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The Reliable Source

By Annie Groer and Ann Gerhart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 20, 1998

  The Reliable Source


Chelsea: The Go-Between?
    First Family Chelsea, hanging tough in the middle like "glue." (Robert A. Reeder/The Post)

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The pictures said it all: Chelsea Clinton as human bridge, connecting her father, who had just confessed his infidelity to the world, and her mother, who has lived for decades with allegations of his philandering.

At 18, having spent much of this summer between her Stanford University freshman and sophomore years in Washington hanging with friends, she's now on holiday with President and Hillary Rodham Clinton on Martha's Vineyard.

"In some sense, her knowledge of what has happened and yet her will to embrace them in the midst of it has been like a big piece of glue in this situation," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who counseled the family Sunday at the White House.

One Hillary Clinton chum thinks Chelsea is now the family conduit. "I would say she is the way they are going to communicate on this vacation, at least until the ice thaws," said the friend, citing "Hillary's steely-eyed, dead-ahead expression as she got on the helicopter, which, if it could look through you, would fry your heart."

Leon Panetta, the president's former chief of staff, considers Chelsea the Clinton anchor. "She's obviously been through this kind of stuff in the past, as well as Hillary. And it almost looks like she has a better handle on what's going on than perhaps even he or she," he said on National Public Radio yesterday.

Chelsea won't carry the burden of family pain alone. White House social secretary Capricia Marshall, 34, who calls young Clinton "a very, very good friend," is also at the Vineyard.

Marshall wouldn't discuss Chelsea, whom she's known since 1992. But Marshall's Vineyard presence is good, a Hillary Clinton friend said, because "I think Chelsea tells Capricia things she may not even tell her mother. Capricia is a gal-pal who is totally safe because anything Chelsea tells her will never, ever, ever be repeated."

Chelsea has also been talking to close friends, although it is unclear how much personal turmoil she shares.

Jackson said the Clinton women left town having chosen to forgive the president his confessed sins. Jackson counseled them on several ways to behave "when the storm rises. You can jump overboard. You can become angry and be in the boat and say 'I told you so,' or you can stay in the boat and hold on until the morning cometh."

Added Jackson: "While some may see his behavior as wicked, they see it as weakness. Where sin abounds, love abounds more."


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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