I don’t plan on paying much attention to this year’s Summer Olympics in London; most of the sports I enjoy are winter sports, and since the 2010 Winter Olympics were in Canada, of course I was more interested in our team’s performance. Already Team USA has kicked up some controversy for this year’s Games. Not them, exactly, but their uniforms – and where they were manufactured, which was not the USA. According to six Senate Democrats, the solution lies with them.
The Team USA Made in America Act, created by Sens. Bob Menendez and Frank Lautenberg (both D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer (both D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bob Casey (D-PA), would, as you have probably already guessed, would mandate the U.S. Olympic Committee to adopt a procurement policy requiring uniforms to be manufactured in the United States. Under pressure, Ralph Lauren has already promised to make the uniforms for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in the U.S. For the record, yes, Ralph Lauren is a natural-born citizen.
Never mind that the uniforms themselves look like a Chinese parody of how those militaristic Americans actually dress. (I’m not fervently anti-militarism, but come on.) Of course it’s embarrassing for anything emblazoned with the letters “USA” and patriotic colors not to match the label. But the near-reflexive introduction of legislation to resolve this makes the Democrats look like any Republican who introduced a new constitutional amendment this year, or anyone who ever grumbled “There oughta be a law.” That’s not always true.
Why? Because in this case, a new law not only poses significant questions about congressional authority, but does nothing to address the real problem. Why, the Senate Dems should be asking, would an American designer of American uniforms even think about manufacturing them offshore? And what can they do to resolve that? This bill is a response to a PR problem that belies an economic one. Maybe people who only understand PR will be impressed by this move, but the rest of us find it childish.
If this group of Dems and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) were operating on any foresight at all, they wouldn’t be exacerbating the PR problem by breaking out quotables like this one from Reid: “I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again. If they have to wear nothing but a singlet that says USA on it, painted by hand, that is what they should wear.”
It’s too bad he didn’t offer to paint all the singlets himself. That I would tune into.