February 10, 2008

Not Pimping, But Something


…Now if Shuster had said: “That Chelsea has become one hot property.”

Someone being pimped is typically being exploited against her will.  The analogy — to the extent coercion or manipulation is involved — misses Chelsea by about five primary and seven caucus states.  Still, the firestorm around David Shuster’s snide remark obscures the fact there is a point in there somewhere.  That point, I believe, addresses Chelsea’s sudden, striking emergence as an active campaigner, and in tandem, almost a new X-factor in the campaign.

As recently as a few weeks ago, Chelsea was silently confining herself to mom’s shadow (or hip).  Far cry from the past week, though (as Shuster obviously noticed), now that Chelsea is blitzing college campuses coast-to-coast like a one-woman anti-Obamamania missile.  Not only that, but solo, she’s also begun conducting her own town halls.

In a post I wrote in collaboration with photographer Alan Chin, offering a 72-hour, visual campaign-by-campaign inspection of the days counting down to the NH primary, I concluded that Chelsea was in the process of supplanting Bill as Team Clinton’s iconic figure and support system, coincident with Hillary finding her voice, and crystallizing the women’s vote as the cornerstone of her base.

Now, just four weeks later, the transformation has progressed much further than I could have anticipated (thus, drawing Shuster’s attention … and fluster).  Along those lines, I think the article this weekend at Boston.com gets it right, jumping past the MSNBC slur to frame Chelsea’s evolution into a major campaign asset.

All that said, however, what is really curious is the image (above) chosen to accompany the article.  This shot of Chelsea in the “support system” role is certainly weeks behind the times.

In addition, I find it fascinating the site chose a shot with Chelsea’s back to us.  Could it be that Boston.com (the web face of the Boston Globe, and property of the NYT) was treading lightly in the face of the Clinton’s Chelsea-loaded ire toward the media right now?  Perhaps the editorial people felt they had to split the difference:  We flesh out the Chelsea story in her new boffo surrogacy role, but we run a shot that tows the old (going back to the Clinton administration-old) policy of practically blacking out the former first daughter.

Personally — because I think Chelsea presents a fascinating picture right now — I take Shuster to task for picking the right tune, but hitting the way-wrong note (and then feeding the campaign the distraction).  Respecting the more complex and strategic art of politics (certainly, head-and-shoulders above talking-head analogies to whores and hood ornaments), what will be interesting to watch is Chelsea’s quite willful (and what looks to me, also quite pleasurable) emergence as her mother’s mirror and break-away leader of a new MTV/co-ed insurgency.

Former first child steps out (Boston.com)

Our Man In New Hampshire #7: The Chelsea Factor (1/9/2008 – BAGnewsNotes)

More pics: Chelsea at the mic at Bowdoin this past Friday, and doing the “townhall thing” in Nebraska same day. (via YahooNews)

MSNBC Reporter Begrudgingly Apologizes For Chelsea “Pimp” Comment (HuffingtonPost)

(image: Dave Weaver/AP.  Nebraska.  February 7, 2008.  via boston.com)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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