An attack on Kamala Harris for buying expensive French cookware rebounded on the Republican party over Thanksgiving, moving social media users to compare the vice-president’s culinary outlay with the cost to taxpayers of Donald Trump’s four years in power.
On a visit to Paris earlier this month, Harris reportedly spent more than $500 on cookware at E Dehillerin, a shop near the Louvre museum. She told reporters she was making the purchase with Thanksgiving cooking in mind, prompting laughter when she said her husband, Doug Emhoff, was her “apprentice” in the kitchen.
Nonetheless, Republicans and rightwing media outlets seized on the purchase, attempting to use it to show that the vice-president, a former California attorney general and US senator, was out of touch with ordinary Americans.
On Friday, the Republican party Twitter account, @GOP, said: “While Americans are struggling to pay more than EVER for the holidays, Kamala Harris is out buying a $375 pot.”
Thanks to the medium involved, responses were short and to the point.
Don Moynihan, a professor of public policy at Georgetown, wrote: “Just to put this in perspective: What Harris spent her own money on for cookware wouldn’t cover what Trump was charging taxpayers per room for Secret Service agents.”
Moynihan linked to a Washington Post report from February 2020, which said the Secret Service paid as much as $650 a night for rooms at Trump properties while Trump was president.
Many of those properties were golf courses. The journalist David Leavitt wrote: “While Americans lined up at food pantries and died from Covid, Trump spent $141m of taxpayer’s money playing golf.”
Trump famously criticised Barack Obama for playing too much golf, said he would be too busy to play much himself, then spent considerable time on the fairways. Estimates of the cost to taxpayers vary. One dedicated website, Trumpgolfcount.com, put it at $149m.
Other users responding to the GOP attack on Harris noted Trump’s payment of $130,000 to the adult film actor and director Stormy Daniels, while he ran for president, to keep her quiet about an affair.
Republicans also criticised Joe Biden for spending the Thanksgiving holiday on Nantucket, an island off Massachussetts, at a house owned by David Rubenstein.
The private equity billionaire is an alumnus of the Carter White House and a philanthropist who has spent millions on preserving historic documents and buildings. Nonetheless, Biden’s decision to stay at his $30m house attracted fire from the left as well as the right.
David Sirota, a former adviser to Bernie Sanders and a Guardian contributor, said: “It’s already very Let Them Eat Cake for a president to hang at a billionaire’s Nantucket pad – but it’s some real Gilded Age shit when the billionaire’s private equity firm has all sorts of interests before the government right now.”
In Washington before the holiday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended Biden’s choice of destination and said: “You are president no matter where you are.”
Back on Twitter, in the continuing fight over the vice-president’s pots and pans, the reporter Victoria Brownworth wrote: “While Americans were struggling to pay more than EVER for the holidays, in December 2017 Republicans voted themselves the biggest tax cut in history and kicked 23m Americans off healthcare.”
As it happens, the 2017 tax cut was only the biggest corporate tax cut in history and the Republicans only sought to kick 23m Americans off healthcare, an effort thwarted by the Arizona senator John McCain.
But Brownworth wasn’t done.
“Also,” she wrote, “Kamala Harris can buy whatever the heck she wants – it’s her money that she earned.”