One voice has been notably silent in the recent explosion of outrage over the Chinese manufacture of Team USA Olympic uniforms: Mitt Romney’s.
You would think that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee would be all over the controversy. It seems like a no-brainer; after all, ‘America First’ has been a Republican rallying cry for decades. But as politicians from both sides of the aisle have lined up to voice their shock and outrage that Team USA’s uniforms for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics were made in China, the nation’s leading Republican has been as silent as a stone.
What gives? Romney has repeatedly vowed to get tough on China. He’s also vehemently denied attacks from the Obama campaign that he “made a fortune” outsourcing American jobs to China when he was at the helm of private equity firm Bain Capital.
Well, it turns out that Romney had good reason to stay mum during the uniform outsourcing scandal. According to the Huffington Post, Romney oversaw the outsourcing of torchbearer uniform production for the 2002 Winter Olympics in his capacity as president and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC).
No, it wasn’t China that time. It was worse. The manufacture of those torchbearer uniforms was outsourced to Myanmar, where a brutally repressive military junta ruled with an iron fist. At the time, hundreds of thousands of Burmese men, women, children and elderly people were conscripted into forced labor by the regime. Those who refused faced torture, rape and murder. Despite sanctions, some US corporations, like oil services giant Halliburton, took full advantage of this horrific and deplorable situation to expand their business on the cheap.
It appears as if Romney’s SLOC did too.
The fact that the ’02 torchbearer uniforms were made in Myanmar sparked outrage among human rights and labor groups at the time. The head of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions penned a scathing letter to the International Olympic Committee, pointing out that Myanmar was the first nation in history to be suspended by the International Labor Organization and stating that “no responsible organization” should use products made in Myanmar.
Even athletes were aghast when they discovered where their uniforms were made. “When I looked at the label for the uniform, I went nuts,” US torchbearer Susan Bonfield told The Guardian. “When you are sending work representing the US to a military dictatorship, I have an issue with that.”
Responding to howling protests from legions of activists, Romney’s SLOC embarrassed itself with a pathetic display of geographic ignorance.
“The torch relay clothes were NOT made in Burma, they were manufactured in Myanmar,” it said. Only problem is, Burma and Myanmar are the same country. The latter is just a name the military junta endorsed.
In any case, now you know why you haven’t heard a peep out of the Romney camp over the outsourcing of Team USA uniform production to China. All things considered, silence is probably the best option for Romney.