Was Attack On Obama Girls More Than Meets The Eye?
Elizabeth Lauten’s personal attack on Sasha and Malia Obama was not an accident. She had plenty of time to think about what kind of response it would garner before she chiseled it into the stone of the internet. This raises a question. Was the broadside a stupid, incompetent miscalculation, a missive to the baying Teanderthal horde who like their dog whistle loud and clear, without any consideration for its wider impact? Or was it calculated; and if so to what end? There is evidence for both possibilities.
In her short career, Lauten worked for Representatives Joe Walsh and Stephen Fincher. Joe Walsh, a darling of the original 2010 Tea Party armada, was a raving lunatic, who angrily harangued his own constituents and journalists. He also famously argued that Washington needed to stop debt spending while he personally owed $117,000 in child support and lent his campaign $35,000. After his single term in Congress, he launched a conservative talk radio show which was briefly taken off the air due to Walsh discussing the use of racial slurs. The fact that she worked for such a far right failed politician, whose politics melded with theater and entertaining the right’s echo chamber, lends credence to the idea that this was a miscalculation.
Furthermore, the whole incident started with Lauten responding to an article she saw on right wing rag, Mad World News. In an article entitled “Obama Daughters UNLEASH Their Annoyance During Annual Turkey Pardon,” author Amanda Shea wrote that the girls “could barely contain their disdain” and displayed “teen contempt.” The article ended with the line,
“I don’t think you would have ever seen the Bush daughters in dresses that short. Class is completely absent from this White House.”
Three days later, Shea was basking in the glow of attention from Lauten with an article entitled “Staffer UNLOADS Epic Rant On Obama Daughters’ Classless Attire, Liberals FREAK.” Shea defended Lauten’s decision to criticize the girls’ clothing “or lack thereof” by saying “the truth is the truth” and by arguing that slut-shaming is not part of rape culture. On her Facebook page, Shea lamented that uptight liberals felt the need to defend innocent children,
I’d like to give HUGE kudos to this amazing GOP Staffer who posted her honest and accurate statement of the Obama daughter’s inappropriate attire. I’m honored she read and shared my article on the incident, adding her impassioned opinion that I agree with, but that [sic] also incensed the liberal crowed [sic] so much that it incited a social media firestorm of hate on this ethical and moral woman.
This whole incident was a reverberation within the right wing echo chamber from the very beginning. But before we conclude that this was merely intended as red meat for the target audience to chew on, and was never meant to spill out into public discourse, let’s look at the evidence that it was a calculated attack.
Until Monday, Lauten’s boss was Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN). Fincher has many reasons to be angry at President Obama, and has not made it a secret. He issued a statement entitled, “Obama’s Amnesty is Unconstitutional, Disastrous Policy.” While most Republicans in Congress oppose the President’s decision to issue an executive order well within the bounds of his constitutional authority to change the priorities of law enforcement in the absence of legislation, most Republicans don’t have quite as acute reasons for opposing it as Fincher does.
Fincher became rich and powerful from big agriculture in West Tennessee. A lot of his wealth came from millions in government subsidies. In 2013, he vehemently supported a bill that would dramatically expand his farm subsidies while also slashing SNAP benefits for poor, hungry children. On the floor of the House, he cherry-picked the Bible quote: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” There are roughly 124,000 undocumented immigrants in Tennessee, many of them working on farms in West Tennessee. Fincher is now opposed to the creation of work permits and green cards for undocumented immigrants. Obama’s re-prioritization of law enforcement would allow otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants who came here as children, or are parents of those shielded from deportation by DACA, to come out of the shadows and work more legitimately. This would mean that it would be much harder for a big farm owner in Western Tennessee, like Fincher, to exploit thousands of undocumented immigrants with grueling conditions and criminally low wages. This is his first motive for issuing a classless attack on Obama.
Second, Corrections Corporation of America, one of the largest private prison companies in America, is based in Nashville Tennessee. It is also one of the largest contributors to Fincher’s campaigns. Private prisons get a great deal of their profits from the excessive criminalization and incarceration of nonviolent immigration violators. Obama’s re-prioritization of law enforcement would mean fewer criminals in CCA’s “beds” in Tennessee and across the country. This would mean less profit for CCA, and thus, lower contributions from CCA to Fincher’s campaign war chest. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, issued a report naming Fincher as one of the most corrupt members of Congress, so it stands to reason that he helps those who help him most.
Obama’s order on immigration strikes hard at two of Fincher’s most important pillars of power. Did Fincher strike back with an inappropriate attack on the President’s kids and parenting skills? Perhaps Lauten was planning to leave anyway and did her boss a favor. Or Fincher decided to sacrifice a pawn to make his displeasure with the President unmistakeable.
Finally, Lauten was a communications professional. The website of her communications consultancy boasts that its approach to crisis management, social media monitoring and framing the message as effectively as possible has made it a “paradigm for the industry.” In other words, she built her career on doing exactly the opposite of what she got in trouble for doing. It is difficult to believe that someone in such a position could be so clumsy in social media messaging. It is possible that Fincher made it known to his media people that he was very angry with the President, and would not be displeased if they were to hit below the belt.
Whether you believe the attack on Obama’s girls was noise from the right wing echo chamber that cost Lauten her career because it rose to national prominence, or a calculated personal attack against the President, there is evidence to support both hypotheses.
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