Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway has come under fierce criticism on social media after a picture showed her perched on one of the couches in the Oval Office, with her feet tucked under her. Close-ups showed that she was wearing shoes at the time, and her heels were digging in to the fabric.
Critics said she was being disrespectful of the Oval Office through her pose and her treatment of the furniture. Conway says she meant no disrespect, and her defenders say she was just getting ready to use her phone to take a photo of President Trump meeting with leaders of historic black colleges. They also cite pictures of President Obama with his feet up on the desk in the Oval Office. (And, of course, it’s not just any desk, it’s the famous Resolute desk made from timbers of the British vessel H.M.S. Resolute and presented to President Rutherford B. Hayes by Queen Victoria in 1880, and therefore presumably has a lot more history going for it than the sofa on which Conway was perched.)
Only one month or so into the new Administration, and already we’ve reached the point of arguing about treatment of furniture! Hey, I know — let’s call it “Sofagate”!
Maybe some of the angst about the furniture in the Oval Office comes from people whose parents were hyper-concerned about maintaining the condition the furniture in their home, and covered it with uncomfortable plastic slip covers for daily use so the furniture would always look brand new for company. These were the people whose mothers were always yelling “feet off the furniture!” when you went over to their house as kids. Other people, like the Webners, grew up in households where furniture was not viewed as a some kind of sacred item and putting your feet up on the coffee table, or stretching out on the sofa to watch TV, was a perfectly acceptable practice and a little wear and tear on the couch and chairs was to be expected. And still other people recognize that putting your feet up on a wooden desk is different than putting shoe-clad feet up on a fabric-covered sofa.
This is a classic example of the kind of tempest in a teapot that makes Washington so baffling and weird, with people with an inside-the-Beltway mentality consciously trying to blow little things up into huge disputes. It’s gotten worse in the social media age, where Twitter allows anyone (including our new President) to immediately make snide comments about anything and everything and create purportedly hilarious “memes.”
In the grand scheme of things, shoes with heels on an anonymous sofa, even one in the Oval Office, aren’t that big a deal. With President Trump in office, there’s lots of meaningful, substantive stuff to argue about. Can’t we at least focus on that, rather than feet on the furniture?