Quote of the day

Mark Penn explains that when he called Barack Obama "unelectable," he really meant Obama was a very strong candidate.


Alex Koppelman
December 9, 2008 4:08AM (UTC)

Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's former chief of strategist, certainly didn't do his reputation any favors over the course of the presidential campaign this year. He's not doing much to help his cause now, either.

The Independent, a British newspaper, printed a rather awkward, even contentious, interview with Penn on Sunday. Here, via Huffington Post, is one revealing excerpt:

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"The only thing I can tell you is that they [the Obama people] ran an excellent campaign," [Penn] says. "We regarded him as a strong challenger throughout the entire period. There was no question that he had the personal abilities, the resources, all of the things necessary to win."

Really? So why did Penn say in a memo of March 2007 that Obama was unelectable? "Huh. No. It doesn't say that at all." Yes it does, if the facsimile published by Atlantic Monthly magazine is correct. The great communicator appears thrown. "Those memos, right, that came out, were really ... er, were really, I think, show you, you know, just a piece, because ... a small part, a piece of how we were looking to, I think, set up or solve the fact that he was a very strong candidate."

Right. Now, you could say it is unfair to run every pause and splutter in a sentence like that, but it does give a sense of Mark Penn floundering. There is sweat on his top lip. The same memo shows how spectacularly he failed to see that Obama was in tune with the times: "All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new light. Save it for 2050."


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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