The decision of First Lady Michelle Obama to appear with Wal-Mart executives to endorse Wal-Mart’s new program that will, supposedly, help promote healthy eating is somewhat problematic.
As a matter of approach, it is just not clear that it is a good idea for government officials or the wife of the President to pluck out individual companies for praise or approbation. After all, getting the First Lady to your event guarantees it publicity and a halo effect of goodness. Perhaps in this instance everyone was above-board, but isn’t it likely that once it is established that First Ladies do this type of thing, it will influence campaign donations and lead to corruption?
Maybe that is why The Washington Post made a point of saying how unusual it was for a First Lady to get involved with a private company this way:
In a glowing endorsement of the type that first ladies have rarely, if ever, made of major corporations, Obama called Wal-Mart’s effort “a huge victory for folks all across this country,” and said it has the “potential to transform the marketplace.”
On the substantive level, it is not at all clear that Wal-Mart is doing any more than Costco, Safeway, Kroger or loads of other companies do to promote health. And there seems to be no set up by which the First Lady is going to monitor if Wal-Mart actually follows through on its promises
And one wonders if there aren’t ramifications that the office of the First Lady is not equipped to analyze. It is very nice that Wal-Mart promises to reduce produce prices, and it is even nicer that it claims it will do so without burdening farmers. But we suspect, and many doubt, that things will work out that way.