INDIANAPOLIS – Chelsea Clinton is spending long days on the campaign trail telling college crowds about her mother’s positions on everything from health care and student-loan costs to the Darfur crisis and gay rights.
But there is one subject she will not discuss – “The Other Woman.”
At least three times in the past two weeks, the former and possible future first daughter has been asked about the Monica Lewinsky scandal’s influence on the presidential campaign of her mother, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The answer has evolved each time.
When a student at Butler University in Indianapolis first asked the question on March 25, she drew applause and gave a short response that ended with: “I do not think that is any of your business.”
Clinton, 28, since has been less blunt, though the message is much the same.
“I think that is something that is personal to my family, I’m sure there are things that are personal to your family that you don’t think are anyone else’s business, either,” she said last week when asked during a visit to North Carolina State University in Raleigh. “But also on a larger point, I don’t think you should vote for or against my mother because of my father.”
Many in the crowd at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., booed Monday when a question about the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton came up. Chelsea Clinton quickly summed up her position: “If that’s what you want to vote on, that’s what you should vote on. But I think there are other people (who are) going to vote on things like health care and economics,” she said.
Amanda Morris, president of Purdue’s Students for Hillary chapter, said Tuesday that she approved of the audience reaction and how Clinton is responding. She also expects the question might keep coming up.
“I really think it has gotten to the point where it is the attention thing,” said Morris, a sophomore from Kokomo, Ind. “At first, maybe that student really wanted to know what she thought about it. But by now it’s ‘Oh, that person got attention for it, I’m going to keep asking.”‘
Philippe Reines, a Clinton campaign spokesman, said Chelsea Clinton has made 99 campus appearances through Tuesday, and typically has taken 10 to 20 questions at each stop. He said the Lewinsky matter was not a burning issue among the people who have attended.
“She has been asked less than a handful of times, and she has been clear on where her lines of privacy are,” Reines said. “She has the right as everyone does to define their own zone of privacy.”
Reines said her campaign stops would continue unchanged. She does not take questions from reporters, but devotes all but the first few minutes of her appearances to questions from the audience.
On Tuesday, Chelsea Clinton visited three more college campuses in Indiana, where her mother and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama are actively campaigning to win the May 6 presidential primary. She was wrapping up her second campaign swing across the state.
“She really has gotten more questions on whether or not her mother believes the U.S. dollar should be tied to the gold standard,” Reines said. “That’s a question she’s gotten probably 10 times.”
Morris, the Purdue student, said she doesn’t think Chelsea Clinton should have to face Lewinsky questions.
“That is something that has to do with their family life,” Morris said. “I don’t think it is something that we as a nation need to know how they handled as a family.”