Edelman, Candidate Wal-Mart & the Iraq Study Group (12/12/06)

Will he or won’t he?”, Tony Auth’s 12/07 cartoon in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

 

Too much to write about, too little time.  Edelman PR, the delay in WV’s Sago report, Ehren Watada ‘s case coming up for trial and a new mountaintop removal resource  for starters.  For now, I’ll stick with Edelman.

Mark Reutter up in Urbana, IL,  set me  a link on Edelman which wouldn’t  open because Virginia Western doesn’t have Lexis-Nexis.  If I had to hazard a guess (by holding my hand over the dialogue box demanding an id and password?)  I’d say he might be alerting me to Kris Hudson ‘s (emailWall Street Journal article, “Behind the scenes, PR firm remakes Wal-Mart’s image”  on  Edelman running the “Candidate Wal-Mart” campaign (via the December 7  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).   For an archive of other articles  on Wal-Mart going back to July 22, 2002, see Against*the*Wal (email). 

Hudson writes,

In the last year, Lee Scott has appeared on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show, talked about pro-environment policies and given speeches that repeatedly state his organization’s devotion to “working families.”

If Scott, the chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., seems like he’s running for office, it’s no accident. For the last 15 months, the Edelman public-relations firm, led by seasoned political operatives, has directed a campaign it calls “Candidate Wal-Mart.” The goal: Rescue the battered image of the world’s largest retailer.

Former political Democratic advisor Leslie Dach

 led the campaign’s first year as an Edelman vice chairman. Now Dach is a Wal-Marter in full: In July, the retailer hired him as an executive vice president for communications and government relations, reporting directly to Scott.

Now  former Reagan chief of staff , Michael Deaver had taken on the job.  He says, 

This is not a public-relations campaign….It’s a win-or-lose campaign.

Huh?

*

As it turns out, Mark just sent me the text of the Edelman article,  Frank Rich’s December 10 column for the NYT, “The Sunshine Boys Can’t Save Iraq.”   It turns out Edelman was also behind the rollout of the Iraq Study Group’s report.  Rich writes:

IN America we like quick fixes, closure and an uplifting show. Such were the high hopes for the Iraq Study Group, and on one of the three it delivered.

The report of the 10 Washington elders was rolled out like a heartwarming Hollywood holiday release. There was a feel-good title, “The Way Forward,” unfortunately chosen as well by Ford Motor to promote its last-ditch plan to stave off bankruptcy. There was a months-long buildup, with titillating sneak previews to whip up anticipation. There was the gala publicity tour on opening day, starting with a President Bush cameo timed for morning television and building to a “Sunshine Boys” curtain call by James Baker and Lee Hamilton on “Larry King Live.”

The wizard behind it all was the public relations giant Edelman, which has lately been recruited by Wal-Mart to put down the populist insurgency threatening its bottom line. Edelman’s vice chairman is Michael Deaver, the imagineer extraordinaire of the Reagan presidency, and “The Way Forward” had a nostalgic dash of that old Morning-in-America vibe. In The Washington Post, David Broder gushingly quoted one member of the group, Alan Simpson, musing that “immigration, Social Security and all those other things that have been hung up for so long” might benefit from similar ex-officio bipartisanship. Only in Washington could an unelected panel of retirees pass for public-policy Viagra.

Rich ends with a comparison with the quagmire in Vietnam and concludes.

But there the stories of Vietnam and Iraq diverge. Those wise men, unlike the Iraq Study Group, were clear in their verdict. And that Texan president, unlike ours, paid more than lip service to changing course. He abruptly announced he would abjure re-election, restrict American bombing and entertain the idea of peace talks. But as Stanley Karnow recounts in “Vietnam: A History,” it was already too late, after some 20,000 casualties and three years of all-out war, for an easy escape: “The frustrating talks were to drag on for another five years. More Americans would be killed in Vietnam than had died there previously. And the United States itself would be torn apart by the worst internal upheavals in a century.”

The lesson in that is clear and sobering: As bad as things may seem now, they can yet become worse, and not just in Iraq. The longer we pretend that we have not lost there, the more we risk losing other wars we still may salvage, starting with Afghanistan.

The members of the Iraq Study Group are all good Americans of proven service to their country. But to the extent that their report forestalls reality and promotes pipe dreams of one last chance for success in this fiasco, it will be remembered as just one more delusional milestone in the tragedy of our age.

*
 
Thought my readers might get a a kick out of this undoing of Times Select’s charging for Frank Rich’s columns  by by Gordon in, “The Democratization of Frank Rich”,  his September 15, 2005 entry for  The Democratization of Frank Rich,” his September 15 post at Alternative Brain.   
Since Frank Rich’s columns now fall under the “Times Select” feature that I’m not about to pay for, I’ll post them when and where I find them. …Go read Daddy Frank.  It’s important to partake of something you get for free that you’re supposed to pay for, as in “the cheaper the grapes, the sweeter the wine.”
Unless I dreamed it, I’d swear that Rich quite recently had linked to free copies of his columns at his site, but today, the link takes you to Times Select.  Rich’s bio there  says he has two sons–wonder if Gordon is one of them?  During the  early 70’s, Rich was a foundier of the Richmond Mercury (not the car dealer, the alernative weekly).  I knew people who must have written with him. It would be fun to go to special collections at VCU some of the back issues.
 
*
On the topic of the Iraq Study Group, The Progressive’s Matt Rothschild has this to say in his December 11 essay, “Pinochet Descends.”
Memory is short, here in the U.S. And without memory, there is no morality.
 
In fact, right now, a certain fascination persists in some quarters about the virtues of dictators. The Bush Administration has been contemplating alternatives to democracy in Iraq. And the Baker Report, in discussing the range of unattractive options available, seemed less than hostile to this option.
 
“The Iraqi people could be subjected to another strongman who flexes the political and military muscle required to impose order amid anarchy,” noted the report, which stressed on almost every page the risks of growing anarchy. The downside of the strongman option: “Freedoms could be lost,” it said. But that negative, compared with the report’s description of a looming, apocalyptic regional conflict, did not ring with horror.
Little wonder: Washington has traditionally favored the strongman, from Pinochet and Stroessner to Saddam himself.
 
Even with Pinochet pulseless and Saddam about to be fitted for a noose, Washington clings to yesterday’s model.
 
See also Matt’s December 8 essay,“Oil Spots All Over the Baker Report.”
*
 
Neat find: 
Cursor, Inc., is a Minneapolis-based 501(c)(3) that provides context and transparency to the mainstream media’s product through the publication of two Web sites: Cursor, [edited by Mike Tronnes–email, bio] a news and opinion digest that combines mainstream and alternative media to contextualize issues and critique reporting 
Cursor, Inc.’s other website is  Media Transparency [edited by Rob Levine —email,  bio, see my June 9, 2006 post Odd Bedfellows: Grass Root Inst. & Ehren’s Dad] .   The latter
tracks conservative philanthropies, the organizations and people they fund, and their influence in the media.
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