April 4th, 2008
03:00 PM ET
4 years ago

Penn calls trade meeting 'error in judgment'

Mark Penn is a chief strategist for the Clinton campaign.
Mark Penn is a chief strategist for the Clinton campaign.

(CNN) - Clinton campaign strategist Mark Penn said Friday it was an "error in judgment" for him to meet with the Colombian ambassador to advocate for a free-trade agreement Hillary Clinton has said she opposes.

"The meeting was an error in judgment that will not be repeated and I am sorry for it," Penn said in an issued statement. "The senator's well known opposition to this trade deal is clear and was not discussed."

The meeting, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, occurred Monday. Penn appears to have been acting in his role as chief executive of the international communications and lobbying firm, Burson-Marsteller Worldwide. The Colombian Embassy hired the firm to help achieve congressional approval of a bill allowing free trade with the country - a proposal Clinton has sharply criticized.

Earlier Friday, Clinton spokesperson Mo Elleithee said the New York senator "remains steadfast against the Colombian Trade Bill," and maintained Penn's meeting was "not in any way done on behalf of the campaign."

Clinton has sharply criticized America's free trade agreements as she campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination, and was particularly critical of rival Barack Obama in February when it was reported that one of his chief foreign policy advisors had suggested to a Canadian official that the Illinois senator was not as anti-free trade as he was claiming to be on the trail.

"I don't think people should come to Ohio and tell the people of Ohio one thing and then have your campaign tell a foreign government something else behind closed doors," Clinton said then. "That's the kind of difference between talk and action and that I've been pointing out in this campaign."

"I would ask you to look at that story, substitute my name for Senator Obama," she also said. "If some of my advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments and basically saying ignore what I'm saying because it's only political rhetoric ... I think it raises serious questions."

Earlier: Campaign: Penn wasn't representing Clinton in trade meeting


Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Mark Penn
soundoff (304 Responses)
  1. D.W.; Miami, FL

    HYPOCRITES!!!

    Due to the lack of funds, the changeover, and the public tirades, I am beginning to wonder if Clinton's campaign just doesn't do an Enron and implode before the race is even finished.

    If how she runs her campaign is any indication of how she would run this country, then I for one certainly DO NOT WANT.

    I mean what is she going to do: loan the Treasury $5 million dollars? This is getting to be ridiculous.

    April 4, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  2. NittanyLion4Bama

    This guy has been the worst thing for her campaign from the beginning. It's his strategy that introduced the early nastiness in her campaign that led me to switch to Obama. This guy is so dirty he makes Pig Pen from peanuts look like he's spotless

    April 4, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  3. Howard JaX Florida

    I don't think things can get worse for Hillary. There is something all of you die hard Hillary Supporters need to see. It is called "Hillary The Moveie". It was very interesting. It really opened my eyes. See it and make up your own minds.

    April 4, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  4. Dan in CO

    The two jobs argument doesn't fly if they are fundamentally opposed.

    It's like being a cop by day and a criminal by night.

    April 4, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  5. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    I am a Obama supporter and he will be the next president. Penn did use poor judgement for his own self servicing purposes. It doesn't make sense for Hillary to have supported such doings unless there is some unknown underlying reasons.

    April 4, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  6. Jazz

    This guy acts like an Obama campaign employee. Has he been vetted? Kick him to the curb anyway.

    April 4, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  7. Mekki

    Well Well, it's simple we want Hilary to explain her self and maybe she can use the same language that she used before against Obama.
    What goes around , comes around!

    April 4, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  8. Independent In Texas

    So no one sees her employing a lobbyist for a foreign nation as a campaign advisor a conflict of interest?!

    What will she do if she's President?

    April 4, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  9. Alex H

    Maurice Jr –

    Yes, he does have another job to run... it's called a conflict of interests and it's what gets politicians, like Hillary and Bill Clinton, into a lot of trouble for catering to people like this! Can you say Travelgate? Oh and lets take a look at what his job is... representing organizations like Blackwater and tobacco companies? The firm makes MILLIONS on anti-union campaigns! But Hillary has him as a strategist.

    You know... Obama's pastor had a job too... but we held Obama responsible for what he said (thinks that were overblown and misrepresented to destroy the man) and for having him as a spiritual adviser. The difference is Clinton PAYS this guy but she gets to say "he doesn't represent me". Double standard anyone?

    April 4, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. Percy

    "I would ask you to look at that story, Hilary Clinton,". "If some of your advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments and basically saying ignore what he is saying because it's only business as usual … I think it raises serious questions."

    April 4, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  11. Crystal Mitchell

    Please tell me why she is mentioning Obama in this. This is her business to handle. And all she can do is try and point the finger at someone else. Wow! This is a clear indication that if a 3:00 call came in she will not be the one to answer it. She will just past it off to Obama. Because clearly she can't stand for herself. All this talk about being a fighter, is bologna. She's just talk and full of hot air. When the going gets tough the first thing that Clinton does is point the finger at someone or something else and LIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 4, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  12. James, Huntington, WV

    No brain Hillary at it again!!
    According to the front page of the Toronto Newspaper, it was Hillary's campaign that contacted the Canadians. Obama's name was substituted for Clinton's when the story hit Washington. A smear that was reported by MSNBC but not carried on all networks. She is just at it again. Not Trustworthy!!!!!!

    April 4, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  13. Dan in CO

    ""Of course, she will go on Letterman or Leno, make a joke about it, and claim she was sleep dprived when this all occured.""

    Don't laugh...that's exactly what she'll do.

    She went on various shows right before Texas and Ohio to pander.

    April 4, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  14. Jae, NY

    In retrospect and considering this report, I wonder if the campaign regrets taking so many pot shots at rival throughout the primaries?

    It seems they would have faired so much better had they run a kosher/ dignified campaign and stayed clear of the pigstye.

    I guess their chickens are coming home to roost...

    April 4, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  15. GT in CA

    "Clinton has sharply criticized America's free trade agreements as she campaigns" but supported NAFTA when her husband was President. Now we find out one of her top advisor supports free-trade with Columbia. Which way is it Hillary? Voters in Pennsylvania should vote for Obama, not this lying politician.

    April 4, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  16. KW

    THERE ARE A LOT OF HYPOCRITES IN THIS WORLD!

    I'm so sick of all the people who criticise the Clintons for every mistake they have made….what was you expecting from them…Mother Teresa??? I wonder how many of you who judge Bill Clinton for his affair, have not committed the same sin yourself one time or another in your life. In my 50+ years of living it is my belief that there are very few people who have not cheated on a mate at sometime or another in their life….so therefore I say SHUT THE H...L UP! I'm sick of the hipocrisy…and God hates a hipocrite too.

    I don't condone what he did but on the other hand, he has paid for it dearly AND continues to…when does he get forgiven???? Does Hillary ever lie? Once again..HAVE YOU EVER LIED? HAS OABAMA EVER LIED?? I mean, come on…do you REALLY belive that Obama attended a church for twenty years and was unaware of how his Minister felt?

    Do you expect them to be saints? They are human like you and I, and being human, they are going to be flawed. Instead of dwelling on their mistakes, their flaws, try looking at the good in them. If I'm not mistaken Bill Clinton had an approximate 60% Approval rating when he was President…he must have done some good…..don't you think?????

    I'm not against Obama….he may be what he portrays himself to be…or he may not be. To me, he is more of a risk…."The Two Birds in The Bush". He was virtually a stranger to most of us just some months ago. At least with the Clintons, we have a history, we more know what we got, the good and the bad. It's fine to gamble in life sometimes, to go out on a limb, but with the mess the country is in currently, do you really think this is the best time to gamble??? I don't know, I think I would rather go "With a Bird in the Hand" versus the two in the bush.

    Clinton 08….Maybe Obama later

    April 4, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  17. Tempered

    Awesome! Thanks for the laugh, Mark Penn.

    April 4, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  18. Eric

    Let the poor guy alone. He has to make a living since Hillary's campaign hasn't been paying him for the last couple of months. Everybody can see he hasn't been to the hairdresser for a while.

    April 4, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  19. ed

    it's actually already been proven that Barack's staff never had that meeting with canadian officials telling them to ignore Barack's anti-NAFTA talk. Hillary knows that it's not true but she still uses it against Barack.

    April 4, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  20. Ron R

    Is this a campaign a disgrace or what? Please don't forget that in all organizations, IT ALL STARTS AT THE TOP! Wake up people...

    April 4, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  21. Morris

    Hillary was lying about ducking sniper fire, now lets see how she will handle this...? She can not be trusted! I was supporting her, but no more; fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me!

    April 4, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  22. Darth Vadik, CA

    Why does Hillary and her people keep doing these things, they say one thing and on the other side they keep doing the total opposite.

    Just stop it.

    April 4, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  23. Lee WV

    An error in judgement here,misspoke somewhere else,this is becoming all too familiar in the Clinton campaign.Don't sound like people I would trust to answer the phone at 3am.

    April 4, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  24. RickytheGriff

    That's it. I've officially switched to Obama!

    Obama '08

    April 4, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  25. Anson

    When Hillary is done destroying the democratic party, she'll destroy the country if given that chance. She's bad and she has a crew at her image.

    April 4, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
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