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

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

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/01/art.chelsea.ap.jpg caption="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. Gisela Rentmeister

    The students' questions for Chelsea have to be considered relevant to Bill's affair with a Whitehouse employee while in office and in every aspect responsible to the American people. It was in direct connection with his Monica Levinsky affair when he pointed that proverbial finger at his fellow citizens and blatantly lied to them.

    Nobody can possibly doubt that this lie was approved, if not initiated by Hillary at the time – that would just not be in the cards for a Hillary Clinton. So if, as the leader of a nation, you lie and publicly distort the truth on television, the matter should be considered a private one and not become subject to questions later on....

    Tulla, B.C.

    April 1, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  2. a m

    Why they don't ask her mother ???

    April 1, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
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