“Digger” Perdue Keeps Talking About Outsourcing

If Joni Ernst is following a rope-a-dope strategy of simply refusing any situation where she might be asked to discuss her record of extremist positions and utterances, preferring instead to feature her biography and “toothy smile,” her Georgia counterpart David Perdue is trying to survive a very big problem with his biography: his confessed expertise at outsourcing.

Perdue has not followed Ernst’s practice of changing the subject from the feared to the preferred areas. Indeed, he seems to dig himself in a bit deeper as “Mr. Outsourcing” at every opportunity: the original deposition in which he described outsourcing as pretty much the central feature of his business career (his sole credential, BTW, for becoming a U.S. Senator); his defiant “I’m proud of it” boast when challenged on it; and his not very credible effort to blame the firings and layoffs he ordered on Big Government.

The hits keep on coming, too. In a debate with Democrat Michelle Nunn and Libertarian Amanda Swafford last night, Perdue defended employment discrimination allegations against one company he ran on grounds of scale, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Jim Galloway explained:

If there was a gaffe on Sunday night, it might lay in Perdue’s answer to a pay discrimination lawsuit filed by female employees of Dollar General, which he once headed:

“If you look at Dollar General as an example, there was no wrongdoing there. That lawsuit, or that claim or that complaint was settled five years after I left. She knows that. It was less than 2,000 people. We had upward of 70,000 employees in that company.”

“Two thousand women — that actually seems like quite a lot to me,” Nunn replies.

And also from Galloway, check out this remark from Perdue on the campaign trail over the weekend:

Perdue continued to mount a defense of his career, which has been under withering attack from Democrat Michelle Nunn, broadsides Perdue says are “false.”

“Well that’s what she’s trying to do,” Perdue told reporters. He continued:

“One man doesn’t decimate an entire industry. We’ve had several industries – apparel, footwear, textile, electronics, even furniture – that in the past 30-40 years have been decimated by these policies and put our manufacturers at a disadvantage relative to the rest of the world. She’s trrying to put that back on me individually and that’s a distraction away from the very polcieis of this administration that’s perpetrated right now like Obamacare.”

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times pointed out that just down the road was a former Sara Lee plant that had shut down. Perdue worked for the conglomerate in Hong Kong, building up its Asian sourcing. Asked whether Sara Lee’s policies were to blame for the plant closing, Perdue replied:

“No, they had to compete in a global economy. It had nothing to do with Sara Lee’s policies. If it did, West Point paper mill – just down the street in West Point, Georgia – would still be there. Or Bibb Manufacturing in Macon would still be there. Or several others would still be there.

“I don’t think you can pin it on one company like that. And by the way the argument that was made last night that I had anything to do with the closing of those plants in Georgia is irresponsible and divisive and I think just absolutely appalling. I was in another hemisphere doing something totally different, and they know that.”

The “I only helped decimate the industry” and “I was overseas when those plants closed” defenses just don’t strike me as real effective, particularly for a candidate with absolutely nothing else to recommend him for high office other than big sacks of money and being the cousin of a former governor.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.