Kim Jong Chelsea
If you think North Korea is the only country in which the child of a previous leader is treated as a demi-god, pampered and puffed-up by state-controlled media, accustomed to royal treatment, you need a quick visit to Planet Chelsea.
Buzzfeed, which is edited by former Politico Journ-O-lister Ben Smith, presents an inside account of the way in which the daughter of Hillary and Bill Clinton stepped on the escalator to media stardom prominence. It does not resemble a merit-based system, according to the sly writer, Amy Sly:
To get the TV gig, Chelsea's team played off rival networks, holding a series of meetings in New York last fall with all the major television news outlets, including ABC, CBS, and CNN. "Her agent calls, asks if you want to meet with Chelsea Clinton, you take the meeting," one network executive tells BuzzFeed.
But she didn't blow anyone away with her presence during the interview process, according to network executives who interviewed her. "Horrible," says another high ranking TV executive who met with Chelsea. "There were ground rules, what she could and couldn't report, only good news, no politics, " says the executive, who felt Chelsea would be a dud and passed.
There was a sense in the meetings that that the news channels were auditioning for her - not the other way around - which rubbed a few of those she met with the wrong way. "They acted like we should be grateful" that she was offering herself to the networks, says the exec.
Even high ranking company officials within NBC, according to sources at 30 Rock, weren't that impressed with her. One senior staffer told colleagues after multiple meetings that Chelsea was going to be simply "terrible" on television. Upon her arrival, Chelsea was given a welcome bag, filled with NBC swag, 30 Rockers tell me. NBC's David Gregory responded by jokingly asking: "Where's my welcome bag?"
Gregory's joke hints at the unprecedented level of special treatment Chelsea receives: she didn't do live shots on her Rock Center debut; she gets chauffeured everywhere in a town car while others her age strap hang with the suckers in Gotham's sewers; she has her own personal spokesperson; and she has her own chief-of-staff, Bari Lurie. (Lurie is to Chelsea what Huma Abedin is to Hillary: a fiercely loyal female aide and confidante, who logged over 7,000 miles with her during the 2008 campaign.) Other top talent at the network noticed that luxury: Lester Holt, Hoda Kotb, Natalie Morales, and Savannah Guthrie all share a single assistant. (An NBC spokesperson says, however, that Chelsea pays for her own chief of staff.)
Not to mention how all the kids in NBC reacted. "The message was, 'You didn't waste your journalism degree,'" says one NBC news staffer. "There's resentment." The critical reception of her debut on Rock Center wasn't great, either....
The biggest unspoken issue in America today is the emergence of an elite class based on govenrment power in all its manifestations -- tax breaks, subsidies and government-guaranteed loans, political position, and bureaucratic arrogance (the GSA scandals are but the tip of the iceberg). Chelsea Clinton is a perfect representative of that elite's level of presumption.
Although the daughter of powerful politicians, Ms. Clinton is no longer a child, though you can be certain that the legacy media are not anxious to expose her to negative publicity. She self-evidently lacks the normal prerequisites to media prominence, including any demonstrated ability to do the job well. Yet there she is, enjoying the sort of treatment 99% (there's that totemic figure again!) of all media employees can only fantasize about. In a way, Ms. Clinton is the purest expression of an entitlement mentality, a kind of performance artist illuminating meaning. She should apply for an NEA grant.
An interesting question is why Buzzfeed, under the editorship of a Journ-O-list veteran, would publish a piece certain to anger Chelsea and her parents. Note the unflattering picture of Ms. Clinton chosen for the top of the piece. Could it be that there are subterranean tensions between the Clinton loyalists and the Obama gang? Journ-O-list was explicitly pro-Obama. Stay tuned for more potential skirmishes as the factions of the Democratic Party align themselves for a future battle over party dominance.