Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump

Keeping up with the Presidential kids

Some presidential offspring are okay. Some less so. But if Trump wins, god help us.

Watching Chelsea Clinton make a fool of herself every time she makes a campaign appearance—well, probably not every time, just the ones I hear about, the ones where she, you know, makes a fool of herself—started me wondering about presidential offspring. I liked Chelsea for a while there—she seemed to be setting out on her own. But she now seems back in the firm grasp of the Clinton machine, and she doesn’t have a chance—perhaps she never did.

Anyway, what about the other presidential offspring (and their parents) of my lifetime? Well, let’s see:

Barack and Michelle Obama/Malia and Sasha—well, so far, so good, it seems. These both seem like normal, well-adjusted kids. This seems remarkable, since not only have they spent the past eight years in a fishbowl as the most visible kids in the world, but also the fact that their growing up has been in the context of being the children of America’s first black president, with the amazing amount of pubic vitriol that has engendered. Kudos all around.

George W. Bush and Barbara Bush/Barbara and Jenna—well, surprise, surprise, they turned out ok after a pretty rocky beginning, when we all got a kick out of some embarrassing drunken escapades, and caused the Secret Service all sorts of headaches, according to some of the press. Well, all in the past, it seems. When is the last time you actually heard about either of them? Barbara graduated from Yale, does lots of museum and charity work, and founded Global Health Corps, an activist NGO. Jenna graduated from Texas, is a teacher and reading activist, and also works with Unicef. They both campaigned for their dad in 2004, but appear to have been resolutely non-political since then. However disastrous George Bush was as a president, he and Laura seem to have turned out some ok kids.

Bill and Hillary Clinton/Chelsea—the most likely scenario here, as I suggested above, is that she’s firmly in the grip of the Clinton mafia, from which there probably is no escape. Someone in the Clinton campaign seems to think it’s a good idea to send her out on the campaign trail on the alleged supposition that she has some connection to “young people.” She doesn’t. I hope to god she doesn’t plan on a political career, but that’s probably inevitable.

George H.W. and Barbara Bush/George W., Jeb, Neil and several others you don’t hear about much—Well, what needs to be said here? The elder Bush and Barbara gave us the country’s most disastrous president ever, a self-satisfied clown out of his depth from day one; a blowhard (and venal—remember Terry Schiavio?) governor of Florida whose presidential campaign was laughed into deserved obscurity by Donald Trump; Neil, who has avoided a political career, but who has left a trail of financial scandals in his wake (remember Silverado Savings and Loan?); Marvin, the youngest, who has been somewhat active politically but who has endorsed Gary Johnson in the 2016 presidential election; and Dorothy, who seems to have the good sense to keep a low profile. George and Barbara Bush have a lot to answer for.

The Reagan kids—who all had Ronald as a dad, but two different moms—Jane Wyman, or Nancy Davis. These kids are all over the map. Maureen attempted several political runs as a conservative, none of which were successful; adopted son Michael is a conservative talk show host. On the other hand, Reagan’s children with Davis were considerably to the left—daughter Nancy was quite visible as a liberal activist for a while, but now seems content to keep quiet; and son Ronald, a liberal commentator and former ballet dancer, frequently opines from the left. None of them have proved outright embarrassing, although Maureen has had a few moments, but these pale in comparison to those of Liz Cheney. All in all, somewhat entertaining and relatively harmless in the scheme of things.

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter/Amy—Some rocky moments there, but has settled down. Still politically active, but mainly through the Carter Center, and keeps a low profile. Who wouldn’t, after growing up in a fishbowl surrounded by a generally hostile press that kept waiting for her to trip and fall, and which was obviously delighted when she did?

The point of all this? None, really—it’s just always interesting to see how kids turn out. What about the kids of Vice Presidents? We seem generally uninterested in them, except for Liz Cheney, who just won’t shut up, and who is running for Congress again, and her sister, the gay one, who actually does try to keep a low profile. Joe Biden has had more than his share of tragedies, but we usually don’t find out about them until after the fact. Does anyone even remember how many kids Dan and Maureen Quayle even had? (Hint—three.)

And as far as Chelsea Clinton goes, yes, we’ve already seen entirely too much of her, and if her mom is elected President, we’ll undoubtedly see more. OTOH, if Donald Trump is elected we get his brood, which is a pretty horrifying prospect in and of itself. Four years of those self-absorbed and self-entitled sons? Good lord. The media is probably salivating, but it’s an appalling prospect for the rest of us.

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