Chelsea Surprised By Sexist Comments

Chelsea Clinton speaks at the Annual Young Democrats Conference in Research Triangle Park, N.C., March 29, 2008. AP Photo/Sara D. Davis

Chelsea Clinton said Saturday that she didn't realize how much sexism remained in the United States until she noticed the issue at recent campaign stops for her mother.

"I didn't really get how much sexism there still was in our country until I was at a rally with my mom in New Hampshire, and someone came up to me and said, 'I just can't see a woman being commander in chief,"' Clinton said during a stop in Research Triangle Park.

She also noted another New Hampshire rally that was disrupted by men who stood up and told Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton to "Iron my shirt." And she quietly questioned why some people find humor in a nutcracker doll that looks like her mother.

The younger Clinton said that she didn't understand that sexism still existed because she has always been supported by both the men and women in her family.

"I didn't realize that that wasn't expected yet in the rest of our country," Clinton said. "I have been so profoundly more grateful than I have ever been over the past few months for my parents because of that."

Clinton spoke at the Young Democrats of North Carolina convention in Research Triangle Park - an event that normally draws only appearances for statewide races. On Saturday, campaign officials for both Obama and Clinton sent surrogates to speak, seeking support ahead of the state's May 6 primary. Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker appeared on behalf of Obama.

On several occasions during her speech, Clinton referred to the North American Free Trade Agreement - a pact often blamed for the acceleration of textile and manufacturing job losses across the state - and explained why her former president father and aspiring president mother differed on the issue.

An audience member who said his mother lost her job when it was shipped to Mexico asked Clinton how he could reconcile the passage of NAFTA under the Bill Clinton administration with Hillary Rodham Clinton's opposition of the free trade agreement.

"We don't agree on everything as a family," Chelsea Clinton said. "I agree with my mother on most things - not everything. I agree with my father on most things - not everything. My mother and father agree on most things - not everything."

Clinton, along with rival Barack Obama, repeatedly criticized NAFTA during her successful Ohio primary campaign. She has said she would renegotiate trade agreements and end tax breaks for corporations that send jobs out of the country.

The 1994 landmark NAFTA pact opened trade with Canada and Mexico.

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards also made an appearance at Saturday's event, revisiting his stump speech talking points and taking the stage for the first time since dropping his White House bid two months ago.

The former North Carolina senator praised both of his former rivals, but declined to endorse either candidate.

"I have a very high opinion of both of them," Edwards said. "We would be blessed as a nation to have either one of them as president."

Both Obama and Clinton have repeatedly lobbied Edwards for his endorsement, flying into Chapel Hill to meet with him privately and touting his accomplishments on the campaign trail. Before leaving the race, Edwards won a promise from both Clinton and Obama to make ending poverty central to their ongoing campaigns for the White House.

On Saturday, Edwards pointed out the historical nature of both of their campaigns and said both were better suited in carrying forward his campaign platform than Republican John McCain.

"We are blessed, first, to have an extraordinarily talented African American who could be the next president of the United States," Edwards said. "There's no way to contest the fact that he's inspired this country."

"And Sen. Clinton, who has served America for so long and so well, and has shown so much strength and leadership, has really forged an extraordinarily historic campaign as a woman for the nomination and for the presidency."

Pressed by reporters to detail any endorsement plans, Edwards declined to even say if he would endorse a candidate before the state's primary.

"When I have something to say, I'll let you know," he said.
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