As much as it pains my old bones to admit it, there is a very real possibility that Hillary Clinton may wind up being the next president despite our best efforts to avoid such a disaster. And once she moves back into the Oval Office she’ll need to set up the usual housekeeping arrangements as any other West Wing occupant. Much coffee klatch talk has centered on her husband Bill’s role as First, er… Gentleman? But the usual duties of setting up dinner parties and making decisions about decorations seem rather ill fitted for the Big Dog’s temperament and Hillary has already said she wants him involved in the nuts and bolts of policy work. So who will take on those traditional First Lady duties?
One good guess from inside her camp is that the job may fall to their daughter Chelsea. (Government Executive)
[P]ublications including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have cited Clinton family confidantes saying that Bill Clinton may get a pass on much of the drudgery of ceremonial housekeeping—and that the responsibility for choosing cutlery and curtains may fall to the couple’s 36-year-old daughter, Chelsea Clinton.
“People close to the Clintons said they could see Ms. Clinton, should her mother be elected, taking on some of the roles traditionally reserved for the first lady, such as organizing holiday parties and selecting menus for state dinners,” the Journal reports.
The first thing we might be wondering is, can they do that? Hey… why not? After all, it wouldn’t be the first time that the Clintons have, shall we say… outsourced some of their marital duties. And besides, the “position” of First Lady is essentially a made up contrivance of tradition anyway. There is no mention of the role currently taken on by the East Wing in the Constitution to begin with. Also, having someone other than the presidential spouse filling the role isn’t unprecedented.
Harriet Rebecca Lane Johnston was the niece of James Buchanan and she acted as First Lady for the nation’s only lifelong bachelor President from1857 to1861. (Grover Cleveland was a bachelor when elected but married in office.) There have been discussions of similar arrangements in the modern era as well. Lindsey Graham promised “rotating First Ladies” if he’d been elected, starting with his sister.
If the Clintons moved Chelsea and her family in for at least part of the time there wouldn’t be any legal issues there either. Having extra family members hanging around the premises to take on such tasks is nothing new, and we’re not just talking about the First Couple’s children. Barack Obama’s mother-in-law has been living in the White House for quite some time, helping to look after the children. There really doesn’t seem to be much in the way of rules when it comes to these things.
In some ways, I can’t think of a better job for Chelsea Clinton. She may be a very pleasant young lady and a great mother but she is, as I’ve written before, a woman of virtually no accomplishments of her own in life. She has ridden her famous family name to vast privilege, access to the best education and dubious jobs with astronomical salaries and little in the way of actual duties. Being a fixture around mom and dad’s White House and organizing parties and High Tea would probably be right up her alley.