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Opinion Trump’s ‘Made in America’ week is a hypocritical joke

Trump said on July 17 that the U.S. will no longer allow other countries to "break the rules, steal our jobs and drain our wealth." (Video: The Washington Post)

President Trump just finished viewing products manufactured in America as part of a Made in America Product Showcase at the White House this afternoon. He sat in a firetruck, held a “beautiful” baseball bat and tried out some golf clubs.

Thus begins “Made in America” week, a new Washington ritual during which a president who routinely boasts of being the best at everything admits that he is not the best after all. Because if American-made products are the best, then products made abroad, such as many of Trump’s own branded products, are by definition not the best.

The White House has billed the current “theme week” as an opportunity to “honor the amazing American workers and companies who have products that are made in America,” because the United States sets “the world standard for quality and craftsmanship.”

President Trump and administrations officials attended a showcase of products made in the United States on July 17. (Video: The Washington Post)

But because the Trump Organization and related companies haven’t seen fit to produce their own goods in the United States, that means either their products aren’t the best or Trump is engaged in a craven manipulation of his fans. Or both.

If America produces the best craftsmanship, why, then, does Ivanka Trump’s company manufacture no items in the United States? As The Post reported just last week, her company relies “exclusively on foreign factories,” including in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam and China, to manufacture the shoes, handbags, blouses, dresses, jeans and shirts for the first daughter’s line of clothing.

Similarly, many items in Trump’s own clothing and home accessories are produced overseas in countries including China, Bangladesh and Mexico. When he excoriates American companies for moving manufacturing jobs overseas, then, he is including himself in his own criticism — but of course would never admit that. Instead, when questioned about why he manufactures items overseas, his answer was, essentially, everyone else does it. 

While campaigning for president, Trump dismissed criticism of his foreign-made goods, claiming (incorrectly, according to that he had little choice because apparel just isn’t manufactured in the United States anymore. What Trump doesn’t want to say is that it would cost him more to make his products here in the United States and pay a decent wage to those American workers that he supposedly is dedicated to defending.

Trump doesn’t even bother to pay more for American-made goods for those in his customer base who could pay more for items: guests at his luxury hotels. While staying in an $850-per-night room at Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel last year, The Post’s Dana Milbank revealed that the posh “Trump Hotels” bathrobe and slippers were made in China, and the guest rooms are replete with foreign-made goods. Among the items made overseas, Milbank found towels made in India, china made in Japan, Malaysian-made telephones, and a coffee machine and several lamps, among other things, all made in China.

While Trump has promised steel workers in Rust Belt states that he will restore lost jobs to their economically battered communities, he has built at least two hotels with steel and aluminum from China — the persistent bogeyman of Trump’s campaign speeches in which he decried the decline of American manufacturing. When faced with the evidence of his Chinese steel purchases, though, Trump just plowed ahead, continuing the charade that he is an unemployed steelworker’s best friend.

“We have to bring back our workers,” Trump said at an October 2016 presidential debate, after a Newsweek investigation exposed his company’s use of Chinese steel. “You take a look at what’s happening to steel and the cost of steel, and China dumping vast amounts of steel all over the United States, which essentially is killing our steelworkers and our steel companies.”

Union leaders were enraged. Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers Union, called Trump a “phony” who has “never done anything for anybody but himself.” The AFL-CIO published a report decrying Trump as a “sellout” whose “decisions are all about higher profits for himself and his family at the expense of American producers and their employees.”

In office, though, Trump has just continued engaging in more gestures, which would be most charitably portrayed as substance-free photo ops but are actually more venal than that. For example, he promoted his April 18 executive order, “Buy American — Hire American,” at Kenosha, Wis.-based Snap-On Tools, which has numerous manufacturing sites and distribution centers overseas, with more in the works. Trump’s base, though, does not seem to care about his blatant hypocrisies; the stagecraft on its face is sufficient for his voters to believe he is indeed making America great.

That may well be what drives Trump’s desire to continue with the “theme weeks,” despite the fact even White House insiders think these they  are “naive” and “stupid,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

After all, Trump can see his base is satisfied with his performance. According to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, 84 percent of Republican voters approve of how he is handling the economy; 64 percent strongly approve. Trump’s hypocrisy on “made in the USA” has been on display for months, so it seems doubtful that this week’s farce will make a difference one way or another. The question is: What would it take for his base to care?