Bill Clinton wasn't protected as a child -- so he didn't grow into a strong adult -- other than becoming president, withstanding impeachment, and so on. Wait a second -- Chelsea has been sheltered, and she's too fragile to talk to nine-year-olds.
The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, March 26, 2008. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.
Protect Poor Chelsea Clinton!
Psychology Today Editor-at-Large Hara Marano's forthcoming book, A Nation of Wimps, presents the argument that young Americans can't take the heat. They require parental guidance and protection well beyond their childhood years - indeed, often into their thirties.
Which brings us to Chelsea Clinton. Chelsea has been traveling the country - sometimes on her own, sometimes with one of her parents - campaigning on behalf of her mother.
Chelsea is not a teenager, as many of us remember her. She is now 28 - that's right, approaching 30 - and is by any definition an adult. It would not be unusual for someone her age to have a responsible job and a family.
Instead, she is in the service of her parents. But she approaches that role in an unusual way. Chelsea refuses to take any questions from the press (most famously, from a nine-year-old Scholastic News reporter), and the Clinton campaign orders news media to turn off their cameras before approaching her.
All of this came to a head this Tuesday at Butler University in Indianapolis, where a student named Evan Strange asked Chelsea about how her mother dealt with the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Chelsea looked pensive, then antagonistically said she had never been asked that question before - and to show how ridiculous it was enumerated the seventy campuses she has spoken at without having to confront such impudence. She scathingly concluded that it wasn't any of the questioner's business.
On the morning news program I watch, MSNBC's "Morning Joe," the liberal female host, former conservative congressman and namesake of the show, and third wheel all cheered Chelsea on - as indeed the student crowd at Butler did.
But how does this make sense? Media people should certainly not pursue Chelsea enquiring about her personal life. But if Chelsea is putting herself forward as a public spokesperson in a presidential race, and has special insight into a matter of historical, psychological, and characterological relevance, then she should be prepared to respond.
Indeed, her father criticized the Obama campaign for being hypersensitive the very next day, saying that if a person doesn't want to be tackled in a football game, they shouldn't put on pads and go out on the field.
But most adults - that is, middle-aged ones - look on Chelsea protectively. They probably identify her with their own children who, according to Marano, they are busy mollycoddling. "How dare they ask Chelsea such a challenging thing!"
It is interesting to compare Chelsea with her father and mother in this regard. Bill headed George McGovern's presidential campaign in Texas in 1972, the year he turned 26. He ran for Congress in 1974 - at Chelsea's current age - in the rough Arkansas political atmosphere. He lost, but recovered to become Attorney General and Governor of Arkansas. Bill Clinton, we all know, can take a lot of heat.
But Bill was not well-protected as a child - quite the opposite. After his father died, Bill's mother sent him to live with his grandparents while she attended nursing school. His mother then remarried an alcoholic who abused her - forcing Bill to confront his stepfather.
Hillary grew up in an in-tact family and under better financial circumstances than Bill. But she very early took on major-league responsibilities. At the age of 21, she became the first student commencement speaker at Wellesley College. At a younger age than her daughter now is, Hillary was Congressional legal counsel during the superheated Watergate hearings.
It seems unlikely that Chelsea will ever be able to bear up under the burdens and challenges her parents have dealt with throughout their lives. So, we must join together and protect poor Chelsea, like her parents have, even as she approaches 30!