April 1st, 2008
03:00 PM ET
14 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. Doug R.

    People are just fixated with the Clintons. They just can't let it go.
    Let's ask McCain about his adultery and extra marital affairs.

    April 1, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  2. kathleen

    The down side of her father's legacy!!! Now, do we really want to hear
    that.Really, do we want to hear it again. NO. Please, my ears are hurting. Hillary please take your daughter home so she won't be asked humiliating questions of your past. The questions really could
    get worse.

    Obama 2008 or no one!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 1, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  3. Deidre

    Is Monica paying these people?

    April 1, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  4. Hanging Chad


    Just read an interesting article on how the Clinton campaign
    hasn't paid $292,000 in Health Insurance Premiums for their
    campaign staffers.

    So much for Universal Health Care!


    April 1, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  5. Gorefan

    Instead of asking about Monica Lewinsky , shouldn't the question to Chelsea be, "Back in December, when your mother started talking about being under sniperfire with you in Bosnia, why didn't you stop her from continuing to repeat a story that what was obviously untrue?"

    April 1, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  6. David M. Manes

    I am no Clinton supporter, but I do think it is unfair that these questions are getting so much media attention. It is incredibly irrelevant to ask a candidate's daughter about the candidate's husband and his sexual philanderings in the past. What possible interest could a potential voter have in asking that kind of question to Chelsea Clinton? None.

    April 1, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  7. Nicholas Hussein

    Let's get real...it is our business...they're not just public figures, but public servants...

    April 1, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  8. Pho

    She is 28, not a 12-year old shy girl you remember her as. If she cannot confront the issues voters need to know, she has no business talking on the behalf of her mother.

    April 1, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  9. Edee

    I believe that the American people wants to know about the Lewinsky/Clinton scandal, but however I do not feel that Chelsea is the right person to ask that sort of question to. Maybe they should as Bill & Hillary directly.

    April 1, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  10. RLS

    Another smart Clinton woman. You Go Girl! Not too many people have such great respect for their mothers. Hillary should be very proud of the job she did with you! You are a special young woman.

    April 1, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  11. stayoutofthespotlite

    Chelsea you can not take the heat get out of the kitchen, blame your mother she is the one who put you in this situation for her own political ambition. This is a mother who stayed with your father so he can help her to be elected as the US president.

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

    No college student is really interested in the answer to a question about Monica. Let's do the math, if they are a senior in college now they could be 22. That means when the incident unfolded they were in 6th or 7th grade. It is hard for me to believe that they remember anything first hand about the issue.

    Chelsea's 'non ya' answer is just find. She needs to walk toward the questioner to make them squirm on camera.

    April 1, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  13. Mike

    Not sure how this has anything to do with Chelsea Clinton and the election... I am not sure how that question helps with the war or economic problems... all it does is show that Hillary is a much bigger person than 50% of the population that has been divorced...

    Then again the first kid to ask the question was on all the news programs... he was famous for a few days!!!

    April 1, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  14. DM Arlington Texas

    If at the age of 27 or 28, she can 't handle what her father done in his past and to who he did with. Hell, her mother excepted it. Bill Clinton having sex in the white house with her there such a lack of respect. Honesty is not one of he Clinton's best qualities.

    April 1, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  15. JJ in NY

    If she can't, or won't answer the question, then the little imp shouldn't be there in the first place. How hypocritical and disingenuous...just like her mother .

    April 1, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  16. Dave


    I believe she has the right not to respond to those questions if she were not actively campaigning. In that case, her privacy would need to be respected and she woud have every right to expect it. BUT, if she voluntarily projects herself into this campaign wich she has, then she has to play by the rules that apply to all people involved in the campaigns, and be held accountable for her answers.

    April 1, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  17. as

    People need to stop with that question. Married people have affairs all the time and it's none of our business. For the fact it did not affect the way Clinton ran the country. Things were still good. Deal with the issues people Economy, Health Care, Iraq and stay out of people's personal business. The president is not GOD. He breathes just like us and makes mistakes to.

    April 1, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  18. Joe Hanson, Montana

    . . . Does anyone really want Bill Clinton and Hillary's scandals to be replayed for eight more years?

    Vote For Change.
    Obama 08.

    April 1, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  19. Wendy, NC

    I think when Bill Clinton was in office it was America's Business, but all these people are trying to do is find out how Chelsea handled the situation...well, how would you handle it? I mean the world was watching your Dad lying about cheating on your mom.

    She is right, regardless of the fact that her mother is now running for President, it is not Hillary that lied under oath and it is not Hillary that was impeached. Back off ppl! It is NONE of your business!

    April 1, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  20. BK

    Why don't you tell these young college students about the budget surplus, affordable college, low gas prices, and the Clintons working for all Americans when Bill Clinton was in office. You know as well as anyone that was no more than a right wing conspiracy. Tell the truth CNN has created this mess. Clean it up! Or would you rather educate them with stupid questions from Obama fans?

    April 1, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  21. Rob

    Interesting that it took college students to ask questions about Clinton scandals. Where were you guys? Oh yeah, forgot Clinton News Network (CNN)

    April 1, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  22. Carol

    The country addressed the scandal AT THE TIME IT HAPPENED. It is over! Move on. Keep it up CNN, you keep posting this nonsense for ratings will only hurt your beloved candidate, Obama.

    April 1, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  23. m gray

    It is the publics business, however I can understand why she would like not to address it. I think she would come over a lot less aggressive if she just declined politely to discuss it instead of saying its not the public business.

    April 1, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  24. Alicia

    What was the point of this article? That's just like you guys reporting on Obama bowling. It has nothing to do with the issues and, this piece in particular, has nothing to do with the election. Chelsea is not running for the presidency. NEW TOPIC PLEASE!

    April 1, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  25. Mark Levine

    Whether you agree with the line of questioning or not, these inquiries are a direct result of Chelsea actively campaigning for her mother while emphatically refusing interviews from any member of the press, even little kids representing an elementary school newspaper. She is entitled to her privacy...if she remains a private figure. Once she decides to become an active surrogate for a candidate she becomes a public figure and should be required to respond to the media just like everyone else. She can't have it both ways.

    April 1, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
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