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Why Are People Paying $75,000 to Hear Chelsea Clinton Speak?

Spencer Platt/Getty Images News

Amy Chozick's story in The New York Times on Wednesday about the massive fees Chelsea Clinton receives for speaking engagements has a number of hilarious things to recommend about it. Indeed, the entire piece may just be some sort of meta-joke on the American people, and our ruling class, whose chief skill appears to be giving pointless speeches for massive amounts of money.

Chozick begins with her major scoop: that Chelsea Clinton receives as much as $75,000 per appearance. The catch is that Clinton claims to give the entire fee over to the Clinton Foundation. "Unlike her parents’ talks," Chozick reports, "Ms. Clinton’s speeches 'are on behalf of the Clinton Foundation, and 100 percent of the fees are remitted directly to the foundation,' said her spokesman, Kamyl Bazbaz, adding that 'the majority of Chelsea’s speeches are unpaid.'" The piece then proceeds to note a number of different Clinton speaking engagements, to diverse audiences, almost all of them for money. (I enjoyed this bit: "Last year, she addressed 950 people at a benefit for Girls Incorporated of Omaha, a nonprofit group in Nebraska...Roberta Wilhelm, executive director of Girls Incorporated, declined to say if Ms. Clinton was paid, commenting only that the event "'was packed, and she was a draw.'")

The specific issue of fees aside, Chozick's story has some particularly amusing tidbits.

She dispenses lessons picked up from her family. (“Life’s not about what happens to you, it’s about what you do with what happens to you,” she likes to say).

So sad are the lives of our political sons and daughters, apparently, that they not only give boring speeches full of clichés, but they claim that those clichés came from their parents! For all I know, Hillary and Bill did in fact read Chelsea boilerplate campaign rhetoric at bedtime. But it is an odd thing for anyone to brag about.

There's more:

Ms. Clinton has not ruled out running for office, and her schedule provides plenty of opportunities to hone her public speaking skills. She is a Stanford graduate and can sometimes sound overly cerebral. During Q. and A. sessions, she casually employs words like “vituperative."

Yes, nothing is more cerebral than the word "vituperative." Anyway, this and other anecdotes, as well as Chozick's hinting at the fact that the speeches are dull, begs the big question: why on Earth are people paying so much money to hear this stuff? It's one thing if you are listening to the likely next president or even a former president say absolutely nothing. But Chelsea?

Still, one must tip one's hat to the sheer cynicism:

The speaking engagements often include question-and-answer sessions in which she fields inquiries about growing up in the White House and her mother’s plans for 2016. Ms. Clinton often says she is “unapologetically biased” when it comes to her mother, and that “my crystal ball is no clearer than yours” on whether she will run for president again.

Given that it has been extensively reported that Chelsea is her mother's closest advisor and confidante, and given that Hillary is supposedly seeking counsel from those closest to her on any potential run, this answer is patently ridiculous. But it does highlight the ways in which a Clinton presidential run—which Chelsea is trying to leverage—is inevitably going to be tied to the foundation. Or, as Alec MacGillis put it in his definitive piece about former Clinton confidante Doug Band, the foundation would be her "base." How fortunate, then, that the base can be assured of constant streams of money from Chelsea's speeches.