Thursday, February 14, 2008

Made in Vietnam

Inside the Beltway has learned that the vendor for Sen. John McCain‘s official presidential campaign store has apologized for sending one of the Arizona senator’s sons a John McCain for President fleece stamped “Made in Vietnam.”

Scott B. Scharfenberger, owner of Cincinnati-based PC Signs, explained to a McCain campaign official that he was informed only last Friday that the Republican presidential candidate’s son had requested a fleece by Saturday.

“Since we didn’t have any in stock, the only way to get that done in a day was to go to our local distributor and get a foreign-made fleece,” Mr. Scharfenberger explained. “To my great embarrassment, the fleeces were made in Vietnam. That fact wasn’t brought to my attention until after we embroidered them. It was [late] on Friday, and we had to send them in order for the senator’s son to get his Saturday morning.”

The “John McCain 2008” campaign store that PC Signs supplies inventory for stresses in writing that “all items are made in the United States of America.”

However, Mr. Scharfenberger pointed out in his letter to the McCain campaign official: “You may or may not know that the campaign wants all the products to be made in the USA. When it comes to apparel, this causes major problems. The problem being that there are very few domestic manufacturers.”

Indeed, Inside the Beltway knows of at least one McCain hat supplied by the Ohio company that is stamped “Made in China.”

Mr. McCain was a 31-year-old Navy fighter pilot when he was shot down during a bombing mission over Hanoi on Oct. 26, 1967. What remained of his plane landed in Truc Bach lake, and the pilot became entangled in his parachute cords below the surface in 16 feet of water.

Mai Van On, who was home on a lunch break when the city’s air-raid sirens sounded, ignored his neighbors who pleaded he not save the enemy, dove into the water, swam to the crash site, and pulled Mr. McCain to the surface. A policeman hauled away the badly injured pilot, who became a prisoner of war for more than five years, during which time he was beaten by his captors.

The Arizona Republican and the Vietnamese man who saved his life were reacquainted for the first time in 1996 during one of the senator’s several tours of Vietnam. At the time, Mr. On told a reporter that he was saddened to hear that Mr. McCain frequently referred to his Vietnamese guards as “gooks.”

As late as 2000, while traveling aboard his presidential campaign bus, Mr. McCain told reporters: “I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live.”

Mr. McCain stressed at the time that he was referring to his prison guards, and said he would continue to refer to them by the derogatory name. Days later, however, he was forced to issue an official apology, and promised to quit using the word.

Enough already?

Not to worry, Democrats, the bloodletting will soon end.

“I think we’ll have a nominee before the convention,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean assured members of his party yesterday in a letter obtained by Inside the Beltway.

Trying to put a happy face on a most divisive Democratic presidential contest, pitting one-time party pin-up girl Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton against popular political newcomer Sen. Barack Obama, Mr. Dean stressed that Democrats are “fortunate to have two fantastic candidates that people are excited about.”

He promises that “whoever wins will have the support of a healthy party that’s ready to fight.”

Missing in action

That was Texas Republican Rep. Ted Poe singing the blues this week: “Oh where, oh where has the American air base gone? Oh where, oh where can it be? With its 6,000 phantom troops and 32 million missing dollars, oh where, oh where can it be?”

Saying “corruption has struck again,” the congressman held up a photograph of the desert location in Iraq where a U.S. military supported air base was supposed to have been built — but “you can see that there is nothing to see because it was never built.”

The U.S. Air Force in 2006, he said, paid slightly less than $32 million of a $34 million construction contract to Florida-based Ellis Environmental Group to build barracks and offices for 6,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi troops in Ramadi, the Anbar province capital.

The project was soon canceled, but Mr. Poe notes that none of the $32 million has been returned to taxpayers. In the meantime, the Air Force has promised an audit, while Ellis remains mum.

John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or

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