Like any other mother of a newly grown daughter, I think, I cringed when an Indiana college student asked Chelsea Clinton whether the Monica Lewinsky scandal had harmed her mother’s credibility.
Chelsea Clinton, clearly staggered by the question, told her interrogator it was none of his business. Then, all the college students applauded politely, since the questioner had been — as I said — rude.
Oddly enough, on the same day, Chelsea’s father was announcing his enormous enthusiasm for the rough-and-tumble campaign world. Politics, he said, is a contact sport. Bring it on. If you can’t take the roughhousing, get out. Let’s have ourselves a brawl.
Sorry, but on reflection, I don’t think you can have it both ways. If you’re going to enter the political arena, you can’t expect to be exempt from questions that make you uncomfortable. Ms. Clinton is clearly a very smart, poised young woman — but she is, after all, old enough to know what she’s getting into. She’s no longer a child who needs or deserves our protection.
As for the Lewinsky matter’s being none of the questioner’s business — get over it. We were all national hostages to the Lewinsky scandal, seeing and hearing much more than we wanted to. From the dress stain to the cigar to the machinations of that vile Linda Tripp person, who needed TV soap operas when the national conversation was so graphic?
Sure, the impeachment proceedings were purely political and rankly hypocritical and wrong. But was anybody surprised that the Republicans were out to get Bill Clinton — and that what went on in the Oval Office with an employee was considered by many to be of national interest?
Like every other family, the Clintons carry baggage. They don’t get to pick the baggage they want (a great economy in the 90s, say) and jettison what they don’t (see above).
Politics is a contact sport. And contact, if it’s in the Oval Office, is a political sport.
You play, you pay. It isn’t chivalrous or nice or polite– but the rules seem pretty clear to me.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)