I make fun of politicians regularly in this space and others. But sometimes they get it right. And Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who is running for U.S. Senate this year against Democratic school superintendent Inez Tenenbaum, gets lots of things right much of the time. An unabashed advocate of economic freedom and sanity, vs. Tenenbaum?s dated protectionist rhetoric, DeMint effectively handled charges that his campaign was wrongly distributing t-shirts made in Honduras:
The debate could not have gotten starker than it did earlier this week when reporters discovered that Mrs. Tenenbaum was using a company that hired foreign workers to handle her conference calls with reporters.
“This lady comes on the phone and she sounds French, so the reporters start asking her all these questions,” said one person who was on the call. “It turned out, she was in Montreal.”
Mrs. Tenenbaum, the state’s popular superintendent of education, swiftly fired the company ? BellSouth ? and apologized for the mistake.
“Outsourcing is real and we were the victims of it,” said Tenenbaum spokesman Adam Kovacevich. “We thought we were working with a local company, and they were outsourcing their jobs abroad.”
The next day, news broke that Mr. DeMint’s campaign T-shirts were sewn in Honduras. But there was no apology from his campaign.
“The cotton in that T-shirt is from South Carolina,” DeMint spokeswoman Kara Borie said. “It was sewn in Honduras. You can’t do it without outsourcing certain jobs.”
DeMint campaign officials defended not only their campaign, but also Mrs. Tenenbaum’s for hiring the Canadians.
“She is missing the point about globalization,” Ms. Borie said. “Just because a company is outsourcing doesn’t mean that it’s not helping workers here in South Carolina.”
She said 136,700 South Carolinians work for U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies, a number Mrs. Tenenbaum’s campaign did not dispute.
“If you asked those workers about globalization, they would say that their paychecks depended on it,” Ms. Borie said.
By firing BellSouth, she said, Mrs. Tenenbaum took her business away from a company that has thousands of South Carolinians on its payroll.