Though it seems relatively minor, Louise Linton’s unfortunate Instagram exchange with a woman who had the temerity to rebuke her for a particularly crude display of wealth, is destined to stand as one of the iconic moments of the Trump Era.
There will be plenty to choose from, but this one is notable for its meanness, narcissism and utter lack of self awareness — in other words, for its unadulterated channeling of the Trump world view. We have, in the president, a man who consistently mistakes the trappings of wealth for good character. Is it any wonder that attitude permeates his inner circle of millionaires and billionaires?
Linton, an actress who is the wife of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, posted a photo of herself exiting a government plane in Kentucky, with her husband in tow.
Perhaps mistakenly thinking she was on a red carpet, where someone might care about the provenance of her wardrobe, Linton tagged her Roland Mouret pants, her Tom Ford “sunnies,” her Hermes scarf and her Valentino heels, as if someone had begged to know “Who are you wearing?” No one was. Her tacky tags prompted an Oregon woman to get snarky. “Glad we could pay for your little getaway #deplorable,” commented Jenni Miller.
Well, when Linton’s critics go low, she goes lower.
Linton’s blistering, condescending reply, implying, perhaps wrongly, that she and her husband “give more to the economy” than Miller, was an instant Internet scandal, prompting widespread outrage, and an apology a day later. #TooLittleTooLate, I’m afraid.
In much the same way that the infamous New York hotelier and tax cheat Leona Helmsley came to stand for the depravity of Ronald Reagan’s greed-is-good America of the 1980s, Linton’s crude outburst will undoubtedly come to be remembered for its embodiment of the wealth-uber-alles sensibility of President Trump. Of course, it probably doesn’t help that the wardrobe of diamonds she wore at her June 24 wedding was meticulously documented by Town & Country magazine in a story headlined “All the Jewels Louise Linton Wore to Her Wedding.”
For those whose memories are hazy, Helmsley, dubbed “the Queen of Mean,” went to jail for federal income tax evasion. During her trial, her former housekeeper testified that she once heard Helmsley say, “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” How delicious that her 19-month prison stay (paid for by the little people!) began on April 15, 1992. By the way, Helmsley, who died in 2007, was an archenemy of Trump’s, though they shared a disdain for taxes. Not paying federal taxes, Trump said in his first debate with Hillary Clinton, “makes me smart.”
But I digress.
Trump has spent a lifetime building a personal brand based on conspicuous consumption. Despite his inherited wealth, all the bankruptcies and lawsuits accusing him of fraud, he has been celebrated by his most fervent supporters as a self-made man. They continue to express the belief that he cares about their economic struggles and pain, even as his ceaseless golf trips and vacations not only belie that claim, but have cost those same American taxpayers dearly.
Are you old enough to remember the presidency of Barack Obama? Do you recall the opprobrium hurled at First Lady Michelle Obama when she wore designer dresses and expensive shoes? Do you recall the hysteria of right-wing pundits and websites when she dared take her mother and children on vacations?
Do you think Louise Linton would have felt comfortable acting like a pompous boob if her husband worked for, say President Obama, instead of President Trump?
Me either. The fish, as Anthony Scaramucci famously said, stinks from the head down.