Chelsea: Presidential Kid in the Public Eye

Being a presidential daughter or son looks glamorous and seems exciting - especially on a wedding day.

But being a presidential child can be far from easy. Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "One of the worst things in the world is being the child of a president. It's a terrible life they lead."

Chelsea Clinton, now poised to be married in Rhinebeck, N.Y., came of age in the White House amid tumultuous times. Among a long line of presidential children, always in the public eye, Chelsea Clinton is now considered American royalty.

But why is there so much interest in her life and her wedding?

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Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning" that the rise of mass media has piqued America's interest in White House weddings.

"We've been fascinated by weddings in the White House. In Alice Roosevelt's in 1906, she was so sexy and so beautiful, she was known as Princess Alice. There was such a crush of invitations, everybody wanting to be at her wedding, and she got wedding presents from all over the world as a result.

"Trisha Nixon, her wedding was televised, and it was said that the cake had to be big enough for 600 journalists to be able to share in it. So, we do have a desire, I think, to see inside these White House families."

"Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill pointed out the protective nature the Clintons have had toward Chelsea throughout her life, particularly during her years living in the White House. Hill asked if it's unusual how little information has leaked about her wedding.

Goodwin replied she wasn't surprised.

"When you think about the way the Clintons brought up Chelsea, they were fiercely protective of her, more than almost any other president except for Woodrow Wilson's protection of his three daughters. We only knew [Chelsea] as an adolescent, then we saw that iconic image with her parents after Monica Lewinsky, now a fully-grown accomplished woman."

Jacob Bernstein, of the news site The Daily Beast, said it's "totally amazing" Chelsea has grown up as well as she has.

"She's been very well-behaved. I think had she misfired in any way, the press probably would have been there," he said. "I mean, you know, the Bush girls both wound up phenomenally well, but both got arrested twice while their dad was in the White House, and it was a sort of kid-like thing that happened.

"But, you know, I think with Chelsea, she came out well. There weren't a lot of mistakes."

Hill remarked, "Presidential children, the fascination with them, goes across party lines and can help humanize a president. Has Chelsea been helpful for both parents politically?"

Bernstein said, "I think whether or not you like the Clintons, the fact she's turned out well and she was, you know, a National Merit finalist and wound up at Stanford and did well and wound up at this hedge fund, you know, it speaks well of them."

Goodwin added, "When people feel good about the child that's been brought up by the parents, they feel better about the parents. Good old stiff Nixon evidently was humanized when Trisha was married, letting it out to the press, 'I'm so nervous about the first dance, I'll be awkward'

"People like that, and his public opinion polls actually went up as a result."

As for Chelsea Clinton's first dance with her father, Goodwin predicts it's going to be a very emotional affair, saying there will be tears shed.

"Hillary said if he gets down the aisle without breaking down it she will stunned," Goodwin said. "It is said even when (President) Grant's daughter Nellie got married in the White House, that Grant was crying the entire time and nobody could look at his face. It is a big emotional moment and (Bill Clinton)'s an emotional guy."

But will the wedding be as big an affair as expected?

Bernstein said, "I think it will be even less Hollywood than already is being reported. I think this actually is really about close friends. We've heard Oprah might be here, and perhaps that will happen, but I don't think so. I think this is going to be a sort of different affair."

Goodwin agreed in her assessment, saying, "From what I understand, she and Marc only wanted people they knew personally at their wedding. When Linda Byrd Johnson was married, evidently the Congress was there, the Supreme Court, the cabinet members. That's not a personal wedding. I think young people today now choose to have their friends, than their parents' desires."

But what about the current president's children - Sasha and Malia? At 7 and 10, respectively, they're a bit younger than Chelsea when she came to the White House.

Goodwin said, "I think it is easier when you are a lot longer, you get used to being around the White House, the family is there together, more than running around on a campaign trail. Adolescence is the hardest time. You don't want that attention on you. Chelsea came in as an adolescent, and makes it more remarkable she's turned out as well balanced as she has."
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