Mark Penn’s Newest Campaign: Self-Exoneration!

This post almost didn’t happen. After watching Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, I was willing to look past her campaign’s sins and let bygones be bygones – yes, even with Mark Penn!

But then I saw that Penn’s trying to distance himself from the truly impressive résumé of fuckups he’s accumulated over the past sixteen months. To which I say: Oh no you don’t, pal.

So, back to the post that almost never was: a Mark Penn’s Greatest Hits compilation, courtesy of the NYT post-mortem!

Backed by Bill Clinton, Mr. Penn pushed for aggressive attacks on Mr. Obama, something other advisers resisted. At one point, Mr. Penn argued that Mrs. Clinton should find subtle ways to exploit what he called Mr. Obama’s “lack of American roots,” referring to his Kenyan father and his childhood years in Indonesia and even the offshore state of Hawaii, the campaign officials said. Mr. Penn recommended that Mrs. Clinton own the word “American” — she should talk about the “American century” and her “American Strategic Energy Fund,” and so forth. She should add flag symbols to her logo, he suggested.

Yep, that’s right. Penn, in addition to being truly incompetent (almost supernaturally incompetent, if you trust this report), was an early advocate for spreading the worst crypto-racist garbage that the Clinton campaign could come up with.

Now that we’ve once again established that Penn is a horrible, contemptible slug of a man, it’s schadenfreude time!

The rancor within the campaign escalated a few days later when Mrs. Clinton learned that Mr. Penn had met with Colombian officials as part of a contract to promote a free trade pact that the candidate opposed. Her aides fumed. One adviser, Tina Flournoy, walked out of campaign headquarters in anger. Mr. Penn’s many enemies seized on the chance to get him demoted. Colleagues rejoiced. “People felt like the sun came out a little more,” said one. Geoff Garin, another pollster, and Mr. Wolfson took over the direction of the campaign, although Mr. Penn remained part of the operation.

And then later…

Election night brought home the varied complex personal and political dynamics at play. Mr. Penn, once the most influential voice in the Clinton universe, showed up at campaign headquarters outside Washington to watch the returns but virtually no one would talk with him and he left early.

And one last parting shot:

The next day, though, Democratic supporters in Congress pressed her on a conference call to give up quickly. She gave in, hung up and asked top advisers to prepare a plan to withdraw. They met with her at campaign headquarters, where every member of her inner circle recommended she pull out and endorse Mr. Obama without preconditions or negotiations — every member except Mr. Penn, who said she should hold out for concessions.

Blech. I feel like I should take a shower now. The silver lining here is that if the Democratic Party is now truly – as others have often pointed out – the Obama party, then maybe it’s no longer the party of Penn, McAuliffe, Shrum, etc. And if that’s the case, then maybe this is the election when being a Democrat stops being slightly embarrassing.

BONUS MARK PENN STORY: A couple days ago I attended a reading at a Barnes and Noble in TriBeCa, where the inestimable Matt Taibbi read from his new book, The Great Derangement (I haven’t read it yet, but I’m looking forward to it). One of the guys at the signing told Taibbi that he had worked with Penn for years at his consulting firm, and Penn was, quote, “even worse than you described.” Taibbi’s response: “We should talk.” So maybe this isn’t the last we’ve heard of post-primary Penn-bashing.


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