Chelsea’s Morning

Hillary embraces Chelsea at a Super-Duper Tuesday rally in New York.Photo: Stephen Hilger/Landov

Faith Wong, a retired schoolteacher and Democratic activist in Ogden, Utah, wasn’t expecting too much from Chelsea Clinton’s stump appearance for her mother at Weber State University. In late January, as Hillary’s campaign for the Democratic nomination was losing its inevitability, Chelsea, who’d been sometimes seen but hardly ever heard since she’d moved into the White House as a gawky 12-year-old, was suddenly appearing in a full-on, last-ditch political road show, and Wong was concerned she wasn’t quite up to it. “This is nice of Chelsea to do this for her mother, because I don’t think she’s totally comfortable being in the spotlight,” Wong said as we sat in the front row of a packed student-union hall waiting for Chelsea to appear before the banner reading HILLBLAZERS … OUR VOICE, OUR FUTURE, which referred to the Clinton campaign’s youth corps. “I think she was kind of hesitant at first.”

When Chelsea strode onstage, almost an hour behind schedule, the crowd erupted in applause. She waved and smiled—a full-lipped, camera-ready (Bill) Clintonian grin. She is tall and slim, with darkly mascaraed lashes framing blue-gray eyes, and glamorously straightened blonde hair. Her outfit—shiny black boots with spiky heels, jeans, and faux-military jacket, replete with epaulettes, over a black T-shirt—was appropriately fashionable. She allowed herself a theatrical grimace, punctuated by a comic eye-roll—provoking giggles—when Hillary youth-outreach director Emily Hawkins, Chelsea’s eighth-grade classmate from the Washington private school Sidwell Friends, encouraged the audience to “ask Chelsea whether it was her idea or her mom’s idea that Chelsea go to math camp.” Finally, Hawkins announced, “Heeerre’s Chelsea!”

It was yet another town meeting in a battleground state. As her mother’s new surrogate (second only to the former president himself), she’s been crossing the country, trying to distract the young from the Obama juggernaut. “I’m sorry that we’re late, and thank you for waiting—thank you for being here,” she began. She added that she was ready to answer questions about “whatever is on your mind … I’m happy to talk about anything—even math camp.”

To hear her voice—after so many years in the zone of privacy, under the cone of silence—is a shock: Chelsea speaks! The voice is calm, conversational—none of Hillary’s proclivity to hector—and the delivery is fluent, self-assured, soothing: There’s a trace of the lilt of Little Rock mixed with Manhattan—at once affable and urbane, as befits a not-quite-28-year-old graduate of Stanford and Oxford who likely makes over $200,000 a year crunching numbers for Avenue Capital Group, a hedge fund.

For nearly an hour, Chelsea fielded questions and spoke in dense, well-organized paragraphs packed with detail, nuance, facts, and figures and punctuated by the occasional “y’know”—a verbal tic of her mom’s—and a soft “yeah?” indicating that she was finished.

When a young man in back demanded to know the Clinton campaign’s “new strategy” in view of the “crippling blow” of Ted and Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama, Chelsea shot him a level gaze. “I don’t think there is a new strategy,” she said. “My mom has been running for the last year, talking about what she thinks our challenges are and what our opportunities are, and why she thinks she’s the most well positioned to deal with our problems in America and to solve things like Social Security or combat global warming or get our economy back on track. There’s no difference today from last week or last month.”

Toward the end of the session, a graying gentleman with an Indian accent asked her to comment on the widespread notion that Senator Clinton is “calculating.” He also asked if her mom has “a funnier side.”

“After this administration, I want a president who’s calculating,” Chelsea answered unhesitatingly, to cheers and whistles. “I want a president who actually calculates what our real challenges are, and what our real solutions look like … In terms of my mom’s funnier side, I think she’s really funny—for many reasons that I’m not going to share publicly.”

“Come on!” someone egged her on.

“Well,” Chelsea said. “I will tell you that, like so many Americans and so many of my friends, she is completely obsessed with Grey’s Anatomy. And a few years ago, I was sitting at dinner with my boyfriend and my parents—it was my parents’ anniversary—and I noticed that it was 8:40 Sunday night and both my parents were looking very nervously at their watches. Finally I said, ‘Look, am I really that boring?’ I know we’ve established that I’m a numbers dork and work in finance—I’m sure I was prattling on about something. But there’s only one of me. And finally they both confessed that they had to get home to watch Grey’s Anatomy. So then my boyfriend—quietly, calculatingly—explained about TiVo. And TiVo henceforth saved many family dinners.”

Chelsea chic.Photo: Ana Nance/Redux

Chelsea delivered this homey anecdote expertly, poking fun at herself in ways her parents seem utterly incapable of.

“One thing I do want to share about my mom that I think says a lot,” Chelsea continued. “When my dad ran for office in ’91 and ’92, in the thirteen months that he was running, there were only three nights when one or both of my parents weren’t with me, and there were maybe a handful of Sundays that we didn’t spend together,” she said. “People often ask me, ‘Do you have the privilege to believe that quality is more important than quantity in family time?’ No, I don’t have to—because my parents were always around … I am really blessed. That’s why I’m here.”

Then Chelsea descended gracefully from the stage to sign autographs, pose for cell-phone-camera grip-and-grins, and tell anyone within earshot, “I hope you’ll vote for my mom.” Faith Wong sought me out. “Scratch everything I just told you,” she said. “I was totally wrong. She owned the stage. I had to wonder if we were not looking at a future presidential candidate.”

Chelsea is in many ways the ideal amalgam of her parents’ political talents—as Bill Clinton himself put it once, “She has her mother’s character and her father’s energy.” Somehow, this product of two of the most adored and loathed politicians in recent history turned out well-adjusted and yet also incredibly, unmistakably like her parents. Like her father, Chelsea is, in fact, a big flirt (not something her mother is known for). Approached by a tall model-handsome college jock at the University of Utah, she literally batted her eyelashes at him. “Hell-o!” she said in a Mae West tone before posing for a snapshot with him.

Far from being “pimped out”—MSNBC correspondent David Shuster’s ill-considered formulation that resulted in his suspension—she is orchestrating her own transformation from unwitting victim to willing agent in her parents’ dreams of power and restoration, taking a leave of absence from her job to campaign full time. It was Chelsea’s idea to take on a public-speaking role in her mother’s campaign after last month’s New Hampshire primary, answering questions from voters in open-press venues—knowing full well that such a high-profile performance could jeopardize her rabidly guarded private life.

Chelsea still won’t talk to the press. It’s a position that seems increasingly ridiculous given who, and what, she has grown into, and the extensive role she’s taking in the campaign. In the past few weeks, Chelsea has become perhaps her mother’s most effective and mistake-free surrogate, sometimes even drawing bigger crowds than her father, whose ability to attract attention, sometimes for the wrong reasons, is decidedly a mixed blessing for his wife. “She’s out there playing for her mom, as hard as any surrogate,” Obama press secretary Bill Burton says respectfully. Since January, she has crisscrossed the country, flying coach with a couple of traveling staff, holding town-hall meetings for mostly college crowds—nearly 40 campuses in two dozen states—to plant the flag in states like Utah and Hawaii, and headlining fund-raisers geared toward young professionals. In transit in the back seat of an SUV, logging more than 3,000 miles on the highways alone, Chelsea dutifully dials through a call list that includes as many as 60 names a day, thanking supporters, phoning the panelists on The View, and lobbying superdelegates.

“She’s extremely smart and really dedicated to her family,” says Wisconsin superdelegate Jason Rae, a 21-year-old junior at Marquette University who had breakfast with Chelsea recently in Milwaukee. She, along with her father, had been courting him since the Nevada caucuses (Madeleine Albright called, too), putting in calls to his cell phone to trade political gossip. “It really seemed like she was enjoying being out on the campaign trail. We’ve discussed financial aid for college students, health care a little bit, general electability. It’s nice that she and I are pretty much in the same generation and able to connect a little more because of that. And it has always been a soft sell. I have never felt any pressure from her.”

Chelsea Clinton turns 28 in a few days—around the same age her father was when he ventured into electoral politics for the first time, in 1974, waging an unsuccessful campaign for a congressional seat in Arkansas—and she is, at long last, plunging into the family business, moving from prop to propagandist. The crucible of her upbringing, including watching the media turn her family’s private humiliations into public entertainment, has left her worldly, scarred, and tough. “Chelsea has the joy and the burden of loving two very hated and beloved figures in public life. No one, not even her own parents, knows what that must feel like,” says former Republican White House staffer Doug Wead, who chronicled the often troubled lives of presidential offspring in his book All the Presidents’ Children. “I’m sure she’s been exposed to things that you and I have never seen mentioned.”

Starting at the age of 6, Chelsea had been drilled by her parents on how to survive public life. When I was covering the 1992 presidential campaign for the Washington Post and spending the day with Hillary Clinton on a small jet, hopscotching across South Carolina, she told me, “When I saw we were going to have a primary campaign [for governor] in 1986, Bill and I talked to her at dinner, telling her that sometimes in political campaigns, people say mean things and untrue things about other people. And her eyes got real big, and she said, ‘Like what?’ And I said, ‘Why don’t you pretend to be your daddy.’ She was 6 years old. ‘Why should you be governor?’ And she said, ‘I should be governor because I’ve done a good job.’ And I said, ‘Okay, but somebody running against your daddy will stand up and say, “Bill Clinton has done a terrible job, he doesn’t care about anybody, he’s a bad person.” ’ Her eyes just got huge. And she said, ‘Why would they say that?’ And I said, ‘Because they want people to vote for them.’ ” When I asked if Chelsea was prepared for the brutality of presidential campaigning, Clinton said, “I don’t know if anybody can be prepared.”

Amy Carter’s slumber parties were reported on, as was her reading a book at table during a state dinner—supposedly an insult to the foreign guests—and even how her body was changing as she entered adolescence. The Clintons didn’t want that. “When they first won the White House, they asked Jackie Kennedy for her advice, and Jackie Kennedy had already done a study of presidential children and concluded that the less exposure, the better,” says Wead.

But aside from trying to avoid Amy Carter’s fate, this policy likely stemmed from Hillary’s desire to control the mechanisms of media privacy herself. That’s why when Gennifer Flowers sold the story of her affair with Chelsea’s dad to Star magazine, including tapes of their intimate phone calls, Hillary took her 11-year-old daughter to the supermarket, pointed out the tabloids, and “told her what we heard was going to be in one of them,” because she wanted her “to feel she’s a part of this,” according to Clinton biographer Sally Bedell Smith. Wead said Chelsea’s parents “got a lot of criticism for preparing Chelsea like this. During one of those sessions, she apparently left in tears. Rush Limbaugh said it showed just how ruthless the Clintons were, putting their child through this.” Limbaugh’s concern was disingenuous, of course. On his TV show, he called her “the White House dog.” Wead says, “The Ford children told me they wish they’d had somebody to explain things to them. Instead, they were just thrown upstairs in the White House, with the caveat, ‘And by the way, don’t make a mistake.’ ”

If the press had little discretion for the Clinton marital troubles, perhaps to make up for that, Chelsea was left alone. “It was pretty much an ironclad rule, even when Chelsea was having semi-public moments like her high-school graduation, or when she went on trips with her mom, it was kind of understood that she was off-limits,” says former Clinton White House press secretary Mike McCurry. “It’s interesting, later on, that the press was proud of it. If you’d go to journalism conferences on the role of the press and the presidency, the major editors were generally proud of the fact that they’d given Chelsea space.”

Indeed, during the second Clinton inaugural festivities, on the night of January 20, 1997, when I was part of the White House press pool trailing the Gores from ball to ball, I was surprised to come face-to-face with the then-16-year-old Chelsea, all dolled up in a party dress, when we were led through a VIP holding room on the way to the stage. “Hi, there,” she called out to the press gaggle, which had been too thoroughly conditioned to dare ask her a single question.

Part of what makes Chelsea so compelling is that she is both canny and, thanks to her parents’ making sure that she didn’t star in a sort of reality-TV version of her own young adulthood, not fully processed into a media personality. Which isn’t to say she existed in a political vacuum. After her parents’ 1992 60 Minutes appearance during the New Hampshire primary race, in which they answered questions about their troubled marriage, the campaign trotted out Chelsea’s comment, “I think I’m glad that you’re my parents.” And the 12-year-old appeared in the campaign video shown at the Democratic convention. “What I would like America to know about my parents,” she said, “is that they’re great people.” The family also posed for People, and walked hand in hand as her father accepted the nomination.

“For the ’96 convention, I proposed that Chelsea introduce Hillary,” says former Clinton adviser turned professional Clinton hater Dick Morris. Hillary said, “ ‘Don’t even mention that—that’s never gonna happen.’ But in her speech, she must have mentioned Chelsea ten times.”

After their election, the Clintons moved Chelsea from her public school in Little Rock to an elite Washington prep school (Amy Carter went to public school in D.C.). After graduating, she chose to go to Stanford—about as far away from her parents as she could get. There she was immediately famous. “When you get to college, you want to reinvent yourself, and she never had a chance to,” says a friend from school who, like all of her acquaintances and friends, asked not to be named. There’s a sort of Chelsea omertà around her, a cloud of nondisclosure.

At Stanford, efforts to just not talk about her being on campus were so strictly enforced that a reporter for the school newspaper was fired for writing a column about Chelsea (he now works at this magazine). But nobody was that blasé. “There were these girls around her—it was their mission to have Chelsea be their friend,” noted a student who knew her. “The mean girls positioned themselves around Chelsea when everybody was deciding who to live with, and I remember they pushed this sweet girl out of the group. She ended up gaining 25 pounds.”

Chelsea did her best to mimic a normal undergraduate life, even if she had Secret Service living in the dorm room next door. They’d go to class with her and be around when she went on dates. “She was a little annoyed, definitely,” said the friend. “She tried to make her peace with it.”

“I was always really impressed at how prepared she was for class,” said the classmate. “She always had firm opinions when talking about politics and current policy. And she would think about it in a way that was kind of detached and talking about ‘the administration’s policies.’ It wasn’t, ‘Oh, my dad did this.’ ”

But even being in far-off Palo Alto couldn’t protect her from the scandals unfolding in Washington. “During the whole Monica Lewinsky thing, we all made a big effort to be protective of her,” said a school friend. “We made sure not to be on the Internet reading about it in case she walked by and saw us.” A couple of times during the ordeal, she just disappeared, taking a leave of absence from classes. Uncomfortably, Carolyn Starr, the daughter of Kenneth Starr, also went to Stanford. Students joked that the university provided them housing about as far apart as they could get. But then, Chelsea’s skin was thick. How many tweens are made fun of on a Saturday Night Live “Wayne’s World” skit? It invidiously compared her to the daughters of Al and Tipper Gore. “If [the Gore girls] were a president, they’d be Babe-raham Lincoln … Chelsea—well, she’s a babe in development.” The White House reaction prompted a written apology from Mike Myers, and the bit was cut from reruns. “I really find it hilarious when they make fun of me,” Bill Clinton claimed to People in a postelection interview. “But I think you gotta be pretty insensitive to make fun of an adolescent child.” Nevertheless, this year’s presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, had to apologize for telling this joke at a Washington dinner in 1998: “Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father.”

“Another person might have gone through the same things and come out extraordinarily bitter,” says Clinton loyalist Paul Begala. “Does she strike you as a woman who got bitter or got better?” McCurry, who served during the height of the Lewinsky scandal, recalled the day Clinton publicly admitted having an inappropriate relationship with the intern. Afterward, the family left to go to Martha’s Vineyard. “I was sitting on the helicopter watching them all walk toward me,” McCurry said. Eighteen-year-old Chelsea was gripping her parents’ hands. “They all looked miserable except Chelsea. Chelsea looked determined. She was determined not to let these two parents that she loved get away with goofing up the marriage.” That fall, Chelsea couldn’t resist reading the Starr report online, including the footnotes. When Bill Clinton learned that she’d read the report, he wept.

Chelsea took off her fall 2000 semester to travel with Hillary on her campaign for Senate. She didn’t say much. When a supporter of her mother’s at an upstate senior-citizen center pleaded with the 20-year-old Chelsea to let the assembled old folks hear her voice, they only got a grudgingly cooperative “Hello.” Then she recoiled from the microphone.

After graduating from Stanford with academic honors in history, in 2001, Chelsea studied for a master’s degree in international relations at Oxford’s University College, where, three decades earlier, her father had been a Rhodes scholar. She experimented with her own identity as a celebrity, attending fashion shows and London premieres with her new friends Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kevin Spacey, going clubbing with Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, and taking up with fellow student Ian Klaus, a tall, handsome soccer player—and a Rhodes scholar like her dad—who was the scion of an exercise-equipment fortune. Chelsea and Ian were newfound American royals—perfect for the paparazzi. “The press is still all over me in London, but on the Continent, I can do what I want,” Chelsea told Women’s Wear Daily during the fashion shows, breaking her no-interview rule. When Harry Benson showed up unannounced at Oxford to shoot her portrait for a Vanity Fair profile, Chelsea agreed to pose for him without consulting her mother. “I’m a big girl now,” she boasted. Tatler magazine named her one of the most eligible young women in Europe.

After Oxford, Chelsea settled in New York, where Klaus also lived, and was often seen holding hands with him outside the London Terrace apartment complex. She’d written a heartfelt essay for Talk magazine about her reactions to 9/11, about how it gave her “a new urgency to play a part in America’s future.” Her inner Hillary kicked in. Chelsea stopped hanging out with the fashion-and-celebrity crowd so openly. She took a job at McKinsey & Co., at a reported salary of $120,000 plus a $10,000 signing bonus. A former colleague at McKinsey told me Chelsea was “very impressive, very poised,” and specialized in “financial-services consulting as well as advising businesses in the health-care and pharmaceutical fields.”

Chelsea is on the board of directors at the School of American Ballet. “Sometimes people join a charitable cause because it promotes them socially,” says Jill Kargman, who with Chelsea was in charge of recruiting the under-35 set. “She doesn’t need that. When she says she’ll do something, she truly will do something. She was working at McKinsey, incredibly long hours, and if she wasn’t in town, she’d call in from some red state. I guess I’m not used to people working that hard, especially high-profile people.”

In 2006, Chelsea took a job as an analyst for Avenue Capital, a hedge fund specializing in distressed debt run by longtime Clinton donor Marc Lasry. On the stump for her mother, she neglects to mention her six-figure salary but regularly complains about her health-insurance plan. “I’m hoping that it will filter back to my employer,” she jokes.

Meanwhile, her relationship with Klaus fizzled in the summer of 2005. He traveled to Arbil, in northern Iraq, to teach English and American history at Salahaddin University. He recounted his Iraqi experiences in a book dedicated to Chelsea and enthusiastically endorsed by Chelsea’s father.

Today, Chelsea is dating a young Goldman Sachs banker named Marc Mezvinsky. He had been a fellow student at Stanford, but, more pertinent, was a childhood friend from Washington. His parents are former Pennsylvania congresswoman Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, who famously lost her reelection bid after voting for President Clinton’s unpopular tax hike in 1993, and former Iowa congressman Edward Mezvinsky. Chelsea and Marc had more than a few things in common, notably a politician father who had humiliated the family—in 2002, Ed Mezvinsky pleaded guilty to swindling investors out of $10 million and is currently in prison, with an expected release date later this year. Chelsea’s boyfriend is doing better, reportedly buying a $3.8 million apartment not far from hers, near Gramercy Park.

At every stop, Chelsea tells audiences about “one of my closest friends,” a captain in the Marines in Iraq. The captain is Zachary Iscol, son of New Yorkers Kenneth and Jill Iscol, wealthy supporters of her parents, who has left active duty and now writes about Iraq. Observing the Chelsea omertà, he wouldn’t talk to me. But his mother, who has known Chelsea since she was 14, did.

“She’s very definite. She’s got strong positions,” Iscol says. “And she’s very, very gracious about the rest of us who are not able to have a conversation with her at her level. Listen, she had to develop substantive arguments to talk at the dinner table and deal with her parents, and they don’t always agree on an issue, and you can imagine she has had to learn how to defend her position and analysis.”

Chelsea and her parents typically come to the Iscols’ to break the fast of Yom Kippur—and Chelsea, a Methodist like her mom, has attended synagogue with them. Mezvinsky is Jewish, and the Times has reported that friends think they could marry.

Chelsea’s tough. She recently sent around an essay by old-line feminist Robin Morgan complaining of women who aren’t avid Hillary supporters (“good-bye to some women letting history pass by while wringing their hands”). Chelsea sent it to friends with the note: “I don’t agree with all the points … but I do believe her thesis is important for us all to confront—I confess that I didn’t entirely get ‘it’ until not only guys stood up and shouted ‘iron my shirts’ but the media reacted with amusement, not outrage …”

At the University of Wisconsin in Madison, she was forced to cope with a sometimes angry audience. One young man asked about Hillary’s 2002 vote to authorize President Bush to conduct U.S. military operations in Iraq. “Has your mother ever shown remorse for her vote that’s cost a million Iraqis their lives?”

Chelsea replied calmly, “She voted for putting the United Nations weapons inspectors back in. That’s what the U.N. wanted to do. That’s what Colin Powell and our military supported us doing. She cast a vote based on the best available evidence. Perhaps you had clairvoyance then, and that’s extraordinary.”

The young man interrupted: “It was a vote to attack Iraq!”

“Well, on that we have a difference,” Chelsea shot back. “I urge you, sir, to listen to the debate and read the transcript … I’m really glad my mom was the first person to write the Pentagon to ask how they were planning to end the war.”

“By funding it?” he demanded.

And so on, until he stood up and walked out as she continued to speak, unfazed.

Next came a middle-aged lady who repeatedly insisted that Chelsea was being “unethical” by lobbying superdelegates on her mother’s behalf.

“Ma’am,” Chelsea answered plaintively, “I’ll talk to as many voters as I can talk to. I’ll talk to anyone who wants to talk to me. They don’t have to talk to me if they don’t want to talk to me.”

“It’s unethical!” the lady repeated.

“Well, I disagree,” Chelsea answered, her voice going up a notch. “I’m so proud of my mom … I hope that your daughters are as proud of you,” Chelsea added in an injured tone, “as I’m proud of my mom.”

The lady’s scoffing objections were drowned out in applause.

One young woman starting sobbing as she recounted to Chelsea how Hillary, twelve years ago, while First Lady, had written a letter to the government of Paraguay that permitted her parents to adopt a baby boy. “I just want to say, tell your mom she gave me the greatest gift,” the woman said, tears streaming. “She wrote a letter. Otherwise, we would never have him. I’m sorry, I’m crying.” Chelsea placed a hand on her shoulder and gently squeezed. “No,” she said consolingly, perfectly—just as her father would have. “Thanks for sharing that.”

By now the no-interview rule is Chelsea’s own decision—a feeling that if she grants one media interview, it will become a slippery slope to a complete loss of privacy. The Clintons take all of this very seriously. In September, a Manhattan Italian-restaurant owner who had the audacity to display a photo of Chelsea, an occasional customer, received a grim letter from the former president’s office demanding that he remove the photo or face possible legal action.

The no-interview rule reflects her exquisite sense of Clintonian parsing, even as she fields all sorts of intrusive questions from the public in front of TV cameras. But she’s still not answering questions from reporters. After another of her town meetings, at a senior-citizen center in Salt Lake City, she marched right up to me with her hand extended. “Hi, I’m Chelsea,” she told me unnecessarily, listening politely with a poker face as I explained my presence.

“You’re really great at this stuff,” I ventured enthusiastically.

“Thank you,” she coolly replied. That was our first and last conversation.

That night at Weber State, as she was schmoozing admirers—including a young woman who gushed, “You’re gorgeous!”—Chelsea’s eyes flashed at me from ten feet away when I asked a traveling campaign aide if she had ever told the Grey’s Anatomy story before. “Her hearing is as good as her mother’s,” the aide advised with a laugh. Minutes later, I walked out of the student union with Chelsea’s entourage, several feet behind her, and she glared at the aide, who sprang up to confer, then deftly slowed me down. “She’s not used to having people in her space,” the aide explained. “By ‘people’ you mean ‘press’?” I asked. “Exactly.” Days later, when I attended several events in Wisconsin, Chelsea looked right through me.

Most people contacted for this piece who knew her simply refused to say anything. The otherwise voluble James Carville said, “My kids think she’s awesome, and very fun. She treats my 12-year-old daughter very much like a contemporary. But, listen, I don’t talk about other people’s children.” Never mind that Chelsea is a grown woman, going in front of television cameras every day in support of her mother’s ambition to be president. “In my mind, she’s still like she’s 13 years old. This is going nowhere fast.” Carville adds, “You can say it’s an inappropriate position, that it’s a stupid position, but it’s my position. I’m not arguing my position, but a position it is.”

Paul Begala says that while Chelsea has political chops, “I don’t presume to tell anybody either to run for office or get married, because I don’t have to wake up with the consequences of that decision … But it strikes me the way her parents are—what Dr. King called ‘other-centered people.’ But there are many self-centered people in politics, too. There are two kinds of politicians—those who want to be somebody and those who want to do something,” and Chelsea would be in the latter category, in Begala’s opinion.

But after all that she’s been through, is it even conceivable that Chelsea would want to embark on anything like a political career? Most children of people who have been battered like the Clintons have been battered would recoil. Still, Chelsea has shown in the last few months that she is, emphatically, a Clinton. She’s a natural politician, stunningly good at it.

Last Thursday, Rae, the superdelegate Chelsea had been working on, “proudly” went for Obama instead. That night, at the debate in Austin, her mother gave what seemed to many to be nearly a pre-concession speech. It was a very poignant moment. As the crowd gave the candidates a standing ovation, Chelsea leaped onstage, looking radiant, young, and very much like the future.


Growing Up Clinton
A photo timeline of Chelsea’s life.

Chelsea’s Morning