- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2000

Hillary Clinton can't break out in her race for the Senate, and her handlers are close to despair that she ever will. Her fund raising is lagging, badly, and her husband, brought in last week, isn't helping much.

He only reminds the women of what a sap Hillary has been over the years, and saps don't make good senators. It's enough to make a lady long for a secret weapon.

That's what's behind the sudden emergence of first daughter Chelsea as a grown-up player.

American newspapers, and even American television outlets, are wary of saying so, obeying a hard rule of political coverage that you don't involve a candidate's children in even the most robust discussions of politics and policy. Not only that, Miss Clinton is by all accounts a lovely young woman bright, responsible and serious who inherited the best of her parents, not the worst. She's entitled to her privacy.

But the Clintons themselves, who have exploited everyone and everything else, are turning now to their only child to rescue Hillary.

London's Sunday Times reported over the weekend that certain diplomats have expressed irritation that the president is involving Chelsea in delicate affairs of state.

"The first sighting of the new Chelsea Clinton was three months ago during a state visit to Washington by Morocco's King Mohammed VI," the Sunday Times reported. "Accompanying her father from the west wing of the White House, she strode confidently down the red carpet and placed a hand on the back of Princess Lalla, gently guiding the king's sister towards Madeleine Albright, the secretary of state.

"It was the first time the 20-year-old Stanford University student had stood in for her mother, Hillary, at an official function… .

"Chelsea clearly enjoyed the experience. After a series of public appearances at her father's side, however, her prominent role as inseparable presidential escort is beginning to prompt questions about the level of her security clearance and access to confidential information.

"Chelsea has done much more than merely deliberate the burning issues of American foreign policy: she has been present for every big decision the president has made since June."

In fact, Chelsea has been photographed in intense conversations with Mrs. Albright and Sandy Berger, her father's national-security adviser, as if she was part of the small presidential detail dispatched to assist the president on his visit to Colombia, where he talked up the $1.3 billion American assist to Colombia's bumbling war on drugs.

A week earlier, Chelsea was seen huddling with Mr. Berger and top aides in Nigeria, and the White House, a little embarrassed, had to shoot down accounts that she played "an active role" in American efforts to halt the tribal warfare between the Tutsis in the government and the Hutu rebels in Burundi. She was said to have worked with her father aboard Air Force One, rewriting his speech to the Nigerian parliament.

Before that, Israeli officials complained that Chelsea had inappropriately monopolized the dinner-table conversation between her father and Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister, during the unsuccessful Camp David talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

You can't blame Chelsea. The president needs a hostess, his wife having abandoned the White House to pursue a job of her own, and daughters have filled in for presidents before. And what serious college junior, who after all has learned more than a sophomore, wouldn't take advantage of such an opportunity to live history while her friends at Stanford are only studying it. Chelsea is not exactly Amy Carter, who took her book of tales of Peter Rabbit to table at a state dinner at the White House. But you can't blame diplomats and officials of other governments, either, for feeling irritation at not knowing exactly what to make of it.

The Clintons know, of course, that criticism of Chelsea will be muted, if there is criticism at all. By taking her public, after guarding her childhood privacy so well for so long, they are creating a valuable asset, an inner tube thrown to a drowning woman, for her mother in New York.

"Chelsea is the respectable Clinton," says a Democratic consultant not connected to the campaign, "and she connects with the suburban housewives who detest her father and feel only embarrassed pity for her mother. Chelsea was the glue that held the family together during the Monica Lewinsky fiasco, and nobody will begrudge her a little excitement now."

No doubt. The risk to the ambitions of her parents is that New Yorkers will regard the exploitation of Chelsea as more cheap Clinton politics, and resent it enough to vote for someone else.

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