Mark Zuckerberg is not running for the presidency. We know this because he has been on a tour of living rooms and auto assembly lines in Midwestern swing states, as one does out of pure philosophical interest in the folkways of Flyover Country and never out of crass political interest. Similarly, we can be sure that Chelsea Clinton is in no way involved in either her own first campaign for the presidency or her mother’s third because she and/or back-of-the-office staff have devoted her Twitter account to some of the most painfully anodyne political commentary and career girl agitprop imaginable and has recently sat for a number of flagrant softball interviews with high-circulation national newspapers and magazines. These are but of course some of the things that one does simply because one and/or one’s forever grasping mother is just kind of bored and can’t think of a thing to watch on Netflix at the moment.
Zuckerberg’s tour of the Midwest has inspired an interesting conspiracy theory holding that Sheryl Sandberg put him up to it as a way of shooing him off the Facebook campus so that she could take over. The premise here is that the way to distract the Zuck from his current techdick glories was to put it in his head that there’s a greater glory awaiting him, specifically, a political glory whose pursuit happens to lure him way the fuck out of Menlo Park. It sounds plausible, but so does the idea of Zuckerberg having a heartfelt personal interest in running the United States and officially collecting our Likes. It’s exactly the sort of situation in which Sandberg’s sleazy scheme to Lean In on her boss could coincide perfectly with his own interest in becoming the ultimate meddler in national and world affairs. Sandberg planting the idea of the presidency in Zuckerberg’s head is true to her character, but so is Zuckerberg’s grandiose belief that he is morally fit for the presidency and not too scandal-prone and controversial to win it true to his own character.
Think about it: the more encouraging scenario here features a scummy gambit by the Lean In bitch to inflict a notorious tech dork on our presidential politics not half a year after the conclusion of our last interminable presidential election season. It’s pretty pathetic. Any way we look at this episode, it says a great deal about the degradation of our national leadership. We’ve got the boy king coming down from Olympus for a perfectly innocent cultural mission to the mortals, and if we’re lucky, we’ve also got an obnoxious, devious corporate feminist putting him up to this stunt with no expectation that it will be anything but a wild goose chase for him.
Yuck. What I find most worrisome about this presidential grooming tour is that Mark Zuckerberg is no longer the sputtering, ridiculous babyfaced dork that he was when he first catapulted himself onto the Silicon Valley A List. Outwardly, he has grown up enough to start looking arguably presidential. Let’s not pretend that the air of gravitas and majesty that is famously expected of our presidents can be achieved only by the cultivation of some precise appearance of patrician grace that only members of our own political party, whichever one we favor, can possess. Our recent presidents have included a Georgia peanut warehouser, a screen actor who won reelection after bumbling his way through a debate while sundowning from Alzheimer’s Disease, a hilariously tongue-tied patrician fuddy-duddy, a first-generation lace curtain Arkansas hillbilly who was renowned for his “bimbo eruptions” before he had even been elected, a raging dry drunk failson who fancied himself a Texas cowboy, an alleged Chicagoan who had been raised in Hawaii by white Kansan parents but was black enough on account of his absentee father to be helpfully smeared as a Muslim Mau-Mau Manchurian Candidate (this made him look calm by comparison to his own nut gallery), and a famous television oaf with a habit of plastering his name everywhere in thousand-point type. A techdick who was a total dork in his twenties but doesn’t look like such a dork in his thirties is not a dramatic departure from these awfully inconsistent recent antecedents. No, this does not mean that it would be a good idea to put him in the Oval Office, but since when have we stopped to make sure that any of these guys would be a good idea? These are the guys responsible for the fundraising rental of the Lincoln Bedroom, “Mission Accomplished,” and “We tortured some folks.”
Exactly what Chelsea Clinton is trying to accomplish is harder to suss out. The National Review article that I linked above is some good shit, even if it gets a bit overbearing from time to time in its fussy conservative snark. The comparison of Chelsea’s sorry excuse for a career to Kramer’s retirement to Florida in his forties is entertaining, but it perpetuates a category error about the purpose of what is charitably described as her employment. It isn’t just that she’s a scion of immense privilege. Chelsea’s purported work life has a very different look from the purported work lives of Trump, Kennedy, or Bush scions. The latter families produce a few wastrels who are easy enough to cashier out of the public eye, some drunks and cokeheads, and a great number of prominent scions who, at least at first glance, take on prominent leadership roles in business or government. Chelsea Clinton is the only child of a young dynasty, and her own children are too young to be put into any sort of power, so there are no internal points of comparison for her, and there is also no one in her generation to distract the Clinton paparazzi from her disreputable behavior. At W’s worst the Bushes had their dutiful Jeb, and the Kennedies are legion.
The point of Chelsea’s arguably flaky career path was never, it seems, to teach her a work ethic, nor was it fundamentally to keep up appearances of productivity and upstanding citizenship in her family by way of saving face for her parents. Nor, it seems, was it to try to establish her on a path that she would find personally fulfilling. It’s plausible that Billary have been grooming her for her own power, but that doesn’t appear to be the case, either. Millions of Americans with none of the Clintons’ influence and wealth have careers that look as haphazard as Chelsea’s, but one of the advantages that the Clinton machine surely gives Chelsea is the capacity to have someone else do enough advance work to make sure that she isn’t blindsided by the sorts of bad workplace environments that convince workaday people to abruptly quit their jobs.
The most credible explanation for Chelsea’s apparent dilettantism is that she is actually showing up just long enough to milk organizations on her parents’ behalf and maybe cash herself out satisfactorily. Her stint at NBC was especially notorious for her lavish pay and her not awfully much work. It’s easy to imagine Matt Lauer boiling with resentment that he has to pay his dues by showing up before dawn and pretending to give a shit about celebrity gossip for thirty years straight and maintaining his gravitas before a tacitly suicidal racist Paula Deen in order to make his fortune while that talentless Clinton bitch gets to wander in and out at will from the next thing to a no-show job at his company, nay, in his office building, just because of who her mommy and daddy are. But what kind of fool would be surprised to learn that NBC is crookeder than the Hana Highway? That outfit retains its reputed roleplaying furry because he has the talent and the work ethic to pull the damn thing off. It retained Donald Trump for somewhat different reasons (only somewhat), and it retained Chelsea Clinton for distinctly different reasons. The Donald occupied the overlapping portion of the Venn Diagram, the intersection of genuine on-air talent and wholesale corporate graft. Lauer is squarely (roundly?) on the talent side, while the Chelsea is squarely (and in this case I do mean square) on the graft side.
I just recalled that NBC hired Jenna Bush as a front-of-the-house faildaughter, too, and also unfortunate failson Luke Russert. What a shitty outfit. NBC paid these presidential failspawn not for their direct services but as proxies for the corruption of their families. Hell if I know what exactly any party was getting out of the deal, but these were no social calls. Roughly the same thing is true of Chelsea’s alleged career as an author. She’s got all these books out under her name that were almost certainly farmed out to ghostwriters, and some of the material is embarrassing enough that one has to wonder why the fuck anyone with an ounce of self-respect as, say, the holder of a PhD in international relations would be willing to put her name on such horseshit. Chelsea is an author of record for, among other works, a 402-page volume of civic agitprop for teenagers and the text to an illustrated children’s book called, if you can stomach it, She Persisted. Must the bitch make Mitch McConnell look sympathetic and not constipated for the first time in his career?
That isn’t a writing career, of course. I’m a lot closer to having a writing career than Chelsea Clinton, and I scavenge deposit bottles for a living (sic, generally speaking, but don’t hate). I follow amateurs who haven’t published anything in years (Success is Overrated, for example) who have writing careers that leave Chelsea’s in the dust; there may not be much to follow from day to day, but when there is, it’s worthwhile. Countless people make some kind of living personally writing their own material, and much of it is very much worth reading. Too much, in fact: Mark David Chapman not so famously got behind on his reading at the University of Hawaii before he very famously got ahead for good on his Lennonist agenda.
So why is Chelsea Clinton taking credit for superfluous, vapid garbage that she didn’t even write? It’s because she’s a living licensing agreement. She’s a franchiser of her own name.
Is it really a surprise that the Clintons are involved in such a scam? It’s pretty restrained compared to their Foundation and Global Initiative. We can at least be pretty confident that this particular slush isn’t directly watering Middle Eastern unsavories. God only knows who’s latched on to the publishing scam as a second- or third-order crook, but its visible parts look pretty Buy American, and in an environment as degraded as Clintonworld, that’s worth something.
As an only child of overachieving parents, I used to sympathize with Chelsea Clinton, and I guess I still do on some level. Her family is one hell of a burden to inherit, and there’s little she can do to escape it. Her regression to the mean might be disappointing, but it’s entirely to be expected. Consider, for one thing, that her preternaturally charming and eloquent father bred with her ice monster of a mother. On the other hand, she’s somewhere past the age of moral responsibility by now, even if her (sic) writing suggests otherwise. There must have been other things she could have done for a simulacrum of a living that didn’t involve running interference for her parents and acting as their bagwoman. Are her parents deranged and desperate enough to put her under duress to do these things? I guess maybe I shouldn’t completely rule that out. We don’t hear a peep out of Amy Carter these days, but Jimmy and Rosalyn are no Bill and Hillary, so who knows.
Can we really make heads or tails out of any of this shit? The Clinton White House has to have been an exceptionally bizarre upbringing. As much as Chelsea’s recent behavior has been reprehensible and deserves ridicule and rebuke, she’s the one who was born into it. Her parents are the ones who chose to go into their life of crime. Of all the Boomers who were too selfish to breed, what hideous sin did we commit as a nation for the Clintons not to be among them? It says something that Chelsea is apparently sober and able to raise her own two young children (to the extent that any of the obscenely rich raise their own children), while Amy Winehouse, the daughter of a mere pharmacist and a mere cabbie (okay, London cabbie, so the motherfucker knew his maps) was the one who terminally burned out at 27. Unfortunately for the rest of us, this gives Grandpa the opportunity to conveniently show up on the tarmac in Phoenix for an impromptu conversation with Loretta Lynch about Charlotte, and also golf. For us mere peasants, Charlotte might be where American has us change A321’s on some all-day or all-night itinerary from hell; for Ma and Pa Clinton, she’s a get-out-of-jail-free card. The Clintons don’t fly that Eurotrash big metal, now, and they don’t need no Sky Harbor when the whole world is their harbor.
The National Review article above mentions Chelsea’s profligate offerings of thanks to people you and I wouldn’t know from Adam’s off ox, as her daddy liked to say back in his downhome days. In that sense, Chelsea’s publishing isn’t about its own text, but about its credits. Billary famously maintain an Infernoesque multi-quantum orbit of sycophants, errand boys and girls, hired muscle, court propagandists, James Carville, and assorted hangers-on. One of Chelsea’s responsibilities, we learn, is to feed this shitty flock, which can apparently be thanked adequately by giving it credit for the inspiration for some of the worst writing in the Anglophone world. Surely there are some kickbacks somewhere in the mix as well, since it’s impossible to imagine that this is not a crowd that welcomes the money and the cash. Narcissism is a good adaptation for that business, but imagine being in it only for the narcissistic supply. What a fucking loser one would have to be to associate with such scum without mercenary motives. Don’t worry, though: the Clinton campaign strung along plenty of unpaid interns.
Bill and Hillary went into business as a criminal couple, but with Chelsea, their yuppie snowflake, some years past her social debut and active in the family business, the Clintons can at last properly be called a crime family. Sometimes Jeremiah Wright’s God Damn America sounds like a prayer; other times, it sounds like nothing more than a news announcement.