The Cautionary Tale of Elizabeth Lauten - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Cautionary Tale of Elizabeth Lauten

Elizabeth Lauten did something dopey. Say again, dopey. Criticizing President Obama’s children — daughters sixteen and thirteen — was dopey. Presidential children, particularly minor children, are generally considered to be off limits. Ms. Lauten, the communications director for Tennessee Congressman Stephen Lee Fincher, took a social media poke at the two and is today jobless as a result.

There is a lesson in this for young conservatives. This is how the Left operates. What Lauten did, as mentioned, was dopey. Silly. But a front-page piece in the Washington Post? Breathless firestorm coverage from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, USA Today, Politico, the Huffington Post, and on and on through the roster? Well, no. Did she have to resign her job? Of course not. Suspended or disciplined in some fashion? Yes. But allow the firestorm to consume her career? No.

Yet those two things have come to pass. So what is the lesson for young conservatives?

The lesson is that the true colors of the American Left never change. There is no reason — none — to humiliate a young woman at the very beginning of her career for a silly mistake like this. None. Yet there she is being savaged from coast to coast. And rest assured this would not happen were she a liberal staffer for a Democrat.

Case in point? The saga of Donny Lee Williams, Jr., which others have pointed out in comparison. Mr. Williams, 37, did make the Washington Post and a few other sites, the Post identifying him as having “served as a staff director for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee.” What did he do? Mr. Williams “pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual abuse, two misdemeanor counts of sexual abuse and one count of misdemeanor threats.” In other words, big trouble. But not so curiously he was not obsessed about throughout the liberal media as was Ms. Lauten.

What Elizabeth Lauten has just experienced up close and personal is the hard, cold fact of how the Left deals with conservatives in the media. Small mistakes are magnified out of all proportion. If you have made a mistake they will bait you and blow whatever it is you said or did into some cause célèbre manufactured to make you look like an a) idiot, b) racist, c) homophobe, d) sexist or e) a mean intolerant rube. 

A couple years back this was the game with Rush Limbaugh in the Sandra Fluke episode. The Left didn’t want an apology — which Fluke got. They wanted Rush’s head. His job, his career, everything. They actively went out of their way to try to sabotage him in a calculated campaign to intimidate his sponsors. The “Get Rush” effort, by the way, was in the works for years, with its creator — now at Media Matters — literally sitting out there just waiting for one unguarded moment to take him down. Likewise this was the game with Alaska’s Governor Sarah Palin. Governor Palin, an accomplished self-made woman who had a serious record as a public official, was made to look the fool, demeaned and mocked in a fashion that these people would never allow were the woman in question Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren. The objective first, last, and always is not to disagree but to destroy. The other day Elizabeth Lauten was a young House staffer, today she’s out of a job. Mission accomplished.

Early last year conservative commentator S.E. Cupp took a shot at Rush, as I noted here at the time. The essence of her complaint as she was quoted in a New York Times magazine article was that young conservatives 

“can’t be afraid to call out Rush Limbaugh…. If we can get three Republicans on three different networks saying, ‘What Rush Limbaugh said is crazy and stupid and dangerous,’ maybe that’ll give other Republicans cover” to denounce the talk-show host as well.

The backlash she received from Rush’s fans was apparently enough to cause her to write a column in the New York Daily News headlined:

I won’t be Rushed: For the sake of conservatism, Limbaugh’s defenders need to get his fallibility through their heads

Cupp went on to address her fellow conservatives by saying, in part, this; 

For one, part of the point I was trying to make was that the impulse to defend anything and everything that a party heavyweight says — to the death — has the deleterious effect of making conservatives seem irrational and herd-like. No one is right all the time, and no one is above reproach…

Well, of course no one is right all the time. But what Ms. Cupp missed in her response is exactly what is on display with the response to Elizabeth Lauten. As noted above, I said Ms. Lauten made a mistake. But what the American Left is about is what was once called back in the days of the Reagan administration “the politics of personal destruction.” Lauten’s critics were not interested in hearing an apology. They were interested in destroying her. So savaging her that she could never again work on Capitol Hill or wherever else she wants to establish her career. 

I have no idea what Elizabeth Lauten thinks of Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin or anyone else on the conservative side of the political line. I don’t know her. But this episode should serve as a red flag to young conservatives that you don’t have to be as famous or as powerful as Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin are perceived to be by some to be targeted for destruction. You can be just a normal, anonymous Capitol Hill aide or anybody else on the right. One simple misstep and you are toast. The other side will make it their business to bring you down.

Back there in 1955, when a young William F. Buckley Jr. was busy creating National Review, he published a now-famous “Mission Statement” for the magazine, found here. Among other things he said this:

Conservatives in this country — at least those who have not made their peace with the New Deal, and there is serious question whether there are others — are non-licensed nonconformists; and this is dangerous business in a Liberal world, as every editor of this magazine can readily show by pointing to his scars. Radical conservatives in this country have an interesting time of it, for when they are not being suppressed or mutilated by the Liberals, they are being ignored or humiliated by a great many of those of the well-fed Right, whose ignorance and amorality have never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity.

For better or worse, every conservative in the spotlight is just as Buckley said: a “non-licensed nonconformist; and this is dangerous business in a Liberal world…” Elizabeth Lauten has just found out exactly what this means.

Which leads to one last point.

Memo to Congressman Fincher: Your communications director made a mistake. As someone who began his Washington career as a press secretary to a congressman, I can say with experience it was a silly mistake. A learning mistake. She got in trouble for it. But lesson learned. It is not the kind of mistake that should cost a young woman of good heart her job. Most particularly it is important to make the point that conservatives should stand up for their own when they get in trouble. Because what goes on out there is a highly calculated effort by the Left not to disagree with conservatives but to destroy conservatives. To, when at all possible, wreck their lives, ruin their careers, and drive them from the public square.

One doesn’t have to defend the mistake, but one needs to understand what’s really going on when these things happen. And in the case at hand, it is not just a mistake to not re-hire Elizabeth Lauten, it is wrong.

Jeffrey Lord
Follow Their Stories:
View More
Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
Sign Up to receive Our Latest Updates! Register

Notice to Readers: The American Spectator and Spectator World are marks used by independent publishing companies that are not affiliated in any way. If you are looking for The Spectator World please click on the following link:

Be a Free Market Loving Patriot. Subscribe Today!