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OFF the CUFF: Rep. Fincher, we deserve to hear from you

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By Cheryl Duncan, Assistant Editor

I was incensed when I saw the headline Saturday afternoon.

“GOP staffer posts, apologizes,” it said. “Obama daughters showed no class at turkey pardon.”

How disgusting, I thought. Who would go after children? No class, indeed.

Then I read the article and became outraged. Not only was this a staffer, this was a communications director.

An experienced communications director. And the part that made me angriest: her employer was one of Tennessee’s own.

The great sin of Sasha and Malia Obama, according to the now-unemployed Elizabeth Lauten, formerly of U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher’s office, was that they should “rise to the occasion” of living in the White House and “try showing a little class.”

In a Facebook post that has since been deleted, she went on attack the attire of the president’s 13- and 16-year-old daughters, suggesting that they “dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised, public events.”

I looked at the photo accompanying Lauten’s now-deleted Facebook post.
In it, I saw two teenage girls who were dressed ... well, like teenagers.

Their clothing was clean and neat. I saw no bare midriffs or exposed cleavage. Their skirts were short, but both girls were wearing leggings or tights underneath.

What did Lauten want them to wear? Evening gowns? Mom Michelle is a fashion plate, but both Sasha and Malia probably consider her attire “old-women’s clothes.” In short, they were dressed pretty much as I would expect two teenagers to dress. In pretty much the same manner my own 21-year-old daughter dresses.

As for the “faces” they made ― well, it’s not exactly as if they were witness to a declaration of war or an order to take out a terrorist cell. President Barack Obama was performing his annual duty of pardoning a turkey from this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a tradition that presidents have followed for a number of years, though the first to do it seems to be up in the air, according to the folks at WhiteHouse.gov.

It’s a lighthearted gesture, full of cheesy comments and jokes. How many of us in our teen years have been embarrassed by our father making such comments? It’s universal, whether it was me in the 1980s rolling my eyes at my father in front of my friends, or the Obama sisters on a national stage silently thinking, “Oh, Dad! Stop it!”

I watched two videos of the event in question, and I honestly don’t see any weird faces. Maybe I’m wrong ― it’s been known to happen ― but even if I am, so what? It was a jovial occasion.

I find it sad that Lauten focused more on the Obama girls than what the president said during this lighthearted event. In the midst of it all, it was a poignant moment:

“I will say that I enjoy it,” the president proclaimed of the annual pardon, “because with all the tough stuff that swirls around in this office, it’s nice once in a while just to say ‘happy Thanksgiving,’ and this is a great excuse to do it.”

After removing the original post from Facebook and making a back-handed apology that somehow wasn’t directed at Sasha, Malia or their parents, Lauten did the respectable thing Monday and tendered her resignation.

Her former boss, however, has yet to make a comment.

That’s not good enough, Rep. Fincher. You must make the effort to step across the aisle and apologize to the president ― a father ― for the slights your staff member made against his underage children whose place in the spotlight is not of their choosing.

Your own Facebook page shows you are adept at voicing your feelings about Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and the opposing party in general.
An “I’m sorry” should suffice nicely.

In addition, we Tennesseans deserve to hear from you. It is our state that your office has tarnished on a national level. Sir, you need to make it abundantly clear that Lauten speaks neither for you, your office, your constituents nor your home state.

We in Tennessee may have our differences. We argue politics. We argue religion. We argue whether we should wish people “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas.”

But whether we’re Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, Baptist or Methodist, there is one thing we overwhelmingly agree upon:
You don’t attack the elderly, the physically or mentally infirm, or children.
And it doesn’t matter if those children live next door, in Timbuktu or at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C.
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Cheryl Duncan is assistant editor of the Roane County News. She may be reached at cduncan@roanecounty.com.