An attack on US Vice President Kamala Harris for buying expensive French cookware rebounded on the Republican Party over Thanksgiving, moving social media users to compare Harris’ culinary outlay with the cost to taxpayers of former US president Donald Trump’s four years in power.
On a visit to Paris earlier this month, Harris reportedly spent more than US$500 on cookware at E. Dehillerin, a shop near the Louvre museum.
She told reporters that she was making the purchase with Thanksgiving cooking in mind, prompting laughter when she said that her husband, Doug Emhoff, was her “apprentice” in the kitchen.
Nonetheless, Republicans and right-wing 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 wrote on Twitter: “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 University, 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 referred to a Washington Post report from February last year that said the US Secret Service paid as much as US$650 a night for rooms at properties owned by the then-president.
Many of those properties were golf courses.
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 had famously criticized his predecessor, Barack Obama, for playing too much golf and said that as president, he would be too busy to play much himself, but then spent considerable time on the fairways when in office.
Estimates of the cost to taxpayers vary. One dedicated Web site, Trumpgolfcount.com, put it at US$149 million.
Other users responding to the Republican attack on Harris noted Trump’s payment of US$130,000 to adult film actress and director Stormy Daniels, while he ran for president, to keep her quiet about an alleged affair.
Republicans also criticized US President Joe Biden for spending the Thanksgiving holiday on Nantucket, an island off Massachussetts, at a house owned by billionaire businessman David Rubenstein.
Rubenstein had served as a deputy domestic policy advisor to former US-president Jimmy Carter and has spent millions of dollars on preserving historic documents and buildings.
Nonetheless, Biden’s decision to stay at his US$30 million house attracted fire from the left as well as the right.
David Sirota, a former adviser to US Senator 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, 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 US history and the Republicans only sought to kick 23 million Americans off healthcare, an effort thwarted by the late US senator John McCain.
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