Having lifted tariffs on Chinese textiles, El Presidente panicked as America began importing huge quantities of Chinese textile products. "Hey, that ain’t a level playing field," he said. "Gotta put a stop to that." Quickly, he reversed course and imposed duties on Chinese pants, shirts and underwear. This to the consternation of American socks manufacturers, who are faced with the new, stiff Chinese competition.
"Why not socks?" Huntley Witherspoon III of Greenville, South Carolina demanded to know. The scion of the Witherspoon Sock Company, Witherspoon added, "We’ve been making socks since before the civil war and now, we are faced with ruin. Heck, I voted for Bush and now I’m sunk. Why just pants, shirts and underwear?"
The answer to Witherspoon’s question can be found in a deep analysis of El Presidente’s mind and the way it functions. He knows that were it not for sales in China, G.M. would be going bankrupt, so a total trade war with China is out of the question. Whereas a Buick is a turkey in America, it is a status symbol in China. Go figure. But since the Lucky Stripe Pants Company, the White Collar Shirt Company and the Loot of the Froom Underwear Company, all kicked in a total of five million bucks to the Bush campaign in soft money, they get the nod. Too late for the Witherspoon Shirt Company. All Mr. Witherspoon did was write a check for $2,000 to eat rubber chicken with Dick Cheney, and that counts for beans.
Coming from South Carolina, Witherspoon might have learned something from John C. Calhoun about tariffs, but times change. Instead of demanding that all the tariffs be dropped, he has organized the "Why Not Socks" campaign, taking his cause national. His chief spokesperson, I. M. Autarky, has expressed the belief that this movement will grow, until socks have their day in the sun.
"We expect to see American tennis players out there in Witherspoon socks," he said. "We’ve signed up the Williams sisters, who have designed a new line of socks. Their motto is u2018Sock It To ‘Em.’"
Meanwhile, back in China, the manufacturers of shirts, pants and underwear, have started their own campaign. "Why Socks?" it is called, demanding that the government of China force El Presidente to back down or else China will impose a ban on the export of soy sauce to America. "Martin Yan disciples will go nuts," one Chinese businessman said. "That will teach them."
But China holds all the cards it needs without banning soy sauce. It makes the American debt possible by buying up all that paper. It could threaten to stop, but is holding off. If it does that, the American economy will sink, and then nobody in America will buy anything from China. China will go broke and there could be a Communist revolution. And none of this can possibly help Huntley Witherspoon, who has begun running TV ads with the Williams sisters beaming after running around a tennis court, holding up pairs of Witherspoon socks. The sole beneficiary of all this has been Michael Chang, whose career ended a few years ago after he won only one grand slam. He has been hired by the Won Ton Sock Company of Shanghai to appear in TV ads across America in which he steps off the tennis court, pointing to his Won Ton Socks.
"Won Ton Socks" will make you feel comfortable all through a five set match," he grins. "Even against Ivan Lendl." The trouble is no one remembers who Ivan Lendle is, so to remind everyone, Won Ton hired Lendle to appear in the ad, grinning like the Frankenstein monster, behind Chang and pointing to his Won Ton socks. "I wear them, too," he smiles. "Even on the golf course."
"We tried to get Tiger Woods," the Won Ton spokesperson said, "but he wasn’t getting involved. We offered him tons of money, but he said no dice. He’s already committed to Nikl."
Meanwhile, the White House has refused to comment on whether El Presidente wears Won Ton or Witherspoon socks. "We believe in fair trade and freedom of choice in the free market," said a White House spokesperson, "unless we believe otherwise. But we do see this as related to the price of gas at the pump. If the price keeps going up, which it will, people will have less money to spend. So they will want cheaper socks. It’s as simple as that."
"But won’t they want cheaper shirts, pants and underwear? " a reporter asked.
"Sure," Spokesperson answered. "But they will just have to wait. El Presidente can’t work miracles."
Richard Cummings [send him mail] taught international law at the Haile Selassie I University and before that, was Attorney-Advisor with the Office of General Counsel of the Near East South Asia region of U.S.A.I.D, where he was responsible for the legal work pertaining to the aid program in Israel, Jordan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is the author of a new novel, The Immortalists, as well as The Pied Piper — Allard K. Lowenstein and the Liberal Dream, and the comedy, Soccer Moms From Hell. He holds a Ph.D. in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University and is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. He is writing a new book, The Road To Baghdad — The Money Trail Behind The War In Iraq. He is a contribution editor for The American Conservative.