Chelsea’s write-ups have been write-arounds: she still refuses to do press interviews, Team Clinton’s logic being, as The Nation’s John Nichols put it, “that the daughter of the candidate could…handle questions from crowds but not from journalist—apparently on the theory that the journalists would be indelicate.” And on the specific assumption, Nichols wrote, “that a reporter would have asked Chelsea Clinton about her father’s affair with a White House intern.”
Yeah—at some point, one probably would. But why should that be such a problem? Why, really, should the press treat Chelsea differently than they do other campaign surrogates?
You could say, on the one hand, that Chelsea’s is a particular case demanding a particular brand of reportorial delicacy, that the kid gloves befit someone who—on the campaign trail, at least—is playing the role of, well, a kid. (“My Mom” is perhaps the most common utterance Chelsea makes on the stump.) Still, it seems to me, a surrogate’s a surrogate. When Chelsea chose to stump for her mother, she effectively relinquished her right to be sheltered from the press’s spotlight, uncomfortable questions and all. If her surrogacy makes a campaign issue of Hillary-Clinton-as-Wife-and-Mother, in particular, then it’s only fair to ask her questions about the very issue she’s raised. (And the corollary to Hillary-as-Wife is Monica-as-Mistress.) No question should be off-limits, for Chelsea or any other campaigner—as long as those being questioned reserve their right to a “no comment.” A surrogate who is allowed to speak without push-back from the press skews the checks and balances of campaign-trail discourse. Even when that surrogate’s name is Chelsea.