God Help Me . . .

Once again, I am in the position of actually–gasp!–agreeing with Maureen Dowd:

CHELSEA CLINTON never acted out during the eight years she came of age as America’s first daughter.

No ditching of her Secret Service detail. No fake IDs for underage tippling. No drug scandal. No court appearance in tank top and toe ring. Not even any dirty dancing.

Despite a tough role as the go-between in the highly public and embarrassing marital contretemps of her parents, Chelsea stayed classy.

So it’s strange to see her acting out in a sense now, joining her parents in cashing in to help feed the rapacious, gaping maw of Clinton Inc.

With her 1 percenter mother under fire for disingenuously calling herself “dead broke” when she left the White House, why would Chelsea want to open herself up to criticism that she is gobbling whopping paychecks not commensurate with her skills, experience or role in life?

As the 34-year-old tries to wean some of the cronies from the Clinton Foundation — which is, like the Clintons themselves, well-intended, wasteful and disorganized — Chelsea is making speeches that go into foundation coffers. She is commanding, as The Times’s Amy Chozick reported, up to $75,000 per appearance.

Chozick wrote: “Ms. Clinton’s speeches focus on causes like eradicating waterborne diseases. (‘I’m obsessed with diarrhea’ is a favorite line.)”

There’s something unseemly about it, making one wonder: Why on earth is she worth that much money? Why, given her dabbling in management consulting, hedge-funding and coattail-riding, is an hour of her time valued at an amount that most Americans her age don’t make in a year? (Median household income in the United States is $53,046.)

Because she is the only child of the 42nd, and possibly, the 45th presidents of the United States. Not that this morally justifies the gobs of money being thrown at Chelsea Clinton, of course, but the fact of the matter is that if her name were “Jones” or “Smith,” there is no way on Earth that Clinton would get the professional opportunities that she has gotten. I am prepared to believe that Chelsea Clinton has smarts and talent, but smarts and talent are not the keys to her career and financial success. The only reason why she is raking in the dough and moving up the ladder in terms of power and influence is that she was born to the right set of parents.

Her parents don’t appear to have any problems with this particular arrangement, which, given Hillary Clinton’s likely campaign for the presidency, makes one wonder how the putative next president of the United States can talk or relate to regular Americans who believe (not without reason) that their own income and career mobility and potential may be limited. How precisely does Hillary Clinton assure such people that the American dream is alive and well, and can work for them? By telling them “look at what my daughter, the Clinton, the child of a once president and a future president is accomplishing! You can do it too!”? Can Hillary Clinton credibly denounce a culture of favoritism that helps out her own daughter (not to mention herself and her husband)? More importantly, can she credibly claim that she will work to transform that culture into one that will actually reward talent, merit, honesty and hard work, given all of the advantages and benefits that she and hers have reaped from the status quo?

If you believe that the answer to those last two questions is “yes,” then (a) by all means, vote for Hillary Clinton as our next president; and (b) come talk to me about some great subprime mortgages that I have to sell you. I’m not in favor of having anyone take any cheap shots at Chelsea Clinton, but the favoritism and unfair advantages that have been showered upon her should be part and parcel of any policy discussion about income inequality, income mobility, the American dream in general, and the many unfair advantages the privileged political classes hold over Americans without access to power or influence.

Oh, and let’s not let this blog post come to an end without a reminder from Dowd about just how vapid our putative next president can be:

Hillary’s book — which feels like something she got at Ikea and had someone put together — is drooping because it was more about the estimated $13 million advance and the campaign ramp-up than the sort of intriguing self-examination and political excavations found in the memoirs of Timothy Geithner and Bob Gates. If she had had something to say, the book might have been shorter.

Quite so.