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Mnuchin money meme arises from currency photo shoot

As a wife of many years, I appreciate it when a couple likes to share big moments. But such spousal closeness backfired spectacularly when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin brought his wife, Louise Linton, with him when he went to check out his signature that's now appearing on U.S. currency.

But before we get to the drama, let's look at the changes coming to our dollars.

Steve Mnuchin signature now on currency_Nov 2017

Handwriting gets grade A: The good news for Mnuchin is that while folks still might have trouble pronouncing his name, they can at least read his signature.

That's more that can be said for his predecessor, Jacob "Jack" Lew. Lew's circular John Hancock produced a lot of jokes, prompting him to revise it for presentation on U.S. dollar (and larger) bills.

And it looks like Mnuchin actually cleaned up his own signature before taking his federal financial post. It was almost illegible on documents he signed years earlier.

So Mnuchin's nice, neat and readable signature on $1 bills earn that denomination this week's By the Numbers honor.

Celebration gets an F: I totally understand Mnuchin's thrill at seeing his name on America's legal tender. And I don't begrudge his wife Linton's similarly shared excitement as they viewed the first sheet of $1 bills that rolled off the money presses.

But one of the photos that the Associated Press shared in stories and on social media (that's a straight Twitter take on the wire service report below) was worth more than 1,000 words from critics.

Folks immediately scoffed at Linton's apparently calculated stare directly into the camera lens. Many saw it as a bit too presumptuous or pretentious.

I'll cut her some slack. She was, after all, an actress. They always know where the camera is pointed.

But Linton also was mocked for her pricey attire.

She kept on her elbow-length leather gloves and coat, which some derided as knockoffs of those worn by Star Wars villains Kylo Ren and Darth Maul, while inside the Treasury Building. Hey, maybe they had the air-conditioner on too high.

Other wags noted her outfit's resemblance to those worn by Roger Rabbit and Bond movie bad guys.

Latest Linton controversy: But the biggest PR misstep was simply letting the pair show off sheets of money.

The Mnuchins have already been investigated for using government jets for personal travel, including for their honeymoon. A Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration examination found that the newlyweds didn't technically break any laws (other than those of decorum), but that they had spent $800,000 on military flights that would have cost substantially less if the couple had flown commercial.

Plus, Linton got into a social media spat in August with a woman who questioned the Treasury Secretary's wife Instagram post showing Linton deplaning a government aircraft with her arms full of shopping bags. The question was, to most, relevant since Linton hashtagged the photo with the names of the designer goods she bought.

Affluenza attack: With that perception of entitled extravagance at taxpayer expense still lingering, it really wasn't wise to show off the couple admiring sheets of money.

Worse, it came as the Republicans on Capitol Hill and the White House were pushing for a tax reform bill that, by most analyses, will reward wealthy Americans more.

Did no one hear the White House public affairs staff say "hold my beer" and try to stop them? Apparently not.

So a meme and Twitter mockery festival, with participants from all sides of the political aisle, ensued.

There was noted neocon commentator Bill Kristol, taking aim what he perceived as smugness:

Late-night sidekick Andy Richter of the Conan O'Brien show invoked expensive imbibing:

And some simply saw it as a reflection of the couple's real life:

Bloomberg has a piece on the 9 best photos from the Mnuchins' trip to see his name on the dollar bill. And Axios talked to the photographer, the AP's Jacquelyn Martin, about how the viral Mnuchin/Linton photo came together.

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