Chelsea Clinton Reopens Door to Politics

Is the frenzy around Clinton 2016 focused on the wrong one?

April 8, 2013, 11:53 AM

April 8, 2013 -- Is the frenzy around Clinton 2016 focused on the wrong one? Chelsea Clinton, the only child of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, is again opening the door to entering politics herself one day.

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"Right now I'm grateful to live in a city, in a state and a country where I strongly support my mayor, my governor, my president, my senators and my representative," Clinton said on NBC's "Today" show Monday. "If at some point that weren't true and I thought I could make a meaningful and measurably greater impact, I'd have to ask and answer that question."

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Clinton is a special correspondent for NBC News. This is just the latest flirtation with entering elected politics. In an interview this weekend with Parade Magazine she gave a similar answer saying she doesn't know if she will, but she is "grateful to live in a city, in a state, in a country where I strongly believe in the confidence and ethos of my direct elected representatives," but "if there were a time where that wasn't true and I thought that I could make a disproportionately positive impact, I'd have to ask and answer that question."

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The younger Clinton said that before her mother ran in 2008 she would have said "no," because "people have been asking me that for as long as I can remember." When asked to describe the circumstances that may make her run, she said "No, but I've never thought too far into the future."

She was also asked about her father already being governor at her current age of 33 (Clinton became governor of Arkansas at 32) and if that made her feel like a "laggard."

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"No," she answered laughing because "my father always knew what he wanted to do. And I don't. If I had one singular galvanizing ambition in life, I would try to reverse engineer toward it, but I don't. I want to make the most difference I can every single day."

In an interview with Vogue published in August she was more open to a political bid than she had been in the past, also telling the magazine, "Before my mom's (presidential) campaign I would have said no," but "now I don't know."

"I believe that engaging in the political process is part of being a good person. And I certainly believe that part of helping to build a better world is ensuring that we have political leaders who are committed to that premise. So if there were to be a point where it was something I felt called to do and I didn't think there was someone who was sufficiently committed to building a healthier, more just, more equitable, more productive world? Then that would be a question I'd have to ask and answer."

Clinton also spoke of a change in her private to public life:

"Historically I deliberately tried to lead a private life in the public eye," she told the magazine. "And now I am trying to lead a purposefully public life."

She's taken a more high profile role at the Clinton Global Initiative and she appeared this weekend with her father at the annual Clinton Global Initiative University gathering for college students in St. Louis, as well as appearing right after her mother Friday at Newsweek/The Daily Beast's Women in the World conference where she led a panel with female tech entrepreneurs urging more girls to study computer science.

The watch is already on for whether Hillary Clinton makes another run for the White House in 2016, and her every word is already being dissected, but almost inevitably people will also be watching to see if Chelsea Clinton decides to run for office, too. This is the first time since 1982 that a Clinton is not holding a public office.

On Monday, Chelsea Clinton didn't give any hint as to her mother's thoughts only saying, "I deeply respect and appreciate all of the admiration and respect and gratitude for my mother's service.

"As a daughter I want her to make the right choice for herself. I know that will be the right choice for our country and I'll support her in whatever she chooses to do," Clinton said. She told Parade she wants her mother to "rest" right now and described herself as "unapologetically and unabashedly…deeply biased toward my mother."

So could the younger Clinton follow in her parent's footsteps?

"Americans always look for dynasties: Bush, Kennedy, Cuomo, Clinton … it's some kind of continuity. There will always be pressure on her to run for public office," said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political strategist in New York.

"She's learning from the two best politicians in recent American history and she understands when to hold them and when to fold them," Sheinkopf said.

That sense of dynasty could also present a significant hurdle.

"She's got to A, demonstrate that she has the charisma of her father, or B, demonstrate that she has the policy chops of her mother. And I think like most people she is somewhere in between," a former Hillary Clinton aide from her 2008 campaign said. "People are judging her through each of her parents and it's an impossible standard."

Besides work with CGI, as well as other boards and moderating panels, she also worked toward making same-sex marriage legal in New York last year, as well as gay marriage referendums in Maine, Maryland, Wisconsin and Washington state, all of which were successful in November. She has also been active in superstorm Sandy recovery, most notably delivering aid to the devastated Rockaways with her father.

"She is incredibly busy," a current Clinton aide said in an interview earlier this year. "She's doing a lot with the foundation, she's doing a lot with the Clinton Global Initiative. She's doing a lot of (teaching at) NYU. She's really busy, but I do think you can start to see there's a common thread to everything she's doing."

"She was great to work with," said Brian Ellner who worked with Chelsea Clinton on the same sex marriage issue in New York. "She is enormously enthusiastic and supportive on the issue, but in addition, she wanted to do real work. As opposed to just making appearances, she came in a couple of times and did phone banking, making calls all around the state urging New Yorkers to support marriage equality and to call their state representatives."

Ellner said the younger Clinton "is enormously popular and has come to represent her generation of young Americans who feel strongly on this issue and many others."

"Chelsea can do anything. Whether it is pursuing elected politics or increasing her role at the foundation or doing other things. She is right on all of the issues and she's working extraordinarily hard to help people," Ellner said. "She represents her generation extraordinarily well."

During her mother's 2008 presidential campaign, Chelsea Clinton campaigned throughout the country stumping on her mother's behalf.

It was one of her first public roles and although she didn't answer press questions at the events she got the experience of wooing crowds, as well as taking questions in town halls, not the easiest thing for even the most seasoned politicians to do.

The 2008 Clinton staffer said Chelsea Clinton became an "active member" of the campaign, something she would likely repeat if her mother decides to run in 2016.

"It gave her a taste of what it means to be a public figure in the more traditional sense," the former aide said.

Not everyone is convinced she is bound to run for office.

"It's not a given that she will have a public life in elected politics," the former staffer said in a previous interview. "I would tell you, I don't think she's going to. I think she would end up being a reluctant candidate at this point in time."

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