It’s still a possibility.
According to a knowledgeable source with ties to the Clintons and Obamas there has been no final decision on whether the president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama, will be at the marriage ceremony or reception of the upcoming Chelsea Clinton wedding.
According to this source, while the public is being led to believe that it won’t happen, security plans are still being developed for such a possibility.
What would it mean for the wedding, for history, and for both the Obamas and Clintons? Would the appearance of the Obamas, even at the reception, upstage a private, family affair? Or would it add prestige and honor?
In 1897, Frances “Fanny” Hayes, daughter of former president Rutherford B. Hayes, was married in Ohio. The newly elected president, William McKinley, and the entire cabinet made the pilgrimage, McKinley taking the presidential train, the Air Force One of its day.
Did it overpower the Hayes wedding? After all, the nation was fascinated with its new president who had been in office only days. No, by all accounts, Fanny Hayes and her husband, Ensign Harry Eaton Smith, captured the day’s headlines.
The public had been following Fanny since her adolescent years in her father’s White House. All of the distinguished guests only ensured that the event would be set in stone as one of the greatest social events in our short national history.
According to some recent polls, the Clintons are now more popular than the Obamas. So it is not likely that any guest, including the president and first lady, would upstage her marriage to longtime, 31-year-old boyfriend and Goldman Sachs banker, Marc Mezvinsky.
News about the wedding has been a story in itself, with speculation that the public, media savvy Clintons have purposely dropped disinformation to help shroud the event in privacy. Hints about the wedding last summer embarrassed news agencies when it didn’t happen. It is now set for July 31, 2010.
Published accounts were also wrong about the dress. It will be a Vera Wang creation, not Oscar de la Renta as widely reported. And the location will not be at Martha’s Vineyard but deep on the grounds of a Clinton supporter a few hours north of New York City.
All of these efforts may not be enough to sufficiently dampen public interest. The Jenna Bush wedding took place during a low ebb in the popularity of President Bush and at a time when the war on terror counseled as little publicity as possible.
Jenna was married at the Bush family's Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas, a rather remote location. But the Clinton wedding will be within driving distance of the media capital of the world. And at a time when the Clinton presidency is being viewed more favorably in comparison to his two successors.
Weddings of presidential children, no matter how carefully planned and private they wish them to be, can prompt unexpected public reactions. When the president’s son, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. married Ethel DuPont on June 30, 1937, the couple had every expectation that their wedding would be a private, quiet affair.
The ceremony took place deep in the DuPont family compound in Delaware, far from any public highway. But on the wedding day, several hundred thousand uninvited people lined the roads to wish the couple well. Three companies of soldiers were brought in to escort the president’s family. And the Army Corps of Engineers was asked to set up a makeshift kitchen.
It is exactly such moments in presidential history that have made the modern presidency more savvy and less likely to be ambushed by either the media or the public. And it partially accounts for the Clinton sleight of hand on the details leading up to the event.
So this wedding ceremony is a milestone that marks a marriage that has endured and a presidency that grows fonder by absence. The media and public may demand to know more and celebrate it with more fanfare than Chelsea, the so-called Garbo of presidential children, would like.
With or without the Obamas it will be a moment in history.
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