Chelsea Clinton back on 'Rock Center' with another lame report

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The learning curve for Chelsea Clinton, special correspondent, continues to bend in the wrong direction.

Clinton's Wednesday night report on chain restaurants that donate leftover food to charity was slightly better than her previous efforts. But only because the producers used every trick in the book to give us less Chelsea and more of anything they could find to distract us from her. Less was marginally more.

One of the most striking aspects of the report was how similar its opening was to the first report she did for "Rock Center" a few months ago. Her debut opened with needy children in an after-school setting getting a free meal, and so did Wednesday's. 

But in the first report, the producers gave us lots of Chelsea. For example, one segment featured the 31-year-old special correspondent standing in front a group of little kids stiffly and self-consciously joking about how she doesn't cook at home as she prepared to to try and cook something for them.

Scratch those kinds of cutesy, personal touches. They bombed. Clinton has all the on-screen magentism and energy of Abe Vigoda. (Go look him up if you don't know.)

The most interesting aspect of the report was in tracking some of those little TV-news tricks the producers used to try and mask Clinton's wall-to-wall deficiencies.

They used her in voiceover a lot so that she didn't actually have to be on camera and talking at the same time as much. (Yes, it is like walking and chewing gum for most correspondents, but it seems to be too much for her.)

They do have her walking -- alongside the person she is interviewing -- but again, usually what we hear is voiceover. While such shots can seem highly artificial, they do lend a bit of movement to pieces that otherwise fall somewhere between static and moribund.

One of the worst moments Wednesday came when Clinton was interviewing a CEO of a restaurant chain that was donating food. She lobbed up softball after softball allowing this guy to sing the praises of his chain that includes Olive Garden and Red Lobster, which do one heck of a lot of TV advertising, by the way.

Normally, in such a shot the cameras cut back and forth from the questioner to the respondent. But most of the time when Clinton asked a question, the cameras locked in on the CEO's face. And he was so eager for her to get to the end of her questions, that his mustache and lips were twitching.

That's when I realized how desperate they were to keep the camera off her -- a twitching mustache on a CEO who can't wait to hit his next PR softball out of the park is preferable to what the producers and viedographers were apparently getting when their cameras were pointed at Clinton.

We know NBC News has no shame. If it did, it would not have allowed "Rock Center" host Brian Williams Wednesday night to open his post-report interview with Chlesea Clinton by pointing out that her father, former President Bill Clinton, helped make such programs possible by signing the "Good Samaritan Law" into existence. (The legislation protects restaurants from liability for the food they donate if they take certain precautions in storing and packaging it.)

If you are going to be so blantantly political, why not include the information that "Frontline" offered its viewers this week on PBS: That Bill Clinton also signed the legislation that de-regulated the banking industry in the 1990s and made Wall Street's rape of the middle class possible. I'm just saying.

But let's not get partisan or mean-spirited. I say it's time for someone to show some mercy, if not simple good sense, and end this sorry specatcle of nepotism -- especially at this time when so many young adults who have prepared for careers with their college majors and internships can't even get entry level jobs in an economy her dad helped create.

Here's some fabulous video from Wednesday's "Rock Center" report. Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy