Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Care about what the Candidates Say, NOT their Advisors

You may not know who the picture of the man above is.

This is the infamous Mark Penn who until the other day was the "Chief Campaign Strategist" for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Penn has been a long time Clinton loyalist as pollster to Bill Clinton and has parlayed that success into a very successful consulting career with Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, representing some major corporations and even foreign country's.

Penn resigned recently because he met with a Colombian ambassador as Burson-Marsteller CEO in advocacy for a free trade deal with Colombia. The problem was that Hillary is stated against the free trade deal with Colombia.

I have been very critical of Penn and think he should have been replaced a long time ago. Penn famously said in a memo that 'winning primaries didn't matter' in the midst of Barack Obama's long primary winning streak in February.

It is also fairly common knowledge that Penn is the architect of the "I will be ready on day one" line that has been the message of the Clinton campaign. He was the strategist who decided to run as the incumbent or presumptive nominee, instead of as a transcendent candidate of change.
Yet despite guiding the Clinton campaign in the wrong direction message wise for months it took a meeting, unrelated to the campaign that cost him his job.

As someone who used to work on campaigns, I actually feel for Penn in this situation. Why should we care what his view is on free trade or any other issue is. This is a race that is between the ideas and characters of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, not that of their campaign staffs.
While I think he is a mediocre to bad strategist it would be a contradiction of my own writings to say Penn should be fired for the meeting in question. Just as I think the statements of Samantha Powers or Geraldine Ferraro were way overblown, think this Penn meeting is a minor issue at worst.

There is a sweet irony in the Penn meeting though. It was the Clinton campaign that made a huge deal about Austan Goolsbee, an Obama advisor, who met with Canada and said Obama's NAFTA rhetoric was only a 'campaign device'.

Hillary said about this meeting:

"It raises questions about Senator Obama coming to Ohioand giving
speechesabout NAFTA and having his chief economic adviser tellthe Canadian
governmentthat it was just political rhetoric."
As anyone who has ever
worked on a campaign knows, your actions will always effect your candidate and
Penn taking this meeting at the time was stupid, especially when considering the
outrage his campaign expressed in the quote above in a similar situation.

It always disappoints me when people who work their butt's off for campaigns get fired or 'resign' because of a stupid statement or personal mistake. Most these people give up their lives to elect these people and they are held to impossibly high standards and their names are not even on the ballot.

The truth is that Penn should have been fired for doing a bad job not for representing a client in his private career.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

I know that when it comes to Hillary Clinton I am like those nuts who think lizard aliens were behind 9-11.

I know I am crazy, so I offer the following thoughts more as a window into my own (and, to be honest, a lot of other peoples) thought process than as something I actually believe.

I mean, I actually DO believe it, but I also recognize that I have no perspective on this issue. So I think that it is likely while at the same time admitting I am insane and so it probably isn't likely.

My first thought in seeing this story was "tank job."

Penn is now way more valuable to Hillary than he ever was as a campaign strategist. By booting him she gets to show she is serious on the issue. She gets to jettison him without actually having to address the fact that he has screwed her campaign up. It is a win-win for her.

I think he took the meeting specifically so she could get rid of him and save face for everyone involved. He doesn't get fired off the campaign for incompetence, he gets to looks really good for his private sector pay-chiefs (who are probably actually paying him in real American currency, instead of Hillabucks) and she gets to take another strong stand on the issue.

I may be paranoid, but that doesn't mean that Hillary isn't out to get me.