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The Cable

Senator livid that presidential statues at Smithsonian are made in China

The gifts shops in federal buildings all over Washington sell patriotic U.S. gear that is gobbled up by the millions of tourists who visit the nation’s capital each year. But upon discovering that most of the goods are made in China, a U.S. senator lambasted the Smithsonian for outsourcing its Americana. On the same day ...

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The gifts shops in federal buildings all over Washington sell patriotic U.S. gear that is gobbled up by the millions of tourists who visit the nation’s capital each year. But upon discovering that most of the goods are made in China, a U.S. senator lambasted the Smithsonian for outsourcing its Americana.

On the same day as Obama’s meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Washington, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) released a letter he sent to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History calling the practice of buying U.S. president statues from China both "extraordinary" and "pretty pathetic." The museum sells all sort of trinkets produced in China, including busts of U.S. presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama.

"It appears that a museum owned by the people of the United States, celebrating the history of the United States, cannot find companies in this country employing American workers that are able to manufacture statues of our founding fathers, or our current president," Sanders wrote in a letter to Brent Glass, the history museum director. "That is pretty pathetic! I was not aware that the collapse of our manufacturing base had gone that far."

Sanders then urged the museum "to do its very best to find American companies to manufacture the products that it sells." He didn’t have any recommendations as to which American companies might be interested in producing small presidential statues at prices competitive with China.

Sanders even posted pictures of the statues on his website.

ABC News, which first reported the letter, actually got a response from Glass, the director of the National Museum of American History, who said, "We do whenever possible try to buy from U.S.-made manufacturers and we contract primarily with companies that are based in the U.S…. But a lot of distributors carry products made domestically and internationally. We try to offer items to the public that are affordable and many of those products come from other countries, not only China."

While Sanders only recently became aware that federal buildings have gift shops full of Chinese-made swag, The Cable has been following this story for some time. Last June, we reported that all the flag pins sold at the State Department gift shops are made in China as well. 

The Chinese don’t seem to have issues making pins that contradict China’s foreign or domestic policy. Your humble Cable guy has a whole collection of Chinese-made flag pins, including ones that feature the U.S. flag next to the flags of Taiwan, Tibet, North Korea, Cuba, and Iran. We donned the Chinese-made U.S.-North Korea flag pin at Wednesday’s arrival ceremony for Hu at the White House. As for the symbolism of that, you decide…

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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