Are the president's kids ever fair game?
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Then-GOP staffer Elizabeth Lauten became a national piñata after going on a social media rant against Sasha and Malia Obama’s behavior and wardrobe, but she got ITK wondering: Are the youngest West Wing residents ever fair game when it comes to criticism?

“If you’re going to go after the president’s children, you’re going to get into quicksand very fast,” veteran GOP consultant Ron Bonjean told us.


Lauten sounded off on her Facebook page about the Obama daughters’ eye-rolling during the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon last week.

“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,” Lauten wrote, later adding: “Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot in the bar.”

Lauten resigned as Rep. Stephen FincherStephen Lee FincherTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Lamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee Tensions on immigration erupt in the House GOP MORE’s (R-Tenn.) communications director on Monday.

Marj Halperin, a Chicago-based Democratic strategist, says critics who target a president’s kids are always out of bounds: “We do have standards about this in our country — they’re unwritten, but there are ethical standards.”

The communications consultant contends that even if a first family member gets into trouble with the law, “It shouldn’t be a headline, and it shouldn’t be major news, and it shouldn’t be personal to the children.”

She adds, “The family should never be held to the standards of the politician.”

But Bonjean says while first children are generally “off limits,” there could be some exceptions.

“If the president’s children were entering the public arena by commenting on public policies or getting into some type of high-profile trouble, well then yes, it’s going to be obvious that people would likely comment about what they have to say or their misdeeds," he says.

Former President George W. Bush’s then-19-year-old twin daughters made headlines after being cited for underage drinking at a Texas restaurant. But Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Bush’s White House predecessor, was famously ripped apart in the media despite staying out of trouble.

“I have the indubious honor of being compared to a dog as a 13-year-old by Rush Limbaugh,” Clinton, 34, said in a speech at a college women’s leadership conference earlier this year. “That was not about me, that was about him.”

Doug Wead, a historian and author of All the Presidents’ Children, says Clinton, in particular, was “lampooned and ridiculed in the most hurtful ways.” But he says hurling insults at the kin of world leaders has been happening since the Middle Ages.

“You hear people think it’s so bitter today, politics,” Wead sighs. "Children in the past have been the subjects of vicious attacks — some of them false — in the media.”

Wead says when politicians make their family part of their bid for the White House — propping them up for photo opps and using them along the campaign trail — it opens them up to criticism.

“When Richard Nixon took Julie and Tricia on either arm and went with them everywhere with them on his arm, it helped him,” Weed says. While Nixon’s daughters “handled themselves very well,” if they had misspoken, “it’s possible they might have been fair game because the president had injected them into the campaign.”

But in the case of the Obama daughters, Wead says with a chuckle, “These kids have been so absolutely perfect that that’s why people reacted, like, ‘Give me a break.’”