I must admit, I always had a soft spot for Chelsea Clinton. Not that I liked her or anything but that I felt bad for someone thrust into the national spotlight during the most awkward years of her life (Rush Limbaugh, on his TV show, famously said the Clinton White House had finally gotten a dog and then showed an unflattering picture of the then 13-year-old Chelsea). There was a story that circulated toward the end of the Clinton years about her drinking in Colorado and being a bit wild. And my reaction was, “Well, good for her.”
However, my sympathy does not extend to what looks to me like blatant corruption:
Chelsea Clinton has left her job as a special correspondent for NBC News, a position that she has held since November 2011, the network has confirmed. In a statement on the departure, NBC News senior vice president Alex Wallace said, “We are thankful for all of Chelsea’s contributions to NBC News over the past 3 years. Chelsea’s storytelling inspired people across the country and showcased the real power we have as individuals to make a difference in our communities. While she will be missed, we look forward to working with her in the future.”
Like me, you’re probably thinking: “what contributions?” Clinton did some occasional reporting for NBC but it amounted to maybe an hour total over the last three years. For that contributions, she was paid a nominal salary of … holy shit.
Those stories were neither sufficiently frequent nor momentous to earn Clinton the respect of her colleagues and the NBC News brain trust. Her standing within the network appeared to suffer a hit when Politico revealed earlier this year that she had been earning annual pay in the range of $600,000 — or nearly $27,000 for each minute of airtime. That was far above the pay level of an average network correspondent, even one with years of experience; Clinton was a rookie in the craft at the time of her first piece for NBC News in 2011.
Clinton is not the only scion of a political dynasty getting such a gig, although I’m dubious that the others are as lucrative. Jenna Bush and Meghan McCain also got commentary bits. But then again, neither of their dads is likely to President in the near future; Chelsea’s mom at least has a shot at it. The only thing remotely comparable I can think of in recent years was Bristol Palin’s six-figure gig promoting abstinence. But even that was a third of what Chelsea was making.
Is this bribery? It looks like it …. but … it’s actually not that unusual. The media-politics gravy train is absolutely loaded with this kind of bullshit. Politicians, their aides, their lawyers, their kids and their allies walk right out of the halls of power into well-paying commentary gigs and jobs. And then frequently walk right back into power. Many of them get five- and six-figure speaking fees, including Hillary Clinton. Many get massive salaries on corporate boards or university faculty. And, as I’ve noted before, no matter how wrong they’ve been, no matter how much they’ve fucked up, no matter what disastrous policy they’ve led this country into, the train of speaking fees, commentary gigs, board appointments and academic appointments never stops. If you’ve wrecked the country, that’s just proof that you need to be a Professor at Harvard with a column in the Washington Post.
We really do have a ruling class in this country. And Chelsea is just the latest iteration. The absurd level of the bribery — a per minute salary 30 times greater than that of Alex Rodriguez — rubs our noses in it. But the unusual thing about this is that it’s not that unusual.