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Clinton And Wal-mart

My, what a weekend. We get not just one but two stories on Hillary Clinton's tenure as Wal-Mart's first female board member. Both sketch similar portraits: Clinton focused on improving Wal-Mart's record on gender discrimination and the environment, stayed silent on the company's labor practices, and shied away from pushing for sweeping changes, preferring instead to pick smaller battles that occasionally led to incremental reforms. Labor activists aren't thrilled that she took a "see-no-evil" stance on Wal-Mart's union-busting tactics, although this, from the New York Times account, seems like a decent explanation:

During their meetings and private conversations, Mrs. Clinton never voiced objections to Wal-Mart's stance on unions, said Mr. Tate and John A. Cooper, another board member.

"She was not an outspoken person on labor, because I think she was smart enough to know that if she favored labor, she was the only one," Mr. Tate said. "It would only lessen her own position on the board if she took that position."

That sounds plausible, and it seems misguided to read too much into the fact that Clinton didn't accomplish much as the only liberal--and only female--member of a board filled with a bunch of well-entrenched Southern conservatives. At the very least, it's less damning than the fact that her chief political strategist still heads up a company that runs a union-busting division, a fact that hasn't received front-page treatment yet.

--Bradford Plumer