April 1st, 2008
03:00 PM ET
7 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. Linda Feldman

    The question itself is rude but the answer was also rude. The country was deeply effected by Bill Clinton's reckless behavior. He essentially gave his many enemies the ammunition that resulted in an impeachment, the decision of a damaged Al Gore to distance himself and the resulting Bush victory which the country has suffered under for 8 years. So maybe the question should have been: The impeachment of a sitting president had an enormous effect on the country. What effect, if any, did it have on your mother's run for the presidency?

    April 1, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  2. Stacy Clarks,

    Let me first say that I AM AN OBAMA SUPPORTER,

    However, I think these people need to reframe the questions in such a wa as to highlight HOW it affects the American people (lying under oath for example). As far as the extra-marital affairs, that is none of our business, the other stuff is.

    However, Chelsea needs to find another way to answer, that is less rude (simply "I would like to focus on the issues" will be nice)

    OBAMA 08!!!!!!!!

    April 1, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  3. Larry Buchas

    I'm an Obama supporter and have to say that's an issue that crosses the line. I commend Chelsea for her efforts. Both her parents and Clinton supporters should feel real proud of her.

    It makes you wonder if Chelsea ever decides to enter the world of politics. I hope she considers.

    April 1, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  4. JJ from Arizona

    This is what I said to Jack Cafferty:

    If your boss found out that you committed a sex act AT WORK with a co-worker and confronted you about it, would you tell your boss it was none of their business? Furthermore, would your boss agree with you and be ok with it? We the taxpayers are the President’s boss, and it is most certainly our business.

    That being said, I am not sure that Chelsea is the right person to ask this question to. But it is not a subject that should be off limits. A person's personal conduct is very indicative of their professional conduct, and the fact that these incidents occurred at the work place makes it about professional conduct. I might be stepping over the line here, but I think it brings serious questions about their relationship and whether they were able to reconcile because of a strong relationship, or if this is a relationship of two people who know that they each need the other if they want to stay in power.

    April 1, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  5. Joan Johnson

    I say Good for you Chelsea, that the same way I would have handle that question. None of your business. This is old news. I wonder who put these people up to asking this type of question.

    I, more interested in how Senator Clinton is going to get us out of the mess the republican party has got us into.
    I'm also tired of the Obama campaign trying to get Senator Clinton to drop out of the race. I live in Oregon and I am going to vote for her, because I feel she will do the best job. Lets get out of the past and go to the feature. Hang in there Senator Clinton

    April 1, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  6. unbiased observer

    Dear CNN,
    your editors seem to have confused the terms "Chelsea confronts" with "Chelsea deflects". Are you outsourcing again??
    thanks, unbiased observer

    April 1, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  7. North Carolina

    I think the more important statement is that we should not vote for or against Hillary based on what Bill has done. But isn't that actually what Hillary wants? She wants us to consider her 35 years of experience when deciding whether or not to vote for her, including her time as "co-president" when Bill was in the White House. If she's going to run on HIS experience, then we must be able to consider all of it.

    April 1, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  8. Jim in FL

    And politics is supposed to be polite ? Would someone please educate the poor girl. Anyone ask her if she knows of any half-brothers or sisters?

    April 1, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  9. Lin

    Let's get Michelle Obama back in the public eye (where has she been) and let's ask her about her belief system regarding race in America. She's fair game too!

    April 1, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  10. therealist

    Politics is a game for grown ups. If you can't answer the question then sit down and shut up..

    April 1, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  11. Darin

    Isn't it about time for Hillary to resurrect the old standard "vast right wing conspiracy" charge again?

    April 1, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  12. doug

    Leave her alone, it's not fair, oh my god, how could anybody, o.k. I would say if you ca'nt take the heat get out of the kitchen. Let's talk real issues, I'm tired of the poor poor me stuff.

    April 1, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  13. Denise

    Chelsea has to understand that her families legacy comes with good and bad. Her reponses must reflect wisdom. She can not give critics more ammuntion. Chelsea get smart, not nasty.

    April 1, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  14. Eddie G

    It is time for her to face the fact...if she is putting herself out there on the campaign, she has to face the tough questions. The free ride is over. She is 28 years old, not a kid anymore. The media should have a field day with her, she has been protected by mommy and daddy for too long. Why on earth has the national media let the Clinton's dictate what they do? It is absurd.

    April 1, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  15. annie

    Somebody get Chelsea out of there or ask her why her mom lied about sniper fire. This is getting ridiculous!!
    As for the Monica questions...it is our business. Bill relationship with that woman almost sank his presidency. Personally speaking Chelsea is right but you can't answer some questions about White House experience and not answer others. How DID your mom handle it Chelsea? It would be better to say what is probably the truth, YOU DON'T KNOW!! As much as this is a family matter it probably wasn't addressed to you the same way it was addressed by the media and the main parties involved. You don't know...just say that and be honest. I see a family resemblance. You, your mom and dad will never apologize or claim they don't know the answer when they can wiggle out of it by saying "that's inappropriate" or flat out lying.

    April 1, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  16. RENEA,PLYMOUTH,MI

    HILLARY THINK THAT OBAMAS PASTOR MATTERS WHY NOT THE PRESIDENT WHO SHAMED HIS WIFE,THE WHITE HOUSE AND THE NATION!

    April 1, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  17. mkay

    why couldn't she just answer "no" when asked if lewinsky is still an issue?

    but instead she dodged the question which makes questioners more anxious to push.

    Oh well, Bill, chelsea, and hillary are all running for the whitehouse

    April 1, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  18. bill Clinton

    Why is Americans so stupid? Democrats Really saying they will vote for other party if their loser Hillary loses she already lost as I can see....

    April 1, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  19. Imploding Clintons

    How is answering about any Clinton historical scandal any diff than Obama having to answer (again and again, because Clinton operatives and pro-media keep giving the story legs) about Rev. Wright? As an adult suragate, stumping on her mom's behalf, she should find an answer that spins the neg to a pos (like an adult would handle it). Also, I liked the response that where was Chelsea when Mom HRC was repeating lines since Dec on Bosnia... good Q.

    April 1, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  20. Carrie PA

    Chelsea has put herself into this campaign mess. If she can't handle questions from voters and the press, Chelsea should go back to NYC and work for a living.

    April 1, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  21. Carolyn

    The anti-Clinton (anit-women) comments have reached a new high when people think they have the right to ask a daughter to explain her father's behavior. ASK HIM!!!
    As for Ms. Costello and her comments...way off base.

    April 1, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  22. Linda-Miami

    I say hire a special prosecutor for all member of Congress, governors, and all elected officials and let's see what we uncover......wouldn't that be interesting!!! All that money wasted for something that is so private. This question should be directed at Mrs. Clinton and guess what....women will relate because many of us have been cheated on by a man in our life. We know her pain.

    April 1, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  23. LouR

    Of course Chelsea as well as Hillary have an obligation to answer the question regarding Lewinsky,as long as Hillary wants to continue to run for President .It is a public issue not a private family matter under these circumstances and the refusal to answer in any manner is arrogant and simply a way of avoidance not worthy of someone campaigning for their parent running for President.

    April 1, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  24. sue

    Both President Clinton and Senator Clinton had accomplished so much for our country. We had a healthy economy in the 90's with 300 million + surpluses, we weren't at wars. People all over the world loved us. The problem with their personal lives is really none of our business. Let it go people...

    April 1, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  25. KT

    I agree so what they are public figures or servants. I don't know every affair the county judge is having or sheriffs. I don't know every little thing the sanitation people are doing.

    I don't care about his affair. I am sure that any answer Chelsea gives is not going to make everyone happy. I think she has chosen to take the high road and stick to stumping for her mother and the issues.

    A good portion of what the news has been reporting for the most part is snippets of gossip or hearsay.

    I think Chelsea was very smart in her decision to not talk directly to the media and not answer questions about the relationship ups and downs of her parents. She does not know what goes on between a husband and wife.

    So what he lied so what HRC perception of an event was different. I don't see anyone jumping on Obama's lies or exaggerations. No one made a big deal about his wifes thesis and some of the harsh things it said, no one said anything when he lied about his relation with Rezko, etc.

    So get real, get back to real news, and impartiality. I think it is important to think for ourselves, disregard pundits and sound bites.

    Chelsea stick to your guns and don't be bullied by bloggers or the media.

    April 1, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
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