April 1st, 2008
03:00 PM ET
6 years ago

King: Chelsea confronts the downside of her father's legacy

Chelsea Clinton has taken a high-profile role in her mother’s presidential campaign.
Chelsea Clinton has taken a high-profile role in her mother’s presidential campaign.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Campaigns bring contrasts – and flashbacks.

For the second time in as many weeks, Chelsea Clinton confronted the downside of her father’s legacy on the campaign trail: A student at North Carolina State University asked her about the Monica Lewinsky scandal, taking issue with her assertion in the first encounter that such a question was out of bounds.

The exchange played out like this:

Student: “(You were asked) whether your father's relationship in the White House had any affect or did it detriment your mother at all, and you responded saying that it was none of that persons business and i would like you to say whether or not its our business and uh,

Clinton: “It's none of your business."

Student: "Right but I, because fortunately or unfortunately he is the president, or was president at the time so as American people, I feel that it is our business."

Clinton: “Well sir, I respectfully disagree. I think it is something that is personal to my family. I’m sure there are things that are personal to your family that you dont think are anyone else’s business either... but also on a larger point, I don't think you should vote for or against my mother because of my father.”

Off to class went the student, and off to the blogs and shows like The Situation Room went the debate, yet again, not only over the appropriateness of such questions but over the campaign role of a young woman who once was carefully shielded from the harsh political spotlight by two protective parents.

It is not my place as to whether Ms. Clinton’s answer is the right one – she has every right to draw the line where she sees fit, and voters have every right to agree or disagree with her decision.

But watching such moments, and her high profile role in this campaign, brings back two vivid memories of the 1992 campaign.

One was Super Bowl Sunday 1992 – it was the day of the infamous “60 Minutes” interview in which the Clintons acknowledged difficulties in their marriage but said they had fought through them and were determined to stay together. I also interviewed them that day; I was chief political correspondent for The Associated Press at the time, and interviewed then-Governor Clinton and Mrs. Clinton just after the CBS interview.

Most of the interview was conducted in a sedan during a drive from a Boston hotel to Logan Airport. At the airport, I boarded a small plane with the governor and Mrs. Clinton boarded a separate plane back to Little Rock; she wanted to be with Chelsea when the “60 Minutes” interview aired that night.

The second flashback is to a day months later – after Mr. Clinton had won the election. He was preparing to move out of the Arkansas governor’s mansion, and invited a small group of reporters in to see the packing. As he led the tour, he and Mrs. Clinton told a few nostalgic stories, and a young woman - who I believe was 12 at the time s– aid a few very shy but polite “hellos” to the strangers who were in the home she would soon leave for the White House.

It was that memory that made me laugh at another answer Chelsea Clinton gave on campus Monday: She was asked if she would move back to the White House if her mother wins the presidency. She noted she was 28 now, and with a confident laugh and smile said the last thing she could envision was moving back in with her parents.

Not the shy girl I remember from the Arkansas governor’s mansion nearly 16 years ago.

–CNN Chief National Correspondent John King

Watch Chelsea handle a Lewinsky question on the trail


Filed under: John King
soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. Republican voting for Obama

    Sadly Chelsea had no problem lying with her mother about being under fire in Bosnia. Sadly, she has to deal with parents who have no problem lying in general.

    April 1, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  2. Ray Ito

    This "protective" hallo that Chelsea acquired during this campaign trail is a hoax.

    Anything or anybody that is connected to a political candidate during a campaign period is "public property" to the electorate.
    Her insistence that you're not permitted to go "there" is living in a false illusion of a "first daughter" of bye-gone days.
    She should snap herself from that mode and realize that she's now a 28 years old woman who can start a family, and appear on the democratic ticket in a few years if her father's ambitions are still alive.

    April 1, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  3. I BET HIS MOMMA IS REALLY PROUD OF HIM

    THIS IS JUST SAD, SHE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANY OF THIS. HOW PITIFUL THAT THESE YOUNG PEOPLE ARE SO RUDE.

    April 1, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  4. Debbie, NJ

    Chelsea should confront the question then it will go away. Or at least Bill should say something. He always has the mike up to his face talking about something. Why doesn't he defend his daughter. Be a man and own up to your repsonsibility. It was your mistake not Chelsea. I am a Obama supporter but I think it is wrong for Billy to leave his daughter out there having to answer to this. It is a legitimate question. How can Hillary trust he won't be setting up shop again if she wins. Ummm. Something to think about huh.

    April 1, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  5. Kevin

    I think Chelsea is Correct , You Go Girl

    April 1, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  6. Grif

    You will many obstacle's, Chelsea! I think you're doing just Great...

    It's all part of the package. More Power to you girl...

    April 1, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  7. Ifeanyi Azubike Houston Texas

    Being first comes with lots of goodies and some badies. She cannot cherish all the memories that came with her position as first daughter but dream off the nightmares. The Monica affair is real and helps definre her Dads presidency. Her Mum benefits from that presidency because most of the creditials that she claims come from her fist lady days. Chelsea can therefore not be selective in what to take out of the same presidency that made Bill, Hillary and Chelsea the CLINTONS.

    April 1, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  8. Ross in MD

    Why would anyone care what Chelsea Clinton has to say?

    For that matter, since her mom lost the nomination why would anyone care what Hillary Clinton has to say?

    April 1, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  9. ltd1974

    David! It's a fair question. Her father was the president who LIED just like hifey Hillary about snipers and experience. LIES

    go OBAMA

    April 1, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  10. Sharon

    Media bias against Hillary is at an all time high.....you better be careful....

    You are going down a rather slippery slope.....if you continue to bash her the way you have the last couple weeks, not only will your precious BO lose 28% of her voters, he will lose the women's vote as well...........

    April 1, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  11. DB, San Francisco

    Chelsea is 28 and stumping for her choice for President, not just for her mom. Hillary is leaning on her 8 years as First Lady as an integral part of her "experience" and preparation to be President. So, as so many have voiced before, she has to deal with every aspect of those 8 years and her advocates, yes, even her daughter, should be prepared and willing to respond to questions about Whitewater, Lewinsky, whatever. "None of your business" does not cut it. As President, we would expect Hillary Clinton to take care of the country's business and that makes her and everything about her the country's business.

    April 1, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  12. Robin

    If she cannot take it, according to her father, she should be in the politics.

    April 1, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  13. honkey white guy from cali

    Regardless if your in the Clinton camp or Obama camp this question should not be made to the daughter. it is not just none of the persons business asking but it is also none of her daughters business what is going on in her parents marriage. those are personal thing to be dealt with and by the husband and wife accordingly. This campaign is been a long and hard one for all parties but in the name of common sense, let this one go. These 2 candidates should be attacking Mc Cain with the effort they put into tearing each other down especially Obama who already knows he will be the nominee he should be in that same comfort zone Mc Cain is Hillary at this point is like Mike Hukabee. she does have every right to stay in the race but common sense and better judgment should tell her otherwise it is no responsible to ask hard working Americans for money when you know you can not win!!

    April 1, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  14. RightyTighty

    I agree with Doug R, let's ask John McCain about his affairs. I wonder if he will wag his finger and boldly lie straight into our faces too..

    April 1, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  15. Robin

    If she cannot take it, according to her father, she should not be in the politics.

    April 1, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  16. P. Grady

    If she can't take the heat... get off the campaign trial. A Q&A session is meant to demand tough answers to tough questions

    April 1, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  17. No Grandpa Munster in the WhiteHouse

    If you can't stand the heat....get out of the kitchen.

    April 1, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  18. Jan / Jacksonville, Fla.

    If I where to ask Ms ClintonA QUESTION i WPULD ASK WHAT SHE THINKS OF THE FACT HER FATHER LIED UNDER OATH ABOUT THE AFFAIR AND IS NOW A DISBARRED LAWYER

    April 1, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  19. KK

    If and a very big IF Hill wins and Lover Boy Bill is in the White House what will he be doing?

    People really need to know about past and future of Hill & Bill.

    This question needs to asked of HILL.

    If her daughter is campaiging for mom then it is a fair question.

    April 1, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  20. Stephanie, PA

    I'm surprised and a bit annoyed at how Ms. Clinton believes certain questions are out of bounds. In the political arena, every question is in bounds, as well have seen over during this campaign and just about every other.

    You can' t have it both ways. You can't put yourself in the spotlight and only expect easy and soft questions or comments. If this is to be a rowdy and full-blown brawl, as your father says it should be, then everyone in the spotlight, including Ms. Clinton, should be prepared to fight.

    So, Ms. Clinton, all questions are valid!

    April 1, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  21. Anita

    I stand corrected

    April 1, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  22. Clarence

    If Chelsea wants to play in the game, she will have to play by the politica rules. Nothing is off limits.

    April 1, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  23. joe

    Obama cult is the most disgusting thing that has hit this world since Hitler. People who can't think straight for all the kool-ade they consume - with the Messiah Obama at the helm.

    April 1, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  24. Voter For Truth, Dignity and the Election of Hillary Clinton

    No it is NOT " our business" ! Period. Chelsea and her father are not public servants, obviously you do not know the difference!

    April 1, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  25. HRC in 08

    Leave the past in the past. What I care about now is getting the most qualified candidate elected for president and that is Hillary Clinton!

    April 1, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
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