Obama says he would have gotten rid of Penn

And the Clinton campaign cries hypocrite.

By Vincent Rossmeier
Published April 12, 2008 12:12AM (UTC)
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This morning, Barack Obama offered his opinion on the fate of much maligned Clinton campaign advisor Mark Penn.

"I think it was surprising to me that a high ranking, if not the highest ranking, member of Senator Clinton's team would be engaged in business activities and lobbying that was directly contrary to a position Senator Clinton had taken," Obama said. "And you know, I'm not surprised that Senator Clinton found herself in an uncomfortable position as a consequence, and I know that if staff of mine were putting me in that kind of position I would get rid of them."


Of course, the Clinton campaign has not gotten rid of Penn altogether. Though Penn resigned from his official role as chief strategist for the campaign on Sunday, he continues to advise the campaign and conduct polls. The departure followed a controversial meeting between Penn and the Colombian ambassador to the U.S. in which Penn discussed a bilateral trade agreement that Clinton opposes. At the meeting, Penn represented Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, a communications and lobbying firm where he serves as chief executive.

The Clinton campaign's response to Obama's statement probably comes as no surprise to those who have been following the campaign. Jay Carson, a spokesman for the Clinton team, alluded to a meeting between Obama's chief economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee, and Canadian governmental officials that occurred back in March. Goolsbee purportedly voiced Obama's support for NAFTA, which undermined Obama's public criticisms of the trade deal.

Carson said, "When Senator Obama's top economic adviser told the Canadian government not to take his anti-NAFTA rhetoric seriously, he first denied that the meeting ever occurred, and when that proved false he took absolutely no action [...] It's good to know he has a higher standard for our campaign than his own."


But Obama wasn't the only Democrat going after Penn today. This morning, Paul Begala, a former Clinton advisor who currently works as a CNN political analyst, said, "I have nothing but contempt for Mr. Penn. And for those of us who wanted to see him out from the beginning, it became almost a Rumsfeldian thing. And he is not even fired. He has been demoted. How could this be?"

For all the War Room readers desperately concerned about how Penn will continue to make a living, rest assured, it looks like his advice is still in demand. Though we have to be somewhat skeptical considering the source, on Sunday, the Daily Mail reported that Penn may soon be dispensing wisdom to the leaders across the pond. The Mail article claimed that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is interested in retaining Penn's services.

Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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