Chelsea plays consort at summit

AS HILLARY CLINTON tries to establish a new identity as New Yorker and politician, two other women are by Bill Clinton's side at the Apec summit in New Zealand. But there is no secret about his companions: one is his daughter Chelsea, the other is his mother-in-law.

As the daughter of the United States president, Chelsea is increasingly playing the role of consort, though it is not something she can do full-time - she is studying at Stanford University. She was first launched to the world at the 1993 inaugural presidential ball, where she was greeted with appreciative cheers of "Chelsea, Chelsea!" Named after the Joni Mitchell song "Chelsea Morning", she briefly became a youth cult, appearing on the front page of the youth magazine, Ben is Dead. But in general, the Clinton family has jealously guarded her privacy, complaining loudly when People magazine put her on its front cover earlier this year.

Chelsea, now 20, has moved into sharper focus in the past year. She appeared holding the hands of both parents as they walked to the marine helicopter after Mr Clinton confessed to his affair with Monica Lewinsky. And as the family sought a home in New York state and her mother began her political campaigning, she made further public appearances.

The presence of Dorothy Rodham, Hillary's mother, is more of a surprise. It certainly caught the local security offguard; they failed to recognise her and stopped her. Apparently she had not been given a lapel pin identifying members of the White House entourage.

In New Zealand, Chelsea and her grandmother were expected to go sightseeing with Anna, the daughter of New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley, while her father got on with the serious business. Yesterday, Mr Clinton met China's President Jiang Zemin.

Meanwhile, Mrs Clinton's attempt to get herself taken seriously in New York politics is not going well. She has mishandled an affair involving clemency for jailed Puerto Rican nationalists; her interview with Talk magazine about her husband was not well received; and her policy shifts on Jerusalem, a crucial issue in New York politics, have attracted disconcerting attention. She lacks warmth and presence on the campaign trail, and her political instincts are not well-honed. In short, no Bill Clinton.

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