RHETA GRIMSLEY JOHNSON: Chelsea Clinton’s very private life grew from her parents’ nurture

Despite the nation’s best attempts to make the biggest and most personal day of Chelsea’s life a public spectacle, the Clintons kept it private.
Someone even likened the New York nuptials to America’s “royal wedding,” which would have been the antithesis of the young woman’s raising. Whatever they did wrong, the Clintons did something right in rearing Chelsea.
We haven’t heard much about her since she was a shy schoolgirl living in the White House. She hasn’t been arrested for drunk driving, or romanced a movie star, or been a tabloid cover girl. She finished school, started to work and now has married a young man she’s known for years.
The point is this: When running against the Clintons, Republicans always bragged about their stand for “family values.” It was always a vague, nebulous – some would say hypocritical – term, but we voters knew what was meant. It harkened to Bill Clinton’s womanizing and Hillary’s feminism. We somehow were supposed to think Republicans had cornered the market on morality.
Guess again. The unlikely Larry Flynt made that point clear during the white hot heat of the Monica Lewinsky affair. For every Democratic skirt-chaser, he found three Republicans with loose zippers. Seems that no one political party had cornered the market on straying spouses.
As a hellbent political and professional couple, the Clintons have stumbled more than once. But from all evidence, they were on the same page about Chelsea. They fought for her privacy like tigers on the road to the White House, during a presidency kept on tenterhooks by political enemies, throughout a terribly public airing of dirty marital laundry. When an adult Chelsea campaigned for her mother during the failed Hillary presidential campaign, we were almost surprised.
Family values are different for each and every family. That’s why they are called “family” values. They aren’t decided by a single religion, a majority vote or one political party out to exploit mistakes of the other.
In choosing public lives for themselves, Bill and Hillary invited into their lives intense scrutiny, zealous critics and both sides of the coin stamped by fame. Some would say they thrive on it.
They had the decency, however, to protect Chelsea till she could choose a course for herself. How easy it might be for a Clinton daughter to run for office, write a best-selling book, travel the world meeting princes and trailing paparazzi. So far, at least, she’s chosen a much more sensible route. As first daughter, even with protective parents, perhaps she had enough publicity to last a lifetime.
I think the abiding image this nation might have of Chelsea Clinton will have nothing to do with a fairy-tale wedding or with the peripheral hubbub like pepperoni pizzas with meat that spelled out ‘I Do.’ I think, instead, it will be the photograph of a much younger Chelsea, walking between her parents, holding both their hands, on their way to try to patch up an ailing family. Something about the young woman’s body language exuded love and determination and, yes, hope.
Every marriage has problems, every family its struggles. Chelsea and her new husband no doubt will have their share of trials, self-induced and otherwise.
Something tells me that life has given Chelsea a leg up in the coping department, however. I think the family values she grew up with – yes, while living with Bill and Hillary – will serve her well.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist. She lives in the Iuka vicinity. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal