April 7th, 2008
11:45 AM ET

What made Mark Penn think this could work?


How does one of the sharpest minds in politics (Mark Penn) let himself get caught in such a conflict of interest (to boil it down: advocating a free trade agreement that his candidate/boss opposes) that he loses on both counts: he loses a key contract for his company, AND he has to step down from Hillary Clinton's campaign.


Hello.  Wasn't there an obvious problem on the front end of this situation?  Or, maybe more to the point, in an age of relentless scrutiny of presidential campaigns, not to mention almost everything else, why would he think it could be ok–or remain a secret?  Nothing remains a secret for long these days.


But then, maybe even more to the point of Mark Penn's resignation and loss of a valuable contract–does anyone really care? Sure, we political junkies do. But voters are weighing more weighty issues... Right?


– Barclay Palmer, 360° Senior Producer

Comments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean?

Filed under: Barclay Palmer • Hillary Clinton • Mark Penn • Raw Politics
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. hrao

    How about Eliot Spitzer? Was he not brilliant? He fumbled?

    April 7, 2008 at 5:59 pm |
  2. Noemi in Los Angeles

    I don't know what Penn was thinking. Maybe he was also sleep-deprived? But maybe Penn simply took the blame for Hillary to avoid causing her the nomination/presidency? Is it possible that Hillary does not really oppose the free trade agreement as she claims and knew what Penn was up to? Then, upon the truth coming out, Penn decides be held accountable in order to leave Hillary clean from fault? If this isn't what truthfully happen, I cannot believe why Penn would seriously think that he could have it both ways?

    April 7, 2008 at 3:18 pm |
  3. alberta treaddway

    This is important, because these are the kind of people Mrs. Clinton would Hire to be in the White House if she was to become president. This is telling as much about her as you can get! The lie's she tells, have been damageing. But this tells you even when she has this kind of problems and terrible people around her, she still won't fire them and continues to associate and use them to her own bidding. This women scares me, like no other. We can only hope she does not become president and bring this kind of trash into our lifes and the lifes of our children. Rather you were for her, you should not be know.I don't care how loyal you think you have to be. It's time to be a realist, and not do this out of some crazy loyal thing to Hillary.

    April 7, 2008 at 3:18 pm |
  4. Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA

    Trouble running the Clinton Presidential campaign is problematic and deep rooted. For someone who claims she's going to hit the ground running with an efficient Presidency should she win, Clinton has assembled a campaign which has shown poor planning from the start.

    April 7, 2008 at 2:59 pm |
  5. Rob, Arvada, CO

    This man was Hillary's Cheif Strategist! What does this say about the types of people she has holding her leash? Carville, Rendell, Bill, the list goes on and on. All of these guys are involved in shady deals and smoky back rooms. The chickens have come home to roost, and they're not going away. The lies and deception of the Clinton camp are spinning quite a web.

    April 7, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  6. vie

    He violated hilary's trust. They took too long to fire him. I am a Obama supporter, but do not like to see people being betrayed.

    April 7, 2008 at 2:40 pm |
  7. mary

    Doesn't it seem odd to anyone else that Mark Penn suddenly was "caught" sleeping with the enemy (Columbia) and Bush (free trade) and now there "was" bad blood all along between Penn and the Clintons?

    I say "phoey" (I think phoey is a favorite word of Laura Bush)!

    The Clintons are for free trade, have always been for free trade, and as usual Hillary is "fibbing" to get elected. The Clintons are tight with Mark Penn, and the Clintons are tight with George Bush (Sr.&Jr.), so in light of her pretending to be against free trade, Penn had to leave the campaign. And, oh no!, Bush is trying to strong arm the dems into going along with the Columbia caper! Oh, brother!!!!

    April 7, 2008 at 2:29 pm |
  8. Debbie McCoy

    Money hungry-
    Another example of poor judgment by the Clinton's.

    April 7, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  9. Laura L - Chicago

    The Clintons and their cronies all feel they are above the law and can lie and cheat as much as they want. Unfortunately there are enough misguided people in our country that support them, thereby allowing the Clintons to hold themselves (and their associates) to a different standard than the rest of us. Yes, bigger issues matter, but people need to stop overlooking the fact that the Clintons are liars.

    April 7, 2008 at 2:21 pm |
  10. Gary in Toronto

    I think the quick answer is he must have caught the "entitlement bug" from Bill and Hillary.

    Frankly, in a campaign where past remarks and associations are all the rage given the similarity of the candidates on the issues it has amazed me that more hasn't been made of Penn in the past.

    CEO of Burson Marsteller, PR agency of choice of dictatorships and corporations caught doing very bad things, who wants to be caught standing next to that guy when the lights go on?

    I'm trying to imagine how I would feel as a Clinton donor knowing 10% of my donation had gone to Mark Penn?

    April 7, 2008 at 2:07 pm |
  11. Edgar

    Or... is one of the parties involved engaging in mispeak again?

    April 7, 2008 at 2:03 pm |
  12. Crystal Mitchell

    We do care, I would like to know why wasn't this brought out before now. Almost like Clinton really lacks judgement. To be in the middle of this now in her campaign , then to have another story looked at as a fraud. What's going on here. I say get out Hilary with some diginity, get behind Obama, and let's win this election in November. Because this is only going to get worse. There is questionable things on your taxes, and theres no way you can present yourself like a a everyday person and that you really care about everyday people. With a estmate of well over 109 million in the bank, and you still have,'t release your 2007 taxes. Quit while you can with grace and dignity in check.

    April 7, 2008 at 2:03 pm |
  13. Kim in Pa

    Political junkies find this important because it really raises questions about what Hillary knew about Penn's dealings with Colombia. Why did the Colombian government smack Obama about his free-trade stance, which is allegedly the same as Hillary's, while not saying anything to Senator Clinton. I don't want to come off as a conspiracy theorist, but how could Hillary NOT have known that her chief strategist was the CEO of a company paid by Colombia to ensure CAFTA was passed by the United States? His ties to Blackwater, and other anti-union companies have been known for a long time. Was it really just poor judgement on Hillary's part keeping him around for so long, or did she actually know and tacitly approve of his activites. The Clintons have proven themselves to be less-than-trustworty in the past, and I find it far too convenient that Hillary claims to have not known what Penn did in his other job...

    April 7, 2008 at 2:02 pm |
  14. Lee, WV

    Hillary's whole campaign has been based on lies and hipocracy.I only hope that enough people see this to stop a diasasterous nomination of her.

    April 7, 2008 at 1:58 pm |
  15. gayle

    BP – You are right, voters are weighing more weighty issues, especially in Pennslyvania and other states where Nafta was so detrimental. It does raise question though about Hillary Clintons judgement. She has had complaint after complant about this guy from some of her very own staff. But she still kept him around. I just have to think that there is more to this that is being told on the surface, since both Hillary, Bill and Mark are intellegent. Doesn't it worry you that this sort of thing will be a matter of course in the White House? Look, her campaign has already antagonized a foreign Government. So yes, I agree with you, but there is so much to learn from this personnel issue.

    April 7, 2008 at 1:47 pm |
  16. Linda

    Um, he didn't really step down. He's still advising the campaign.

    April 7, 2008 at 1:41 pm |
  17. Ross

    Penn was hoping that he would not get caught. I believe that his departure from his position is beneficial to Clinton. I get the feeling that his political insight has reached a ceiling. He was not able to see that the experience argument could only go so far. Bill Clinton beat Bush's dad even though Bush's dad was more experienced.

    April 7, 2008 at 1:41 pm |
  18. Linda Meyers

    Are you kidding. What he was meeting with the Columbia's about free-trade (jobs) is one of our economic problems, no matter how low pay the job maybe. We need to have choices here in the US anot everyone has a BS, MBA, or Ph.d.

    April 7, 2008 at 1:38 pm |
  19. Brian from Fort Mill, S.C.

    We're trying to figure out who to vote for. We don't want to screw this up like when we voted for Bush. We are going to hold all candidates under a microscope until we're sure.

    April 7, 2008 at 1:24 pm |
  20. Jim

    Maybe his candidate/boss does not really oppose the trade agreement. After all, the Colombians seemed confused over whether Mr. Penn was there on behalf of his company or his candidate and fired him after he made it clear that he was only there on behalf of the company.

    Another point is that the Colombians are on record bashing Senator Obama and only Senator Obama even though both Dem candidates are "on record" as opposing the trade agreement. Why?

    April 7, 2008 at 1:12 pm |
  21. Linda, Fl

    But the ,ost we can see – Clinton can NOT manage.
    Even Campaign.
    Why should we have a hope, that she can rule the country?
    No Way.
    With penn or without – she Can NOT

    April 7, 2008 at 1:04 pm |
  22. carmela

    This is a tempest in a teapot. He has merely stepped aside. Neither he nor his company have departed.

    April 7, 2008 at 1:03 pm |
  23. Annie Kate

    I don't really care about Mark Penn and his situation. He used bad judgment and it bit him. As long as he didn't compromise the stand HRC takes on this issue then its not really talking about I do wonder who will replace him – maybe James Carville??

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 7, 2008 at 12:49 pm |
  24. Mark, VA

    If Penn wasn't a loser before, he sure is a loser now...

    April 7, 2008 at 12:46 pm |
  25. FELISA from chattanooga

    Of course we the voting public care. We don't want another George W. and Hillary is proving herself to be a bigger liar that the Republicans are.

    April 7, 2008 at 12:26 pm |
  26. Taj

    Don't blame Mark Penn. Hillary is on both sides of the fence, for & against free trade. It is politics as usual. No matter who becomes the President, it is Global economics & we need to go with the flow but need to exercise proper controls. Why do you think that the Govt allows top corporate executives take millions of dollors in salaries & bonuses? It is a big revenue for the Govt in the form of taxes. Easy money for the Govt & they have their hand on everything including death taxes. I am not kidding.

    April 7, 2008 at 12:08 pm |
  27. Rob - Winnipeg - Canada

    This would relate back to the incompetent manner in which Mrs. Clinton has run her campaign which should suggest how she would run the Whitehouse.
    It also highlights just how brilliantly Mr. Obama has run his campaign.

    I have no problem deciding who would be more ready on day one.

    April 7, 2008 at 12:01 pm |
  28. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    I think most voters do not really care about the A to Z behind the candidates. What they say, what they do as a candidate, is more important than who goes and who comes to a campaign. Just my opinion.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    April 7, 2008 at 11:59 am |
  29. Cindy

    I think Mark got too big of an ego and thought that he could talk this free trade agreement into being. He may have even thought that he could persuade Hillary to back it!

    But in the long run I don't think that him being canned really matters! I mean Hillary's campaign is what it is, either people like her or they don't. She can get someone else just as good to help her, no problem. He is the one that loses, he looks like an idiot going behind her back and holding these talks.

    No one really cares what their advisors, stumpers or anyone else says or does. It is all about what they say, do and plan to do in the future.

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    April 7, 2008 at 11:57 am |
  30. Tamika

    Ever hear the term Patsy?(may have mispelled)..he's stepping down too keep her from being outted!! His mistake is being caught! Business with the Clintons as usual.

    April 7, 2008 at 11:52 am |