Friday, March 19, 2004

Protecting American jobs?
This would make a lovely thirty-second spot for Kerry or MoveOn:
The official merchandise Web site for President George W. Bush's re-election campaign has sold clothing made in Burma, whose goods were banned by Bush from the U.S. last year to punish its military dictatorship.

The merchandise sold on includes a $49.95 fleece pullover, embroidered with the Bush-Cheney '04 logo and bearing a label stating it was made in Burma, now Myanmar. The jacket was sent to Newsday as part of an order that included a shirt made in Mexico and a hat not bearing a country-of-origin label.

The Bush merchandise is handled by Spalding Group, a 20-year-old supplier of campaign products and services in Louisville, Ky., that says it worked for the last five Republican presidential nominees.

Ted Jackson, Spalding's president, said, "We have found only one other in our inventory that was made in Burma. The others were made in the U.S.A." He said the company had about 60 of thefleece pullovers in its warehouse, and that a supplier included the Burma product by mistake.

Bush campaign officials did not return calls seeking comment. The imports are potentially an issue because outsourcing has become a hot political topic in the election.

Bush last July signed into law the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, saying "The United States will not waver from its commitment to the cause of democracy and human rights in Burma."

Violators of the import ban are subject to fines and jail, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

If I wanted to be fair about this, I would reason that this was probably an honest mistake on the part of Spalding and its supplier. The supplier, Colorado Trading & Clothing, claims the products were leftover stock from before the sanctions took effect last fall.

But why would I want to be fair? When I was a campaign hack in the eighties, heads would have rolled if we had had so much as a box of pencils at the headquarters that wasn't made in an American union shop. The sole purpose of branded gear like this is to keep the candidate's name in the public's eye. Everything about it--from the color scheme to the country of origin--represents the campaign. While they may not have intentionally desired foreign sweatshop products, they obviously didn't take adequate precautions against getting them. Bad publicity is the price you pay for such sloppiness. That makes them fair game.

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