respectable Blue State opinion. But it’s another thing to insist on joining each day’s designated outrage bandwagon. Did we need to slap down a curmudgeonly Charlotte Rampling, age 71, for griping about #OscarsSoWhite activists? Yes, and here’s Chelsea: “Outrageous, ignorant & offensive comments from Rampling.” Is gender identity not going to be included on the 2020 census? Here’s Chelsea: “This is outrageous. No one should be invisible in America.” Not that there aren’t breaks for deeper thoughts: “Words without action are … meaningless. Words with inaction are … just words. Words with opposite action is … hypocrisy.”
That is … beautiful.
The crude conventional wisdom is that Bill Clinton craved adoration and Hillary Clinton craved power. But Chelsea Clinton seems to have a more crippling want: fashionability—of the sort embraced by philanthropic high society. So you tell The New York Times that your dream dinner party would include James Baldwin, Shakespeare, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Jane Jacobs, and Jane Austen, and discussion would be about how “people and communities can evolve to be more inclusive, more kind, have a greater and broader sense of solidarity, while still respecting individual liberties; what provokes or blocks those changes; and what stories might resonate today to encourage us toward kindness, respect, and mutual dignity.” You almost have to bow down before someone who could host Shakespeare for dinner and make the agenda wind up sounding like a brochure for the Altria Group. At least Kafka would be on hand to capture the joy of the evening.
To find fault with the former First Daughter is to invite the wrath of thousands. Love of Chelsea correlates closely with love of Hillary, toward whom her fans have long felt an odd protectiveness, as if she were a stroke survivor regaining the power of speech rather than one of the most influential people in the world. That goes even more for Chelsea, who is often treated less like an independent 37-year-old multi-millionaire and more like the 12-year-old who still deserves to be left alone.
But let’s have a reality check. No one bothers George W. Bush’s daughter, Barbara Bush, who quietly works on her nonprofit, Global Health Corps. On the other hand, if you’re posing for magazine covers, granting interviews, doing book tours, placing your name on your parents’ multi-million-dollar foundation, and tweeting out daily to 1.6 million people, then—guess what—you’re a public figure. And if you’ve openly entertained the possibility of running for office if “it was something I felt called to do,” then assurances to the contrary aren’t quite good enough. You’re a public hazard.
God has decreed that American political dynasties decline sharply in suitability for office with each iteration. Call it the George H.W.-George W.-Jeb rule. Quit after the first iteration. Don’t trot out the second one. And, for the love of God, don’t trot out the third. Forgetting that rule harmed the Democratic Party in 2016 and blew up the Republican Party entirely. The Democratic Party is surprisingly cohesive these days, thanks to anti-Trump sentiment, so a Jeb-style destruction is unlikely. But never say never. If anyone could make it happen, Chelsea could.
Source: Vanity Fair
By: T.A. Frank
21 April 2017