It is a matter of broad consensus in American politics that politicians’ minor children are off-limits, whatever one thinks of their parents. A similar prohibition often extends to adult family members, provided they are not public figures or suspected of criminal behavior, and it includes swipes at spouses’ appearances, too. This is a good thing. The Bush and Obama daughters deserved protection from the animosity directed at their fathers, and Barron Trump deserves the same. (Trump’s older children — Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric — have deliberately entered public life, including government service in Ivanka’s case, and thus are not afforded the same shield. Tiffany Trump, though an adult, is to my mind better kept closer to Barron’s status than that of her older siblings.)
All that is to say: Had Karlan actually put a mean and classless attack on Barron Trump in the House record, I would share this GOP outrage. Had she actually made him a punchline, it would indeed be disgraceful. But what Karlan said was barely a joke, and certainly not one at Barron’s expense. I imagine Karlan anticipated it would be received as a mildly amusing but otherwise anodyne illustration of an argument about the constitutional scope of executive power. And I imagine that because that is what it was.
Karlan later apologized for her remark, which was gracious but unnecessary. Her point on presidential authority cannot be made too much, whether about Trump in particular or the imperial presidency more broadly.