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Friday, November 16, 2018

To discover what Chelsea Clinton is doing with her life – and why – shouldn’t pose much of a challenge to any reasonably industrious journalist. In recent months, after all, she has stepped into the spotlight to advance the causes that excite her. Yet the political press still seems far more inclined to ruminate over her supposed ambitions rather than report her real concerns.

Which according to her include, among other things, an unshakeable obsession with diarrhea.

Speculation over the potential political future of the former First Daughter erupted Tuesday in Politico, on the CNN website, and on the political blog The Fix, which published “Where Chelsea Could Run” – a close analysis of residency requirements for a New York City Council seat and her obvious lack of credentials to seek the New York state attorney general’s office (she isn’t a lawyer).  It is true that she gave an opening for such stories by responding candidly to a question from CNN and the BBC, saying that she has no current plans to run for office but might consider entering politics “someday.”

“I’m … grateful to live in a city and a state and a country where I really believe in my elected officials, and their ethos and their competencies,” she said. “Someday, if either of those weren’t true and I thought I could make more of a difference in the public sector, or if I didn’t like how my city or state or country were being run, I’d have to ask and answer that question.”

She went on to explain: “I really felt like I could make a difference and then I should make a difference. And I had very much led a deliberately private life for a long time, and now I’m attempting to lead a purposely public life.”

As both news outlets noted, her response was exactly the same answer she has given to the same question in past interviews. Still the Post blogger insisted, “it’s also clear she is leaving that door open.” Yes, perhaps, but so what?

Comically enough, this flurry of pointless prognostication coincided with her latest trip to Africa, where she demonstrated precisely what she means when she mentions a public life – namely, her role as the Clinton Foundation’s vice chair and, increasingly, as its public face and spokesperson. She spent nine days with her father and a large contingent of foundation donors and press (including me) on a fast-paced, exhilarating, and occasionally grueling tour through Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda, and South Africa, touching down at the sites of health clinics, agricultural projects, youth service organizations, and other efforts to improve the lives of Africans.

The tumultuous welcome received by the Clinton delegation at every stop suggested the impact of the foundation’s work, from life-saving AIDS medications and quality health services provided to millions across the continent to pioneering agricultural support for small farmers to major renewable energy projects – as well as a newly announced initiative to produce and manufacture fortified foods in six African countries with the aim of ending child malnutrition on the continent.