Mark Penn (finally, albeit partially) leaves the Clinton campaign

He had innumerable enemies with the Clinton campaign; the Left had long used him as the symbol of the Clintons' rightward drift; and labor had been asking for his ouster, accusing him of union-busting. Faced with a near-unanimity against him, what is stunning about today's news that Mark Penn was finally forced out of the campaign is that he was able to survive for this long in the first place.

Hillary's chief strategist (a title he sometimes denied) and first and foremost a pollster, Penn enjoyed the Clintons near complete confidence, no matter how much his powerful intra-campaign enemies agitated against him, starting with his archnemesis Harold Ickles. In early March, the Washington Post published a fascinating account ("Even in Victory, Clinton Team Is Battling Itself") of the internal strife; especially striking are stories of James Carville's attempted coup to get Penn fired and of explosive expletive-filled meetings.

Penn is blamed by nearly everyone in the campaign for Clinton's failures; he is more than anyone responsible for running Clinton's campaign as that of an incumbent for most of 2007 and emphasizing message rather than trying to "humanize" her as other aides were looking to do. And he was loathed by the Left for his centrism and his emphasis on the "median voter," code words in the Third Way's quest to move the Democrats to the Right. Just consider that Penn served as Joe Lieberman's pollster in 2004 and then worked for the (failed) re-election campaign of... Silvio Berlusconi, the Italy's far-right and media-owning Prime Minister.

Despite these tensions, Hillary stood by her embattled aide. But what ended up proving to be Mark Penn's undoing was that he kept other day jobs while working on the Clinton campaign. As a chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, a public relations company, he met with Columbia governmental officials to advise them about how to pass a bilateral trade agreement with the U.S. -- an agreement that Hillary Clinton opposes and has been talking against on the trail.

The disclosure of this meeting on Thursday led Obama allies and unions to demand Penn's departure from the Clinton campaign -- and after Penn apologized for meeting with the Columbian officials his company was fired by the Columbian government. Not to mention the fact that Burson-Marsteller also represented other sulfurous groups like Blackwater, the military contractor.

Even Hillary appears to have gotten angry this time. Unfortunately for her, Penn's departure comes too late for a meaningful change of strategy to be implemented; not to mention that Hillary's chances are so diminished at this point that she needs much more than strategic changes. And even more frustrating to Penn-haters should be the fact that even this did not get Penn fully fired; the pollster is staying affiliated to the campaign, will provide advice to the Senate and will still serve as a TV surrogate...


  • So he isn`t really leaving then if he is staying as an advisor, pollster and TV surrogate. There were other people giving strategy advice so his voice was one of many with Clinton making the final (generally poor) decisions. If she had disagreed with his strategy in 2007 she could have changed it.

    I notice the Obama campaign has been a pretty smooth running $200 million machine - gives confidence that Obama can actually run things well.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 07 April, 2008 08:03  

  • I can't imagine the Hillary campaign will allow Penn anywhere near a TV camera. The only topic the media would ask him about is why he got fired. He's also been an awful surrogate in the past (think the Hardball cocaine stunt) and appears arrogant and shifty, at least to me, when speaking as a surrogate on TV.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 07 April, 2008 08:36  

  • We need a president that says "you're fired!" a lot more and "heck of a job Brownie" a lot less. Good for her.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 07 April, 2008 10:08  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home