He climbed into a fire truck, slapped on a cowboy hat and beamed amid dozens of other American-made products from doughnuts to guitars. This is how President Trump kicked off the White House’s Made in America Week – a promotional push encouraging business for U.S. manufacturers. And he made vague promises about policies to help those companies. “You're going to see things announced that you won't even believe for our country and for selling product in our country and making products in our country and things that are great for American jobs," he said.
At first blush, one might think it’s a good notion: The idea is always popular with voters, it completely fits his “America first” theme, and frankly, it’s not about Russia – so there is that. But alas, the best laid plans of mice and moguls…
Even before the ballyhoo began, headlines were screaming about Trump enterprises using foreign labor to make products proudly marketed on American shores. The Washington Examiner’s headline called him the “president of hypocrisy,” noting “The Donald J. Trump Collection is made everywhere except in the U.S. His shirts? Made in Bangladesh. His ties? Made in China. And his suits? Made in Mexico. Yes, that Mexico.” And mind you, that is a paper popular with conservatives. The left-leaning websites weren’t half so kind.
The first daughter and unpaid adviser to the president, Ivanka, was ripped over her fashion lines being churned out in far-flung places such as China, Vietnam and Bangladesh. So much so, that Press Secretary Sean Spicer spent part of the daily briefing trying – unsuccessfully – to explain it away.
We can argue over whether pushing “Made in America” is even a good idea. Plenty of economists say it is not. But I imagine all the criticism will be once again dismissed as fake news by the president’s ardent fans. After all, they’ll ask, why should the Trump empire struggle to make all its products here when the competition is getting cheaper prices across the ocean? But any business can make that same argument. So here is a better question: If the president won’t lead by example, who does he think will follow?