From the last Morning Jolt of the week:
Something’s Driving the Media Obsession with the Lauten Story.
Chris Cillizza, who writes the “The Fix” blog over at the Washington Post, picks a “Biggest Loser in Washington” every week for a short feature in the Post’s Sunday op-ed section.
This week he picked Elizabeth Lauten, the now-former communications director for Representative Stephen Fincher (R., Tenn.). Cillizza wrote:
Lauten, having watched Malia and Sasha Obama looking less than enthused at the White House’s annual Thanksgiving turkey pardoning, took to Facebook, writing in part: “Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. . . . Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar.”
Knowingly or not, Lauten violated one of the few adhered-to commandments of political Washington: Thou shalt not talk about politicians’ children.
Oops, how did this old magazine cover get in here?
What’s going on here? How did Lauten become such a big deal to the Left? Why the volcanic reaction to snippy comments on Facebook? Why did the media treat Lauten’s ill-considered criticism of the Obama daughters as a huge story for days and days and now more than a week?
The simplest explanation is that this is lefty gang-tackling a target of opportunity, because it hits some of their political sensitive spots: A white Republican “attacked” the Obama daughters over an issue most Americans don’t care about, insufficient enthusiasm at the silly traditional White House turkey-pardon ceremony. It lets the Obamas be a victim, the (blonde!) Republican woman be the aggressor and bully, and the lefty online Furies play the chivalrous role in defending the Obama girls’ freedom to act like normal teenagers.
But for those of us who have watched the Left freak out about wildly overhyped “scandals” for a long time now, some elements of the reaction to Lauten feel weird. For starters, there’s been almost no criticism of her boss or any effort to tie him into the story. (Think about how much Chris Christie got hit for his staffers’ actions.) Then the fact that Cillizza — hardly the worst mainstream reporter guy out there — is running a Sunday, December 7, item on a controversy stemming from pre-Thanksgiving comments. Even by the low standards of a biased, partisan Washington media environment, the shelf life of this story is bewildering.
Is it that after a year of defeats and bad news, an embattled, demoralized White House wants to go after someone who criticizes the Obama daughters? I suppose it would make sense for the White House to push this story. But for a lot of progressives and for a chunk of the media, Obama is increasingly old news. The Barack and Michelle Show rolls credits for the last time in January 2017. For the cause of progressivism and its media allies, the election of Hillary takes preeminence. (At least until a serious rival claiming the mantle of modern progressivism appears, like Elizabeth Warren.)
Maybe this is an attempt to inoculate Chelsea Clinton? You may recall I’m one of the guys most prone to going on tirades against softball media coverage that insists the former First Daughter is some sort of extraordinary figure, instead of a monument to the power of modern nepotism. Of course, the Obama daughters are teenagers, and Chelsea Clinton is a grown woman taking an increasingly public role in the American political scene, including her $400,000-per-year part-time gig at NBC News.
I figure there’s a possibility that there’s an unflattering portrait of Chelsea waiting to be revealed. Heck, start with this 2007 New Republic piece by T. A. Frank:
But my real complaints start with Chelsea Clinton. Blame The New York Times for planting the first unfriendly thoughts in my head. In an article published this July, the paper unkindly reminded readers that Chelsea, in the months after September 11, had written in Talk magazine that “‘serving’ in the broadest sense now seems like the only thing to do. . . . Is banking what’s important right now?” To which the Times not so gently pointed out that Chelsea’s post-9/11 resume has consisted of stints as a McKinsey consultant and as an investment analyst at Avenue Capital, a hedge fund run by the nuns of Calcutta. Oh, sorry — make that Clinton donor Marc Lasry.
The Times piece was a fairly bitchy slap, and, before I level any further charges myself, let me defend Chelsea for a moment. All of us were feeling generous and altruistic in the wake of 9/11 before we came to our senses, aided by time and a ruthless White House. One of my best friends worked for McKinsey (I still like him fine), and my wife once worked for a hedge fund (I still like her fine). I, too, would hope one day to be well-paid, even if this effort is going disastrously.
But, still, it all seems a bit — much. Quoth the Times: “Friends say financial independence is important to Ms. Clinton; she may improve on her low-six-figure McKinsey salary by hundreds of thousands of dollars.” That’s quite a declaration of financial independence.
Interjection from Jim: And this is long before the $400,000-per-year part-time gig at NBC News.
And Chelsea didn’t exactly spend her Oxford days tending to the world’s unfortunates, either: Among the events she attended were a Versace couture show in Paris (sitting next to Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow), a ball thrown by Sir Elton John, and a film premiere with Paul McCartney. Nor did she join her British celebrity friends in visiting land-mine amputees, unless the amputees happened to be holed up at Oscar de la Renta’s Dominican villa. In New York, Chelsea has befriended celebrities like Tara Reid (who, to be fair, may actually qualify as a public-service cause) and become a regular at establishments like Schiller’s and Bungalow 8. In short, while Jenna [Bush] has used her celebrity — at least in part — to help impoverished children, Chelsea has used her celebrity to get herself good tables at Nobu. And to get guest reporter gigs at swishy Interview magazine. Here’s her grilling of actor Jake Gyllenhaal:
clinton: I wish you were shooting on Martha’s Vineyard.
gyllenhaal: I remember going to your father’s 51st birthday on Martha’s Vineyard, where we met. Both our families are friends with the Danson-Steenburgens, and I was invited.
clinton: We sat together at dinner.
gyllenhaal: And we just immediately started talking. I’m going to the Vineyard next week with my mom.
clinton: Your mother’s such a heroine.
gyllenhaal: She is. As is yours. Darling, it’s been so frightfully dull at the Danson-Steenburgens without you.
Maybe the Lauten pile-on is an effort to make any scrutiny of Chelsea politically untouchable, it won’t work. But then again, a lot of this crowd’s ideas don’t work.