Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?

The mainstream press decided that John McCain’s nasty homophobic joke about Chelsea Clinton was “too vicious to print.” But it tells you all you need to know about the temperament of the one Republican most likely to be elected President in 2008.

Because her father was Janet Reno.

That joke &#8212 I hope you’ve stopped laughing by now &#8212 was brought to you courtesy of the man of honor and integrity, Senator Straight Talk himself. He told it at a Republican fund-raiser in 1998. Apparently the mainstream press mostly referred to it only indirectly; it was “too vicious to print,” according to the Washington Post.

I only learned of it from this hit-piece about McCain by Ronald Kessler on NewsMax, the wingnut news service. The Chelsea Clinton story seems to be well documented elsewhere; I can’t vouch for any of Kessler’s other allegations. But Kessler provides some good leads for anyone starting out doing oppo research on McCain.

The joke alone, it seems to me, should be enough to convince you that McCain is a fundamentally bad human being. It would be hard to work more viciousness and bigotry into two sentences.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

25 thoughts on “Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?”

  1. Mark,
    As you know from our previous joint exploration of the subject of McCain's temperament, there is already material in the general public record, including how he used the cover of immunity from the Senate floor to read someone's confidential medical information into the record, while it was broadcast livemon C-Span. He was upset that his buddy (and at this point we might ahve to wonder if it was drinking and other endeavors?) John Tower was not going to be confirmed as SecDef because of Tower's personal problems, including apparently showing up drunk on the floor of the Senate. But senatorial courtesy prohibited that from being raised until the issue was first published based on other information. Kind of like the NY Times writing about a story that has appeared in National Enquirer.
    McCain is in my opinion unfit to hold any public office, and I have felt that way since the incident involving Tower. His sucking up to Bush since losing the nomination battle in 2000, his caving after the fact on his torture amendment just reinforce what I have always felt.

  2. The joke is certainly tasteless, but to leap from that to concluding that McCain is unfit to hold public office, let alone being 'a fundamentally bad human being', reeks of a ridiculous puritanism.
    I strongly doubt you'd react the same way to an off-color remark by a politican whose principles you agreed with. So why not stick to the real problem with McCain, which is his politics?

  3. I strongly doubt you'd react the same way to an off-color remark by a politican whose principles you agreed with.
    Nice rhetorical trick, if you're Jonah Goldberg. Find a joke as tasteless that was spoken by someone Mark admires, then we'll test your theory.

  4. Well, since I CBA to find an equivalent joke, I'll pull out the big (allegedly crooked) gun: is McCain's joke worse than cheating on your wife with an intern?
    Maybe it's just the fact that I was raised in a fundamentalist church that was all too ready to label people as 'fundamentally bad', but I'm not willing to judge the inner character of my fellow man based on a single transgression.
    There's plenty to dislike about McCain. Being a liberal, I disagree with him on a huge number of substantial issues. I also think he engages in a fair bit of hypocrisy and sanctimony.
    But if Mark is willing pronounce a person 'fundamentally bad' based on a single joke, no matter how vile, I think he'll have a hard time finding a good person in the entire human race, let alone in Washington DC.

  5. What a load of tripe, Dan. Yes, you can make a judgment about someone who tries to score points with his pals by saying horrible things about a teenage girl whose father he doesn't like. Frankly, if John McCain tried to score points against me by insulting one of my daughters, I'd be happy to ask him to step outside. I'll remind you of the feigned outrage that resulted when John Kerry merely mentioned the fact that Dick Cheney's adult daughter is a lesbian (which is neither untrue nor a slur). And what on Earth does Bill Clinton's philandering have to do with John McCain's cruelty? I would argue that the moral failing of cheating on your wife, while indicative of a certain weakness, is not nearly as troubling in a potential President as the level of mean-spiritedness inherent in McCain's "joke". McCain evidently picked up a bit of sadism from his torturers during his time in captivity. And even stipulating to your false moral equivalence, John McCain divorced his first wife (you know, the one who waited for him and raised their three kids while he was in the Hanoi Hilton) to marry a 25-year-old heiress, whom he actively pursued while still married. So by your standards, McCain is a loser anyway. He's a hot-headed, self-serving, duplicitous, cruel man and should never be President.

  6. "is McCain's joke worse than cheating on your wife with an intern?"
    Wow. You're not serious, are you?
    Assuming you are, and putting aside the apples vs. oranges part of it, McCain admitted to cheating on his wife multiple times, and then divorced her to marry a younger woman. So, not only does that beat fooling around with an intern several times over, he tells horrible offensive jokes in public, to boot.

  7. I appreciate Dan Glick's reluctance to sit in judgment. But it does seem to me that cruelty, especially cruelty toward someone who is both a noncombatant and powerless to strike back, is a moral failing of a different order than mere susceptibility to temptation.

  8. is McCain's joke worse than cheating on your wife with an intern?
    —–=——-
    Clinton didn't intend on that becoming public and he lied in order to keep it covered up. McCain made his tastless joke in public and in front of media but nearly everyone there, who witnessed it, covered for him!

  9. is McCain's joke worse than cheating on your wife with an intern?
    —–=——-
    Clinton didn't intend on that becoming public and he lied in order to keep it covered up. McCain made his tastless joke in public and in front of media but nearly everyone there, who witnessed it, covered for him!

  10. McCain has been through experiences which would have destroyed most of us and emerged as a still functioning human being. This is to his great credit. I didn't say "unscathed". Unless you're a saint like Job, suffering warps the soul; cf. Bob Dole. IMHO, neither telling a nasty joke (and what makes it really nasty is that it's aimed at an apolitical juvenile) nor adultery with an intern makes you a fundamentally bad human being – they do raise red flags about suitability for high office, that's all.
    Let's keep the "fundamentally bad" sort of label for men who organise torture, child abuse, hostage-killing, suicide bombs and genocide. Remember: Clinton's worst deed was nothing to do with sex, it was standing by in Rwanda.

  11. James, I'd suggest brushing up on 'The Daily Howler', and reading some of Joe Conason's writings. You'll then find that 2008 will not only rhyme with 2000 and 2004, but it'll be a serious deja vu for you. It won't be the fault of the Democratic candidate that the media will lie about him/her like Baghdad Bob; it's the underlying system. You'll watch the 'straight shooter' narrative survive a carpet bombing of actual facts.

  12. "neither telling a nasty joke (and what makes it really nasty is that it's aimed at an apolitical juvenile) nor adultery with an intern makes you a fundamentally bad human being – they do raise red flags about suitability for high office, that's all."
    Wow, I could see if you were making the opposite case, (Not that it would be a good case.) but to claim that betraying one's spouse doesn't make you a fundamentally bad person… I just can't see that. One makes commitments when marrying, and a tendency to violate one's commitments is definatively a bad person trait.

  13. Mark, I'm a gay man and while I find the joke nasty because it is aimed a young woman, it alone signals only that McCain is homophobe, which is not the same as a fundamentally bad person.
    Brett, all the estimates I've seen show that over a third of people have sex outside of their marriages. I don't believe that over a third of all people are "fundamentally bad." Of course, some people start from a position that ALL people are naturally bad. Both positions strike me as fear-based and full of loathing for humanity.
    Statistics also show that fundamentalists – who generally hold one or the other of these positions – have a higher rate of infidelity and divorce, not to mention teen pregnancy, than the general population.

  14. Leaving aside the obvious homophobia, which I find repellent, the "joke" is a mean spirited attack on someones kid. It speaks volumes about what kind of man you are.
    And yes, I think that kind of man should not hold public office. Didn't his side of the aisle treat us to endless litanies about how a President must have strong moral character? Maybe for a change they'll live up to their moral pretentions.
    It's made worse by the fact that McCain has the protection of his office to hide behind.

  15. to claim that betraying one's spouse doesn't make you a fundamentally bad person… I just can't see that.
    Brett, there are just too many different marriages out there, with their own terrible problems, to make a judgment like that.
    Classically, there's the spouse who's ignored by her/his spouse, but doesn't want to get divorced b/c it would be bad for the kids. That wouldn't make infidelity morally justifiable or anything, but "a fundamentally bad person"? I think not.

  16. Hm, isn't doing things that aren't morally justifiable somehow connected with being a bad person? Maybe you're just putting the bar for "fundamentally bad" higher than I am.
    At any rate, that's hardly McCain's only "sin", religious or secular. I'm actually much more concerned about the terrifyingly successful crusade he's led against freedom of political speech.

  17. is McCain's joke worse than cheating on your wife with an intern?
    McCain cheated on his wife, too.

  18. I heard that joke before and an interesting sequel. I read that McCain called Clinton to apologize after he said the joke and before it started to make the rounds. Clinton accepted his apology. However, some people on the left felt there a double standard here. Bad thing were being circulated about Clinton and no bad things would be circulating about McCain; therefore they repeated the joke to even the playing field.
    (I also feel mcCain should not be President and I feel Hillary should not be President, either. That narrows the field, doesn't it?)

  19. Perhaps more interesting than what the joke says about McCain: What does is say about his supporters, that he'd find it profitable to tell it?
    In other words, we already know his price. What can we infer about his customers?

  20. Another Alex wrote: I read that McCain called Clinton to apologize after he said the joke and before it started to make the rounds. Clinton accepted his apology.
    Interesting… But to which Clinton did he apologize? The direct victim of his foul humor, or her powerful father? I can easily imagine Bill Clinton receiving that call, and responding that he didn't have the power to accept the apology on his daughter's behalf.

  21. That joke is so mean that I wince every time I hear it. In fact, I wish you didn't have to repeat it, especially in the bold headline of your blogpost. (But I understand why you do.)
    I'd like to think that my pointer in comments below led you to read the wingnut news service.
    People don't like it when you make fun of children. I agree that this, while not substantively a big deal, is proof that McCain is an awful human being.
    Primaries have a way of turning on small things like Ed Muskie's tears; wouldn't it be great if this sort of bullshit disqualified McCain amongst the voters?

  22. Anyway, Chelsea is cute in person, I've seen her in public a few times and she is definitely on the good-looking side of the spectrum. Certainly far better looking than that harpie Coulter all the wingers worship.

  23. Hmmm. I'm all for civility, and I think that McCain's joke was awful.
    But have you been following that whole Deb Frisch versus "Protein Wisdom" controversy? Dr. Frisch, trying to get Jeff Goldstein angry, made some truly awful statements regarding Goldstein's two year old son. Most left of center types keep defending Frisch by saying that Malkin this and Coulter that….
    And I'm sure some commenters here will now hold forth that Goldstein is just as bad.
    Actually, I do think that politicians should be held to higher standards than regular folk.
    Wouldn't it be good to have people disagree about politics and NOT insult one another?
    Dare to dream, I know.

Comments are closed.