The conundrum that is Princess Chelsea Clinton

On the various occasions that I’ve found myself writing about Chelsea Clinton in the past I have almost universally steered away from jumping on any actual criticism of her or any temptation toward obsessing over her life. I think, as I’ve said before, that this reluctance is rooted in being old enough to remember when she was a little girl living in the White House. The press left her alone which was the right thing to do. She committed no crime by being born into the family and I think most of us wanted her to have as normal of a life as she could manage inside that media bubble.

That is now ancient history. She’s a woman in her own right, a wife, a mother and a person with a … job (?) of sorts. And she seems willing to participate in things which led to this rather mildly worded critique of her by Jessica Contrera at the Washington Post.

After four degrees, seven years in the private sector and years of shying from the cameras, this is the life Chelsea Clinton has chosen. The William J. Clinton Foundation has been rebranded as the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. She is said to be a key player, fixated on using hard data to make decisions and, like her mother, eager to promote programs focusing on women and girls. On her watch, the foundation has been through a number of personnel changes, including two much-speculated-about chief executive turnovers, at a time when Hillary’s candidacy has renewed questions about substantial donations from corporate interests and foreign governments.

Meanwhile, Chelsea plays a role for the public: family ambassador.

This led to National Review’s Jonah Goldberg writing a rather rough edged takedown of the situation titled Princess Chelsea. Most of it comes from the rather insulting idea, as expressed in the WaPo piece, that Chelsea is just about the closest thing we have to an American Princess. That analysis was chimed in on by our friend Jim Geraghty, who echoed a number of my thoughts.

Almost everything she does is decreed to be extraordinary by some other media voice that probably would like to be closer to the Clintons. She gets picked to give the keynote address at South by Southwest. Last year she was honored as one of Glamour magazine’s “Women of the Year,” and Katie Couric decreed, “I think it’s safe to say, probably a ‘Mom of the Year.’” — after giving birth to her first child six weeks earlier.

Now she makes $1,083 per minute speaking to public universities.

The comparison to a princess is a pretty accurate one, and you’re right, the profile piece in the Post doesn’t quite gush. But throwing jobs, awards, opportunities, speaking fees, and other honors at Chelsea seems to have been a pretty easy way to build goodwill with an ex-president and a future president, and I feel like we’ve all been asked to avert our eyes from this.

As much as I would prefer to ignore Chelsea Clinton and let her get on with the private life of a normal citizen, that’s getting difficult to manage. It would still be nice to leave her on the social pages until the day when she follows even further in her mother’s footsteps and decides to run for office (and since it would be in New York, undoubtedly to victory) but her supporters in the press make that difficult as well. Her mother is a woman of shockingly limited accomplishments no matter how you dice the onion. She got married. She gave birth. Both are admirable things, but hardly unique. She was coronated by her party into a Senate seat where she ran essentially unopposed and accomplished nothing that anyone can name while collecting her government paycheck. She failed at running for president and was given a consolation prize of a position at the State Department where she once again did nothing which anyone can point to as an actual accomplishment. And now she once again wants the office she was so unfairly denied in 2008.

How different is Chelsea? Yes, she’s a media star and everyone walks on eggshells around her. Complimenting her and throwing cash at her are very solid strategies if you want to get on the good side of her parents. But aside from getting married and producing a child (is this sounding familiar?) she has done nothing. And yet she has been showered with the sort of riches and rewards which working class people dream of when they buy their lottery tickets every week.

Read all of the linked pieces above and you will likely come to the same conclusion. Chelsea Clinton has accomplished essentially nothing in her life. I don’t begrudge her the riches she has. After all.. this is America. Take the biggest slice of the pie you can manage. But let’s not pretend that she is somehow remarkable or the “mother of the year” or some great humanitarian or business manager or strong arm of charitable work. It’s just a pity that she’ll probably be president in about twenty years.