First ladies are bad enough, and the recent habit of referring to the wife of the vice president as “the second lady” is nauseating. The first Mrs. Trump does have a point: From a certain point of view, Melania is the third lady.
But what the hell is Steven Mnuchin’s wife? The eighth or ninth lady?
Mnuchin, formerly of Goldman Sachs, is pure Wall Street malignity in concentrated form, a guy who looks like he was born wearing a blue suit and braces. And that, in itself, is okay: A little Scrooge McDuck–style sphincter-clenching is kind of what you want in a Treasury secretary. But Mnuchin is not satisfied to be a pure example of one kind of awful: He has to adulterate his Wall Street awfulness with Hollywood awfulness. You’ll see his name in the credits of a few big-budget movies (including the recent Wonder Woman film and The LEGO Movie) and on a bunch of campaign-donation checks written to Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore, Kamala Harris, and other erstwhile friends of Wall Street. But movies are where his heart is.
Hence, the wife.
Mnuchin is married to Louise Linton, a Scottish actress. Put an asterisk next to that job description, though: She’s an “actress” in the same way that a lot of trust-fund kids are “entrepreneurs” and “business owners,” and a lot of dim children of CEOs are “executive vice presidents.” She was raised partly in a castle outside Edinburgh, and most of her immediate family is employed by Linton Hay Property and the Hay Trust, which is — this will surprise you — in the business of renovating and leasing castles owned by the Linton-Hay family.
Without the spur of needing to pay the bills, Linton has had a cinematic career that you might call “leisurely.” She was nearly 30 before her first film, Robert Redford’s Lions for Lambs, in which she had a small role that was, after the edits were done, reduced to a nonexistent role. Since then, she’s had roles in a lot of films you’ve never heard of and one that you may have, Cabin Fever.
She also published a book, In the Shadow of Congo, a memoir about the semester abroad she spent in “war-torn Zambia,” a tale replete with child soldiers, Hutu–Tutsi ethnic warfare, monsoons, and the general horror of the Congolese war that beset the “angel-haired” (her description of herself) visitor from the United Kingdom. There were many problems with that account, including the fact that the Congolese war wasn’t fought in Zambia, which has in fact never been at war, but if it had been at war, that war wouldn’t have been the Hutu–Tutsi conflict, which happened in Rwanda, which isn’t where Linton was. She was down in Zambia, which does not have the monsoons she claimed to have endured. The book was a gross and embarrassing example of the “white savior” genre, and a particularly illiterate and dishonest one at that. It has been withdrawn from publication.
Linton, being a Hollywood nobody, has not exactly been beset with paparazzi, but this is the age of social media, and so she has become her own paparazzo. She posted an infamous Instagram picture in which she — disembarking a government plane with her husband after a trip to hardscrabble Kentucky — boasted about her ensemble: Hermès scarf, Tom Ford sunglasses, Valentino outfit, etc. When some ordinary schmuck on the Internet suggested that maybe this kind of conspicuous consumption wasn’t the best look for a family engaged in what is notionally public service while flying on a government-funded private plane, Linton went into full Marie Antoinette mode, scoffing that the little people criticizing her could not possibly have contributed as much to the economy as “me and my husband, either as an individual earner or in taxes.” Mrs. Linton and her husband have indeed contributed a great deal, one assumes, in much the same way as Switzerland and China have between them well more than 1 billion people.
And she was back in the news this week, visiting the plant at which U.S. currency is printed. Dressed in some ridiculous Kylo Ren get-up, she struck a pouty model pose while holding a sheet of uncut dollars in one black-leather-gloved hand. (Because normal people wear leather gloves indoors.) But the adoration in her eyes was something to behold, and who could fail to be moved, at least a little, by the sight of Louise Linton photographed with the love of her life?
Steven Mnuchin was also in the picture. Portrait of a marriage, right there.
Treasury head, wife mocked for photo of them holding sheet of new $1 bills: https://t.co/zSfjMT8aVl
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) November 16, 2017
These are genuinely awful people, of course, absolute national embarrassments whose comprehensive lack of taste or elementary self-awareness is really quite phenomenal to behold, but what is truly awful is that we have reached a point in the stultification and celebritization of our politics that the wife of the Treasury secretary is a public figure about whom one is obliged to have an opinion. This is a republic; ideally, very few of us would have any reason to care very much who the Treasury secretary is, much less which D-minus-list never-was CSI-extra actress he’s hitched to. The couple were married in 2017, so they are newlyweds, but they are both old enough to know better.
If they were the sort of people who knew better. Which they aren’t.
— Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent.