Sunday, April 6, 2008

Penn exits ... finally

It took long enough, but longtime Clintonista Mark Penn has left his post as chief strategist in the former first lady's presidential campaign.

The straw that broke the camel's back was Penn's recent meeting with trade officials in Colombia. According to the AP:

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Penn, who serves as chief executive of public relations giant Burson-Marsteller, met with Colombian officials March 31 to help craft strategy to move the Colombian Free Trade agreement through Congress. Penn later issued a statement apologizing for the meeting, calling it an "error in judgment."
After Barack Obama's NAFTA-Canada flap and the way Clinton hammered him for it, Penn calling his Colombian trip an "error in judgment" is like Clinton herself saying she "misspoke" when she invented the I-was-almost-shot-to-death-by-a-sniper-in-Bosnia story.

Penn has long been under fire from other high-level Clinton staffers. Jealous of his unlimited access to and implicit trust from the candidate and frustrated with a message that just didn't resonate the way it should have, they constantly scrapped with Penn for control and -- ironically -- change. Those of you who enjoy political inside baseball will love this story from the Washington Post. It documents much of the rumblings that have been commonplace in the Clinton campaign for several months and shows why Penn's exit was not a matter of if, but when.

One final note: Penn and his consulting firm will stay on to provide "polling and advice to the campaign." (Penn's firm has been paid $10.8 million by Clinton's campaign so far.)

So, they are concerned about his judgment ... just not enough to stop taking his advice.

I would say that is typical Clinton doubletalk, but then, I don't want to waste your time by pointing out the obvious.