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Child's Play

Over at Say Anything, my blog-chum (and sometime colleague) Rob Port discusses an encounter between Chelsea Clinton and a nine-year-old "reporter." I've made a point in the past about excluding children of politicians (hell, children in general) from the normal course of politics, but this story hits several key points.

First, with all respect to my chum Rob (who's recovering from recent surgery), I don't think Chelsea Clinton was rude. She did give the kid a brush-off, but a polite one.

"Do you think your dad would be a good 'first man' in the White House?" Sydney asked, but Chelsea brushed her question aside.

"I'm sorry, I don't talk to the press and that applies to you, unfortunately. Even though I think you're cute," Chelsea told the pint-sized journalist.

You might make an argument for Chelsea being a bit condescending, but rude? I don't think so.

Second, I don't think it's quite fair for Chelsea to campaign for her mother, yet still insist on her privacy. If she's going to talk, she can expect to be asked questions. And the kid's question was not out of line. Her whole point of appearing and speaking at campaign events is based on her expert status -- in theory, she knows Hillary Clinton (and Bill Clinton) better than a lot of people, in ways that most everyone else can't. To ask her about how she thinks the historical potential dynamics of a former president returning to the White House as "first spouse" will play out is a valid question.

Third, I'm a bit uncomfortable at the thought of a nine-year-old "journalist." It's clear that Sydney (or, rather, Scholastic News) is exploiting her youth and "cuteness" to try to get around rules and restrictions, while insisting that she be treated like any other reporter. It's a stunt, and I don't like it.

Fourth, back to Chelsea. She is a private citizen, and she is fully entitled to insist on her privacy. She never chose her parents, and I don't like the idea of her having to "live with" the fact that her parents are public figures.

But now she's trying to have it both ways. She's showing up at campaign events, not speaking, but lending her mother support by her presence. She's talking to voters, but only to ask them to support her mother -- not on any issues of substance. She's talking to them, but she's not talking WITH them.

And she's having nothing to do with reporters. Can't say I blame her there.

She's treating her status as a public or private figure as a game. But to me, that status is kind of like pregnancy, or virginity -- it's an "all or nothing" thing. She's trying to dip one toe into the "public figure" pool, while keeping the other nine in private. Sorry, kiddo, it really doesn't work that way.

There are reasons why the voting age is eighteen. And there are reasons why we don't have a "draft" for politicians. Participation in the political process is entirely voluntary, and no one is -- or should be -- compelled to get involved to any degree. And you can walk away from it at any time, for any reason -- or no reason.

But while you're in, you're all the way in. This is no cafeteria, where you get to pick and choose when and how you're "public." It might be nice if it worked that way, but it doesn't.

Chelsea, you have every right to your privacy. But not while you're choosing to step into the spotlight.


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Comments (18)

As it so happens, my junior... (Below threshold)

As it so happens, my junior year in high school (1992) I bumped into Chelsea in DC when I went there for a youth leadership conference.

She didn't want to say anything then either. She came off as kinda stuck up. I wrote it off to general junior high girl snotty/snobbiness.

Guess she never outgrew that.

Jay - were you before her b... (Below threshold)

Jay - were you before her before you were against her or were you against her before you were before her?

I think you drank way too much coffee before you wrote this post.

Happy New Year.

We all appreciate people th... (Below threshold)

We all appreciate people that are slick enough to handle reporters gracefully. But look what happens in this country now with one slip of the tongue. Journalism standards being in the gutter it seems like a wise policy not to answer idiotic questions.

This is the first time I have ever sided with the Clinton;s ever. Besides I am more worried about the girl in the Snorg tee shirt ad: the poor girl has no pants on......

Being Chelsea Clinton seems... (Below threshold)

Being Chelsea Clinton seems to be a bit like being a Soprano or an Osbourne. You don't get to pick your parents, but you turn into them nonetheless.

My take on the affair is th... (Below threshold)

My take on the affair is that Chelsea is under strict instructions from mom to never, ever, talk to a reporter under any circumstances. She was simply following orders. I dont like the Clintons, but dont blame them for keeping Chelsea tight lipped - Team Clinton doesnt need a reporting squeezing out a seemingly innocent answer and convoluting the crap out of it.

She's doing the same thing ... (Below threshold)

She's doing the same thing her mother does, not answering questions from anyone.

I agree with JT. Once you ... (Below threshold)

I agree with JT. Once you show up at the political events, you ARE part of the process. Which includes reporters, analysis, lampooning and even weekend caption contests. "No comment" is always allowed.

Remove the kid gloves and let the games begin.

The Thunder Run has linked ... (Below threshold)

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 01/02/2008 A short recon of what's out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

I don't see her trying to k... (Below threshold)

I don't see her trying to keep her privacy as just following mommy dearest strict instructions not to talk to the press. I suspect mommy dearest wishes she could keep bubba on such a short leash to say only what he was told to say.

Think about when your kids start talking about you at some semi-public event. It can make you a bit uncomfortable, even if you are trying to lead a decent, non-hypocritical life. Magnify that by a presidential campaign and you can understand why mommy dearest would issue the gag instruction.

What she gave was a blanket 'no comment'. We as voters can decide if we want to support a candidate who is afraid of letting their child speak openly about them.

Once you show up at the ... (Below threshold)

Once you show up at the political events, you ARE part of the process. Which includes reporters, analysis, lampooning and even weekend caption contests. "No comment" is always allowed.

Is the verbatim phrase "no comment" required? Or are you allowed as a polite substitute to say, "I'm sorry, I don't talk to the press"?

This was a 9 year old girl ... (Below threshold)

This was a 9 year old girl asking the question. It gives a lot of insight into what kids think about and it was perfectly innocent. For goodness sakes, what would it have hurt to answer something that might have helped Mommy, something like, "My Dad is good at everything he does and he's looking forward to being back in the White House."

Quite frankly, I think it was bitchy (like Mom???) to not answer the question.

Jay -- She's 27 year... (Below threshold)

Jay -- She's 27 years old and works for a hedge fund. Why don't you act on your immense sense of chivalry toward her and just go ahead and ask her out?

By "going public" and campa... (Below threshold)

By "going public" and campaigning for her mother, Chelsea has forfeited her right to complain about coverage - BUT that doesn't mean she has to answer questions from anyone, including reporters, even cute ones.

Since when does endorsing or campaigning for a candidate force you to forfeit all your own rights? If she doesn't want to, or is instructed not to talk to the press, so what? It isn't like she is the Campaign Spokesmodel or Chief Strategist . . .

I simply can't imagine how,... (Below threshold)
Ken Starr:

I simply can't imagine how, even on the slowest of all news days, this could be considered something worth commenting on.

Oh, wait. It's an excuse to bash the Clintons. Duh.
They suck.
'Cause they're Clintons.

I simply can't... (Below threshold)
I simply can't imagine how, even on the slowest of all news days, this could be considered something worth commenting on.

And yet, here YOU are, commenting on it.


Brian:Of course it... (Below threshold)


Of course its allowed, as is "I believe in UFO's" or "No more blood/money for oil!"

And we can all analyze, lampoon and ignore as we see fit.

Of course its allowed</i... (Below threshold)

Of course its allowed

Well, just askin', because you "agree with JT" that she's "having it both ways" by refusing to talk to the press, but then you say that "no comment" is OK, even though you then acknowledge it's the equivalent of "I'm sorry, I don't talk to the press". Sounds like you disagree with JT.

as is "I believe in UFO's"

Please, don't bring Reagan into it.

Jim Addison: I see you're ... (Below threshold)
trapped in mn:

Jim Addison: I see you're in this comment section making an ass of yourself as well - at least you're consistent






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