Thursday, February 14, 2008

Chelsea Clinton at the University of Akron

One-time and would-be First Daughter Chelsea Clinton appeared today at the University of Akron, looking fresh but sounding worn down. The event, sponsored by the College Democrats, took place in the food court of the student union. According to the statements from the podium, the turnout was far in excess of what the expected. At least a couple hundred students and faculty jammed the main hall, diverting lunchtime traffic to side corridors.

In addition to being obviously fatigued, Chelsea does not seem at ease at the mic. It either speaks well of her character or poorly of her mother's that she appears at such events. Let us assume she overcomes her obvious discomfort with speaking before crowds out of love and admiration for her mother and leave it at that.

In any event, no Clinton staffer appeared wearing a red velvet fedora and boots with goldfish in the plexiglass heels.

The event begins as Chelsea is introduced by College Dems mainstay Zach. He runs through the essentials of Hillary Clinton's platform -- universal health care, getting out of Iraq and and energy/environment/jobs program. Chelsea takes the mic before a blue, white and yellow banner bearing the legend "Hillblazers," suggests that Zach would be a better pick for the event than she would and reiterates the same baisc points. Then opens up for questions.

She is low key throughout. The catch in her voice suggests that she's tired. Still, it's hard not to think of the contrast between her father's folksy appeal and her mother's honking monotone. Few things this cycle have been more discomforting that watching Hillary stand before a raucous crowd and declare WITH THE ENERGY IN THIS ROOM WE CANNOT HELP BUT WIN.

Substantively Chelsea comes of much like Mark Naymik's description of her mother's endorsement interview at the PD. She's all about reciting facts, detailing proposals. It was low on human connection and devoid of applause lines or other pep-rally cues that usually punctuate events like this (at least the twenty minutes I was able to stay there.)

Each time she reiterates a question for the audience, she states it as "The question is what would my mom do about . . ." It's a good, well-coached touch. It stands out, but upon reflection is pretty much the only way she could refer to the candidate without sounding stilted.

Chelsea riffs on a few themes that Hillary would have done well to use earlier. In addition to the general theme of experience, she brings out specific instances of her mother working with conservative Southern Republicans on, for example, veterans issues. Where Hillary mocks Obama for raising "false hope" and "promises" of change, Chelsea calmly lays out the case for her mother's experience. Though she possesses few of her father's natural political gifts, Chelsea makes a more compelling case for her mother than her mother does.


Annie said...

Great pictures! Thanks for covering the event!

Jill said...

Ditto, Scott - thank you.

TBMD said...

Chelsea and other kids of political families are in a tough spot.

Maybe, you disagree with your parent's politics, but need to go out and campaign anyway.

Maybe you agree, but hate crowds and public speaking.

Maybe you agree, and want to campaign, but the grind is proving to be too much.

Unfortunately, it's kind of expected that kids will go out and campaign for their parents.

Chelsea probably falls into one of the latter categories.

In some respects, she has also benefitted from Bill's career - if he's not AG, Governor, and President, she doesn't get the Wall Street job.

Eerily similar to Hillary's latching on to a Senate seat....

Jill said...

TBMD - I'm with you all the way through until the end - I suspect Chelsea had enough smarts without anyone opening doors - seriously. I would have far less confidence if we were talking about Jenna Bush... :)

Eric said...

35 years of experience, running on "universal health care, getting out of Iraq and and energy/environment/jobs program."

Seems like a record of failure and misplaced priorities. Will the Dems hold her accountable during her primary campaign, or will the Republicans need to address her record in the Presidential campaign? (Cleveland State provides an opportunity...)

Whatever happened to education, where she made her mark in Arkansas? (Or did her campaign notice another candidate who actually did improve education in Arkansas?)

redhorse said...

Jill, it may be true that Chelsea is bright, but the company she works for is owned by Friends of Bill. I think that's what we call a long shadow.

Jill said...

Redhorse - You know how many businesses could be called "owned by Friends of Bill"? Come on.

WestEnder said...

Chelsea was in Cincinnati just a few days ago and the reports were very positive. Her demeanor/energy was quite the opposite of what you saw at U of A. My guess is that the hectic, peripatetic schedule is wearing her down.

And as far as her job, Jill is 100% correct.