04/20/2006 01:50 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Wal-Mart to Smiley: You're Fired

This was the day for firings. The White House changed its dirty launderers and Wal-Mart killed its logo. Yes, it's sad but true. Just as Scott McClellan was shown the door, that endearing little Wal-Mart yellow smiley face that has bedecked itself as Zorro and other action heroes designed to inspire as he famously rolled back prices, has been canned.

It seems that second-term blues affect not just Presidents bogged down in strategies that destroy nations, but so too very nation-states, this time Wal-Mart. After eleven years of making America safe for sweat shop-derived goods imported from China and other bastions of strong labor laws, Wal-Mart had to give someone the axe for its now famously low stock prices and famously bad p.r. And just as President Bush dispatched his aides rather than himself, so too Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott cast off a cartoon character rather than, well, himself.

Don't think this comes lightly to Wal-Mart. The behemoth that tries to smile spends over $4 million per day -- $1.6 billion per year -- on image advertising. That's right: Wal-Mart spends nearly as much each year to make us feel good about not paying health care costs for employees, locking immigrant workers inside stores overnight and firing managers who complain about unfair practices as President Bush spends each week in Iraq. That's serious money even to the likes of Halliburton.

So what went wrong? Where did Smiley misstep? According to the Wall Street Journal, "Smiley's demotion has been undertaken with little fanfare, but it is a big deal nonetheless. Wal-Mart employees had grown accustomed to the character, which Wal-Mart reintroduced each year with different themes: Zorro Smiley, Cowboy Smile, even Ms. Smiley. Yet he had become a bit of a distraction" having become a "marketing poster... (that) featured a rampaging Smiley in a business suit" for Robert Greewald's recent hit, "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price." Interestingly, the film cost only about $1.8 million to make, which goes to show that simple truth well told can defeat even the biggest of lies, no matter how big the fake smile.

We'll miss Smiley just as we'll miss Scott McClellan. They both put on those silly faces to make their masters look good, even when it became laughable. At least we all knew that Smiley was completely fake, the creation of a company without morals or scruples. Would that we could say the same for Scott.