It’s a given that politicians are all giant hypocrites. Support public education; send their kids to private school. Worry about global warming; fly around in private jets. But they aren’t often called on it. The press generally gives them a pass for petty transgressions. Rival candidates are cautious, because they, too, live in glass houses. And everyone else has too much to lose.
It’s news when a major corporation goes out of its way to embarass an all-but-announced presidential candidate by showing him up as a two-faced phony.
According to this post by cheeky conservative Mary Katherine Ham, however, that’s what Wal-Mart did today to former Sen. John Edwards, running for the Democratic nomination in 2008 after having earned good notices for his vice-presidential campaign in ’04. Wal-Mart just flat-out busted Edwards — at least they think so — and gleefully rubbed his face in it. This must be the most amazing press release of the year.
BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Nov. 16, 2006 – Just like the millions of Americans who turn to their neighborhood Wal-Mart for their holiday shopping needs, Wal-Mart announced today that former Sen. John Edwards is seeking to be one of the first to get a Sony PlayStation3, one of the most coveted holiday gift items this Christmas season.
Yesterday, a staff person for former Sen. Edwards contacted a Wal-Mart electronics manager in Raleigh, North Carolina to obtain a Sony PlayStation3 on behalf of the Senator’s family. Later that night, Sen. Edwards reportedly re-told a homespun story to participants of a United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union-sponsored call about how his son had chided a fellow student for purchasing shoes at Wal-Mart.
The Company noted the PlayStation3 is an extremely popular item this Christmas season, and while the rest of America’s working families are waiting patiently in line, Senator Edwards wants to cut to the front. While, we cannot guarantee that Sen. Edwards will be among one of the first to obtain a PlayStation3, we are certain Sen. Edwards will be able to find great gifts for everyone on his Christmas list – many at Wal-Mart’s “roll-back prices.”
Wake-Up Walmart, the union-backed activist group blew a gasket.
The following statement is attributable to Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com:
“After launching a campaign to attack Democrats who have called on Wal-Mart to pay a decent wage and provide affordable health care, Wal-Mart is now wrongly accusing and deliberating trying to embarrass former U.S. Senator and 2004 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards.
Wal-Mart has completely crossed the line.
Wal-Mart’s attack on Sen. Edwards’ ‘homespun’ story and insinuation that Sen. Edwards was not willing to wait his turn in line is personally offensive and Wal-Mart should be ashamed.
Apparently Wal-Mart is so desperate to try and stop the American public’s demand for corporate responsibility that Wal- Mart is now even willing to make stuff up in order to try and salvage its declining public image.
We call on Wal-Mart to stop attacking Democrats, and, once and for all, acknowledge the fact that our campaign to change Wal- Mart is not about whether Americans choose to shop there or not, but about whether or not Wal-Mart will do what is right and become a responsible employer.”
But despite the group’s claim that Edward was “wrongly accused,” a few hours later Edwards acknowledged the story was true; the result of a misunderstanding. The “overzealous aide” defense was deployed:
“My wife, Elizabeth, wanted to get a Playstation3 for my young children. She mentioned it in front of one of my staff people,” Edwards said. “That staff person mentioned it in front of a volunteer who said he would make an effort to get one. He was making an effort to go get one for himself.
“Elizabeth and I knew nothing about this. He feels terrible about this. He made a mistake, and he knows he should not have used my name,” Edwards said.
Edwards said the volunteer was “a young kid” unaware of what he called flawed Wal-Mart policies. He called the Wal-Mart statement an effort to divert attention from its own problems.
Well, yeah…that is probably why they put out the press release. There’s no real substance to it, but it’s more newsworthy than the typical Wal-Mart response to the campaign against it. (Aside: Did Edwards really have someone working for his campaign who didn’t know that getting tough with Wal-Mart is pretty much the essence of the Democratic Party’s economic philosophy these days?)
I am amazed by the hardball game Wal-Mart played here — and I wonder what its Board of Directors thinks about it. It is not inconceivable that John Edwards will become president in two years. With Bush’s popularity in 2008 likely to be about 14 percent, and the Republicans an even bet to nominate a far-right candidate to please their restive base, a guy like Edwards has a superb chance to win.
Does Wal-Mart think a President Edwards is going to forget? Or does Wal-Mart think by 2009 its power will surpass that of any president? Obviously the latter.