Monday, April 07, 2008

Clinton (Sort Of) Shoots Her Messenger

You've got to hand it to Hillary Clinton. After getting backed to the wall by Pennsylvania labor unions over Mark Penn, her chief campaign strategist, she made a big deal of saying that Penn was history, but has turned around and welcome him back into her smarmy embrace. Penn, it is reported, took part in the campaign's morning conference call as usual today and will be participating in preparations for a debate with Barack Obama on Saturday in Philadelphia.

Yet again Clinton apparently believes that there is no downside to her obfuscations, but she's playing with some damned tough unions here, so she may be digging an even deeper hole for herself.

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Mark Penn is such a Washington wheeler dealer and was so tone deaf to the electorate that he disastrously insisted as Hillary Clinton's main strategist and chief goalpost mover that she could run as an experienced insider at a time when many voters were thirsting for change.

Shame on him, but shame on the Hero of Bosnia for once again putting loyalty ahead of everything else and only jettisoning the toxic Penn when the Pennsylvania labor unions whose votes she desperately needs in the do-or-die April 22 primary cried foul over the weekend.

Penn has now been belatedly (sort of) shown the door on the excuse that he tripped her up because of conflicts between his campaign responsibilities and his role as chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, a huge public relations firm which represents, among many other firms, mortgage lender Countrywide Financial and Blackwater Worldwide, two icons of corporate America run amok.

Well, those conflicts -- which undercut Clinton's stands on major issues in myriad ways -- have been present from the outset of her relationship with Penn, which long predates her entry into electoral politics.

The last straw was said to be a meeting that Penn had with Colombian officials over a bilateral trade pact with the U.S. that Clinton publicly opposed in a speech to a trade union in Philadelphia last week, but Penn – who not long ago claimed that he was a mere campaign functionary -- was said to have been widely disliked by many campaign aides for an imperiousness greater than even that of the candidate herself.

Still, Clinton kept protecting the loyal Penn until confronted with a statement from a coalition of unions taking issue with her claims that she would fight for the poor working stiff if elected president.

Penn had been in the unusual position of crafting the campaign's message and then polling on its effectiveness, another seeming conflict of interest and yet another reason the campaign finds itself in so much trouble.

Indeed, Penn stays on as a pollster, which begs the question of how serious Clinton really is about breaking with him. (Answer: It's all about appearances, okay?)

More here and here.

Photograph by The Washington Post

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