Hillary's sorry connection to Wal-Mart, re: AP
by Michael Hirsch, Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 12:42:18 PM EST
It's been common coin on the blogs, and now the wire services are covering Senator Hillary Clinton's sorry history with the undead who run Wal-Mart. AP political writer Beth Pouhy notes in part how:
With retail giant Wal-Mart under fire to improve its labor and health care policies, one Democrat with deep ties to the company -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton -- has started feeling her share of the political heat.
Clinton served on Wal-Mart's board of directors for six years when her husband was governor of Arkansas. And the Rose Law Firm, where she was a partner, handled many of the Arkansas-based company's legal affairs.
Clinton had kind words for Wal-Mart as recently as 2004, when she told an audience at the convention of the National Retail Federation that her time on the board "was a great experience in every respect."
But in recent months, as the company has become a target for Democratic activists, she has largely steered clear of any mention of Wal-Mart. And late last year, Clinton's re-election campaign returned a $5,000 contribution from Wal-Mart, citing "serious differences with current company practices."
As Clinton sheds her Arkansas past and looks ahead to a possible 2008 presidential run, the Wal-Mart issue presents an exquisite dilemma: how to reconcile the political demands she faces today with her history at a company many American consumers depend upon but many Democratic activists revile.
"The interesting question is not just Hillary Clinton's history at Wal-Mart, but why it's delicate for her to talk about Wal-Mart," said Charles Fishman, author of "The Wal-Mart Effect," a book on the company's impact on the national economy. "Plenty of Democrats denounce Wal-Mart, but there are also plenty of people who need it, love it and rely on it.....
"Hillary Clinton, who as first lady proposed a wide-ranging but ultimately unsuccessful plan to reshape the nation's health care system, has had little to say about Wal-Mart's health care record.
"That was a long time ago," she said recently when asked if she had done anything about the company's health care policies while she served on its board.
That comment was met with disbelief from Jonathan Tasini, a longtime labor organizer mounting a longshot challenge to Clinton in New York's Democratic Senate primary.
"Voters would find it a strained argument to believe that the senator who prides herself on intelligence and knowledge of detail can't recall any details in this case. It just strains credulity," Tasini said."
And there's no sense in saying that Wal-Mart wasn't the flesh-eating monster back in the day that it is today, as Clinton argues later in the article in defending its failure to offer health insurance while she was a board member. The only real difference between then and now: the Beast of Bentonville just wasn't as dominant in the retail market back then, or as capable of leading a race to the bottom.