Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for a GOP congressman, committed a cardinal sin in politics last weekend: posting on Facebook about a couple of aggravated teenagers forced to endure their dad’s turkey-pardoning ceremony, during a space of time where little to nothing of note was happening on the national scene. Thankfully, our esteemed fourth estate immediately seized on her transgression against the cult of personality inhabiting the White House, and badgered her and her under-the-radar Republican boss until she was forced to publicly apologize, resign, and pack up her things from her Hill apartment and return to that segment of flyover country from whence she came. The media may not know how to handle more pressing matters facing their industry, like whether they should report accurately on a Missouri grand jury investigation so as not to further inflame community tensions, but they sure know how to make a girl cry.
Unfortunately, Ms. Lauten not only made the error of openly criticizing presidential progeny, something the media would surely never do, except when Republican presidents’ daughters flash their panties on the sidewalk after falling out of a bar they weren’t supposed to be in. As a seasoned purveyor of gossip on the Internet, particularly when it comes to the White House — my most notorious contribution may be revealing that Michelle Obama doesn’t realize you can buy ill-fitting sundresses at Target — I can tell you that Lauten committed certain, other venial sins that made her an immediate target of ire.
1. She talked about the kids.
It’s not that the kids are off-limits. It’s that the kids aren’t responsible for what happens day-to-day at the White House. If the daughters had managed to snag jobs as the official pardoned turkey representatives of the Obama administration, their presence would have been more official and their sheer exasperation at the utter inanity of the tried-and-true American tradition of pretending turkeys have a long-enough life span to make pardoning them significant, a cause for alarm. Instead, someone in the residence probably pulled the plug on their Xbox Kinect and confiscated their cell phones until they fulfilled their very important job of standing behind their father, reading a proclamation about a bird, and looking like they belonged there. Until one of them does something truly horrendous, like try to benefit America’s foreign policy by dating Justin Bieber, this can probably be considered nothing more than a hilarious mishap. In fact, a more apt commentary on the entire scene might have been a meme of Sasha’s fierce sister side-eye.
2. She said the words “classy.”
There are few things in Washington that are truly “classy.” A couple of lower-key Christmas parties untainted by lobbyists, perhaps. Nancy Pelosi’s tri-color string of saltwater pearls. One or more of Trey Gowdy’s panel-themed haircuts. And while the concept of class has not been in effect much in the Obama administration years (or for that matter, the Bush administration’s two terms of wearing white tie with cowboy boots), there are few things less classy than an official engagement involving a turkey. Nothing about the event screamed “sophistication,” and quite rightly: nothing about the Thanksgiving holiday of stuffing your face with carbohydrates and watching giant men tackle each other on Astroturf screams “sophistication.” That’s because this is America, goddamit, and our forefathers gave their blood, sweat, and tears so that we could once a year celebrate our proud twin traditions of obesity and violence.
3. She talked about their clothing in relation to a drinking establishment.
There is no doubt that America in general, and, according to Ms. Lauten, the First Daughters specifically, is suffering from an epidemic of missing pants. These days, from the waist down, nearly anything goes, whether that anything effectively covers what it’s supposed to cover or not. People think leggings are pants. People think tights are leggings and therefore pants. People think underwear are tights and therefore leggings and therefore pants. But in all listed cases, none of our generic “people” are actually, in fact, wearing pants. Sasha and Malia aren’t actually guilty of any of these crimes against the nature of fashion, but their skirts might be a tad on the skimpy side, at least when paired with their chosen footwear. Neither of the First Daughters, though, is looking primed for a night of underaged drinking and Tinder. That said, they did not look safely outfitted for encountering sometimes-tricky native fowl. I probably would have recommended waders. Which are pants.
4. She assumed they still listen to their parents.
The looks on their faces should have told her everything she needed to know. Barack Obama may not be the best role model when it comes to things like managing the outbreak of a deadly virus or handing democracy safely to the Middle East, but they’re not looking to him for fashion advice. And they never were. The man wears Mom jeans and hiking sandals and seems to have trouble with any waistline that isn’t elastic. They wrote him off on that account probably around the time they encountered their first chapter books.
5. She’s Republican.
By far the most egregious thing Ms. Lauten could have done was check “Republican” on her first ballot all those years ago, and somehow agree to work in a job that most of the media considers distasteful, by which I mean any job within spitting distance of something that could be considered a conservative agenda. Even though she’s one of over 30,000 staffers on the Hill, was well known mostly just to Republicans before Thursday, and merely updated her private Facebook page with her spur-of-the-moment commentary, by virtue of her chosen affilation she was immediately promoted to lead communications consultant within the tip of the spear of the GOP’s vast “manufactured melodrama” machine, gaming the clearly right-leaning national media by leading a stealthy attack on the First Daughters so that more egregious commentary could follow, thus totally destroying the Obama family’s credibility among the target demographic of absolutely no one. While some leftist sites spent valuable time digging up scooplets about Lauten’s adolescent midemeanors, others agonized over what was to come. Was Lauten’s merely the first in a barrage of attacks? Will she receive a hero’s homecoming and a ticker-tape parade at the next gathering of villainous GOP operatives in their mountaintop fortress? It is all so terrifyingly possible, that administration mouthpieces haven’t slept for days, even despite the tryptophan.
Here’s hoping that Ms. Lauten has learned from her foray into fashion commentary: don’t pick on the kids, don’t assume they have fun in their spare time, and most certainly, don’t ever tell anyone you’re a Republican.