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Chelsea’s baby: Why the political pundits are thrilled for Hillary

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In a Dec. 9, 2013, file photo Chelsea Clinton speaks in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Chelsea Clinton says she and her husband are expecting their first child later this year.AP

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Hillary then and now 

Chelsea’s baby: Why the political pundits are thrilled for Hillary 

Chelsea Clinton is having a baby—a nice, non-controversial story, right?—but the media are treating this development with a studied seriousness that borders on parody. 

USA Today asks: “It’s unclear how Chelsea’s pregnancy will affect Hillary Clinton, who is considering a race for president in 2016.” 

Unclear to whom? Hillary’s daughter can’t get pregnant without a bunch of political reporters hyperventilating? 

“Does the word ‘grandmother’ connote authority, durability and wisdom, or a less-flattering set of associations?” the New York Times asks

As in, this person is in her sunset years? 

The public interest is understandable. Chelsea grew up in the White House, and was awkwardly caught in the middle during the Monica Lewinsky mess. She married the son of two members of Congress, Marc Mezvinsky (in a wedding at a secret location). She’s now part of the family foundation and a sometimes correspondent for NBC. Oh yes, and her mother will probably run for president. 

This, says Politico, makes the baby announcement “a politico-obstetric earthquake,” high on the Richter scale. And fraught with meaning for Hillary: 

“Clinton will be something else entirely: the most prominent American politician ever to become a grandmother. As far as sympathetic roles go, it doesn’t get much better than that.” 

Ah, so the baby-in-waiting is already a political prop for the 2016 campaign. 

And ideological fodder as well. Ted Cruz aide Amanda Carpenter tweeted: “I love days like this when everyone recognizes a baby is a baby and not a fetus.” 

Hillary has been openly pining for a grandchild, and I get that the handicappers think it will warm up her image. Although this is blatantly sexist on its face, as I don’t recall anyone lauding the fact that Mitt Romney was a grandfather. 

Granted, Chelsea is a former president’s daughter. But when Jenna Bush Hager announced her pregnancy in December 2012, it hardly got a big wave of media attention. Sure, she unveiled the news on the “Today” show, but she works for the program. 

Perhaps it’s inevitable, since the Clintons are one of our royal families, that the media hoopla will approach William-and-Kate levels: It’s a boy (or girl)! The birth! The name! The first pictures! The People magazine cover! 

Until then, we’ll have to make do with the speculation. As in the Christian Science Monitor venturing, “If we had to guess, we'd say that Hillary Clinton will be a tad less interested in running for president now that she's about to be a grandmother.” 

Jim Pinkerton jokingly referred to the “royal baby” on “Media Buzz,” but that comparison was more seriously invoked when “Good Morning America” talked about the impact on Hillary: “Instead of hugging and kissing strangers' babies, she would have one of her own. A warm, maternal image to counter the critics who call her cold and calculating.” 

Combined with the latest release of Clinton library files, this is a reminder that Hillary has been on the public stage a very long time. That can be a big disadvantage, as she’s hardly a fresh face and we’ve already lived through one Clinton presidency. But it also means the public is quite interested in her soap-opera life, and that her career will never be dull—especially with this latest development heralding a new generation. 

We’ll stop the madness with this semi-scoop from The Wire

“The first day Chelsea Clinton's just-announced baby will be eligible to be president is January 20, 2053.” 

Mark your calendars. 

Hillary then and now 

In that latest document dump from the Clinton presidential library, we again see Hillary’s handlers trying to soften her image—a challenge they may face again in 2016 (baby or no baby). 

Here are some memos, according to the New York Times

“‘We must set forth a strategy over the next month to protect you from the negative press attacks that are likely to come in response to your positive press,’ wrote Lisa Caputo, Mrs. Clinton’s press secretary. ‘The press will begin to take some knocks at you,’ she warned. 

“Another adviser to Mrs. Clinton addressed ‘image problems you must counter.’ Her aides gently reminded the first lady: ‘Your staff and friends know you are an extremely warm, down-to-earth person, but the public doesn’t know it. To counter impressions that you’re only a tough-talking, businesslike lawyer, you can show more flashes of humor and reveal more about yourself.’” 

Some things never change. And here’s more advice, via the Washington Post

“Among a long list of interview ideas, Caputo suggested Clinton do a ‘television magazine’ show and offered Maria Shriver as interviewer. She said the segment should show Clinton ‘doing it all’ — working on health care, picking out flowers for a state dinner — and include film footage of ‘you attending one of Chelsea’s soccer games or making a run to the local supermarket.’” 

And this is two decades before Barack Obama sat down with Zack Galafinakis. 

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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.