My apologies to Jessica Contrera. A few minutes ago as I settled in on the Acela and looked at Twitter, I saw all of these tweets about Contrera’s Washington Post profile of Chelsea Clinton, in particular the line “Chelsea Clinton is the closest thing America has to a princess.”
I jumped the gun and joined the mocking of the piece, assuming it was a source sweetener to get in good with the Clinton campaign. Then someone on Twitter told me to read it. “It’s a hit piece,” he said.
So I read it (which I should have done in the first place, but you know, Twitter).
I’m not sure I would call it a hit piece; by the end the reader – or at least this reader — is led to have some real sympathy for Chelsea Clinton. But at the same time, it is hardly the kind of piece that will endear Contrera to the Clinton dynasty. Or at least it shouldn’t. In other words, I think the piece is really quite good.
What you come away with is the simple fact that Chelsea Clinton is probably a fairly decent, bright. and well-adjusted person (particularly for someone with the kind of childhood she had) but she is also a total political mediocrity.
In this sense she takes entirely after her mother. For instance, Contrera writes:
Chelsea smiles as she speaks slowly, methodically turning her gaze from one side of the audience to the other. Even without notes, she can sound as if she is reading from a script. She deploys cute one-liners about her parents or her 10-month-old daughter, Charlotte, to break up long strings of memorized statistics.
“Women are now 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, and that’s an all-time high,” she said. “There are more men named William, James and John on boards of Fortune 500 companies than there are women.”
Her only moment of seeming spontaneity is one she uses frequently: A section of the crowd shouted “Woo!” after she name-checked Little Rock, and she joked, “Yes, you can cheer.”
I don’t think this woman is a Huey Long in the making. And she certainly didn’t get her dad’s political chops. This is pure Hillary.
Not only is she not inspiring as a politician, there’s remarkably little about her life that is inspiring. Yes, it’s impressive that she’s even remotely normal given all that she’s been given (Contrera recounts how Chelsea was late for an event because “she was having lunch with her father and their dear family friend Bono.”). But are there many average people who can take inspiration from Chelsea’s “struggle”? I doubt it.
As for the bit about her being the closest thing America has to a princess, well, when you think about it for a second, I think that’s right. The problem is that the closest thing to a princess in America is very, very, very far from an actual, you know, princess. We don’t do royalty here very well. The thing that makes her most princess-like is that she really doesn’t seem to know what to do with herself except get caught up in the lie of her family business. What I mean is that she may actually believe that the Clintons are a kind of secular royalty and a dynasty. No doubt she’s been told that a lot. No doubt her parents don’t loop her in on the seamier side of how the Tudors of the Ozarks operate. She probably thinks the primary purpose of the Clinton Foundation is philanthropy rather than extending the Clinton brand and empire, in much the same way descendants of the original medieval robber barons believe their family has always been about public service. Bless her heart.