The only section of the New York Times I consistently enjoy is “By the Book.” It is a quick read that offers a glimpse into the reading habits of writers, musicians, and other public figures. When I came to the latest edition with Chelsea Clinton I expected to read a vacuous interview that served no purpose other than to sell a few extra copies of her recent book. But that was not the case. It wasn’t an interview with a writer; it was with a politician.
Since Hillary Clinton’s defeat back in November, there has been a lot of talk regarding Chelsea’s political intentions. Due to the lack of evidence and the biases of both Republicans and establishment Democrats, I never for a second thought she was really planning to run for office. But today I changed my mind. In response to a question about classic novels, Chelsea Clinton begins by reminding people she has children. It wasn’t a relevant response to the question and showed an eagerness to seem human. Such a response is eerily similar to her mother’s futile attempts to portray herself as relatable. Almost every subsequent answer she provides includes some mention of being a parent. Don’t get me wrong, being a parent is a wonderful and important job (I myself am a father) but it doesn’t need to be a part of every conversation. Anyone who constantly refers to parenthood either has nothing else going on or is using that position for some personal gain. The issue of children also comes up in another form elsewhere in the interview.
Chelsea harmlessly shares her love for detective fiction but goes on to say she stays away from literature that involves children being “harmed or seriously threatened.” Are there enough novels about child abuse for them to have their own genre? How many are there that there needs to be a concerted effort to avoid them? It definitely feels like an effort to give her a pro-child record, a record Hillary pretended to have during her runs for office. There were a couple of questions related to children’s literature but none opened the door to a discussion of Chelsea’s breastfeeding or sleepless nights. Giving answers that bear no relation to the actual question(s) is a typical political skill. As is eliminating the risk of offending a possible voter.
Her discussion of avoiding the aforementioned books was a deft way to steer clear of revealing which genres she didn’t care for. No authors, editors, or readers could possibly be offended. The only time she expresses any degree of negativity is in response to a question about the books she found disappointing. After yet again reminding everyone she has read children’s books, she names Jon Klassen’s This is not my Hat. Thanks to a few seconds of research, I learned that Klassen is a Canadian living in California. There is no way angering him could result in a lost vote should she run for any office in the near future.
When asked about which three dead or alive authors she would host for a dinner party, Chelsea Clinton fails to answer the question accurately and panders to a range of demographics. She names nine people beginning with James Baldwin, a deceased African American writer and social activist who has received much recent media attention. She also includes Shakespeare, her own husband, and “Jesus Christ.” The complete list of names could possibly endear her to African Americans, intellectuals, family values voters, and Christians. Her family has never been particularly religious but it is nigh on impossible to be successful in American politics without pandering to at least Christian voters. It was a smart political move to namedrop Jesus.
Another smart political move was taking aim at Donald Trump’s America sometimes through a thin veil, sometimes explicitly. She clumsily connects Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 to “this moment [under Trump’s administration] in which we have to fight to protect progress on civil rights, women’s rights, L.G.B.T. rights…” She piles on by saying he has only read one book and accusing him of believing he has sole power over “the truth.” Nothing is trendier right now than attacking the current president and neglecting to offer genuine alternatives.
I admit I could be completely wrong about all of this. Maybe Chelsea Clinton was just finding a way to sell more books or maybe she has been surrounded by politics so long it is her first language. Nevertheless, I have never had a problem with Chelsea Clinton and, as I said before, didn’t see her as being politically ambitious so my impression of her weighing a run for office is based solely on what she said in the interview. If I was her political advisor, I would be more than thrilled with how it turned out. I just really hope I am wrong about America being forced to deal with another Clinton in public office.