Barbara and Jenna Bush, after all, were college students who acted like…college students. And for that they were portrayed as drunken, irresponsible louts by reporters, many of whom surely engaged in far more egregious behavior in their undergraduate days. (Time Magazine's Joe Klein, for example, described himself as a college "stoner" on MSNBC yesterday.)
The press corps never seemed to allow for the fact that the Bush daughters were public figures by virtue of circumstance, not choice. And more often than not, media outlets opted for cheap shots when they might have, considering the circumstances, shown restraint.
Chelsea Clinton, unlike the Bush daughters, always seemed to understand what her parents had gotten her into. She recognized that she could not live the life of a typical college student without risking an avalanche of unfair criticism. And so she avoided situations where she might be photographed with a telltale glint in her eye or too-wide smile on her face. Even as a teenager, Clinton was a politician; with an eager press corps waiting to pounce, she knew she had to be.
I mention that because of a New York Times story today on the possibility of Clinton, once again, becoming first daughter. It seems that the instincts she honed the first time around have not left her; as Jodi Kantor writes,
"Ms. Clinton seems acutely aware that others are always observing her; classmates at Stanford noticed that she was always in full makeup, as if she expected to be photographed at any moment."The whole story is worth a read. What struck me about it is the fact that Clinton, even today, seems to very much be a product of her time in the spotlight – a walking, talking Observer's Paradox formed in large part by the pressures of being first daughter. Hillary Clinton may believe that it takes a village to raise a child, but in the case of her daughter, that village included a press corps ready and willing to attack at the first opportunity.
Chelsea ultimately may be a better person because of what she went through, but one can't help but wonder if politicians ever feel guilty about putting their kids in such a situation in the first place -- or if members of the media ever feel bad about forcing them to make a choice about whether it's worth it to do so.