April 7th, 2008
04:03 PM ET
6 years ago

Gergen: Could Penn's resignation give Clinton a boost?

The latest Clinton departure could change the tone of the race.
The latest Clinton departure could change the tone of the race.

If Mark Penn had been a favorite within the Clinton campaign, it is difficult to believe that he would have been forced out over the Colombian affair. Sure, it was a dumb mistake – a “what was he thinking” moment. Still, it was a far cry from what one of Barack Obama’s top advisers did when he met with Canadian officials on NAFTA and his mistake properly set off a mini-firestorm. So, in the ordinary course of things, Mark Penn’s apology and a few days of reassuring labor unions would have been enough to quiet things down – and Penn would still be calling the shots.

But it is apparent that Clinton topsiders detest Mark Penn and hold him uniquely responsible for what has gone wrong in the campaign. When he went down last week, they lunged for the jugular and he couldn’t survive.

What difference will it make in the campaign, if any?

Full story


Filed under: Hillary Clinton
soundoff (140 Responses)
  1. Sharon

    A boost right off the stage and into retirement for Hillary, where she belongs.

    April 7, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  2. Rich

    The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder: "Demoted Hillary Clinton strategist Mark Penn may no longer have the coveted title of chief strategist, but he remains a key member of the campaign's senior staff. Indeed, it is not clear precisely what Mr. Penn's demotion entails, other than a public rebuke."

    "Mr. Penn took part on the campaign's morning message call this morning, as usual. This afternoon, he is also scheduled to be on a call with Clinton and other aides to begin to prepare for Saturday's presidential debate in Philadelphia. Mr. Penn 'is still going to be very much involved,' a senior campaign official said."

    April 7, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  3. dEMABRAT

    I think it will, as long as she gets rid of Penn's tactics and starts being herself. I think people will like that.

    April 7, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  4. Andy

    Gee, this is impartial. Not. Given that the circumstances surrounding the memo are murky at best, and the Canadian government has insisted that the adverse publicity for Obama was patently unfair, this smacks of an attempt by Gergen to tar Obama, again. Sorry David, I'm not buying it! That Clinton could be unaware or unconcerned about her campaign advisor's connections to a lobbying firm paid to promote deregulated trade with Columbia, and favorable government policies for Nationwide and Blackwater, is yet another reflection of what a bad leader she would make.

    April 7, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  5. John

    When IS a resignation not a resignation? Depends on your definition of the word "IS." Sound familiar?

    April 7, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  6. Democrat for Unity

    Worst case scenario for Hillary is that Penn defects in loyalty and begins to attack her. Networks will pay attention to his "insider's opinion" and it could incredibly damage her campaign.

    April 7, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  7. Josh

    it would probably have more of an impact if he was actually gone from the campaign:

    Marc Ambinder reports

    Demoted Hillary Clinton strategist Mark Penn may no longer have the coveted title of chief strategist, but he remains a key member of the campaign's senior staff.

    Mr. Penn took part on the campaign's morning message call this morning, as usual.

    This afternoon, he is also scheduled to be on a call with Clinton and other aides to begin to prepare for Saturday's presidential debate in Philadelphia.

    Mr. Penn "is still going to be very much involved," a senior campaign official said.

    Indeed, it is not clear precisely what Mr. Penn's title-change entails, other than a public rebuke, although the official said that "there is a difference between being in charge and being one of many voices."

    April 7, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  8. Public eye

    David, it makes it worse. Firstly Mark had the burden of responsibility, being the Chief Campaign Strategist. Secondly, he only gave up his position and payroll level, he still is very much a part of the Clinton machine and was still making calls as recently as this morning. This dead fish is stinking up her campaign, and has put Hillary's run for Pennsyvania into a nosedive, and they're all out of parachutes.

    April 7, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  9. marty from Indiana

    What do you mean: his departure? He didn't resign. He isn't gone. Today the Clinton Headquater had its daily conference call to their other campaign offices> Andhe was at his desk as usually and he was part of the conference call. He is still involved on a daily basis, in a leadership role in her campaign. His being fired was just "mirrors and a smoke screen." That is typical for Hillary. One can't believe anything that comes out of her mouth or out of her campaign center. Lies, lies, lies! If you think I am wrong CNN check it out!

    April 7, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  10. Brian

    Gergen, if any average voters really knew jack about this guy, maybe it would be better for her campaign to have him resign. But average people only see the headline "Clinton top strategist resigns over scandal" and that's the long and short of it for most people. When they read that it was sheer hypocrisy that forced him to step down, that just rubs salt in the wound. Average voters pay attention to headlines, not the personal histories of campaign staffers. This is going to crush her campaign temporarily and because of the nature of the scandal, it could even cost her blue-collar states such as PA and IN. Especially combined with the fact that she's a multi-millionaire, which doesn't ring very closely to many of those she's trying to represent.

    April 7, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  11. suzy

    What matters to me is that you actually stated something about Obama's advisor and NAFTA!!! Shocking....so many people on these blogs just don't get it – they still blame Hillary for the NAFTA/Canada thing.

    Mark Penn needed to go in my opinion – he has made some bad comments during the campaign which I'm sure Hillary would not have supported, but she had to answer to them. I have been an admirer of hers for a long time, and truly beleive she is the best qualified candidate.
    But, I always felt he needed to go.
    I watched Meet The Press a few weeks ago, and the guests that week
    all agreed that "Hillary is better than her campaign" – and I agree.

    April 7, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  12. Slowpoke

    Um. In your own article, you noted that Penn would still advise her after he resigned.

    So he just doesn't have an official position.

    April 7, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  13. John

    Cut him some slack. After only getting a few hours sleep, any reasonable human being might accidentally buy plane tickets and go negotiate a trade deal with a foreign country. It happened to me last week. It happens!!! Trust me....

    April 7, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  14. Robert Santa Rosa CA

    With this piece, it seems that Gergen is lobbying for the position of spin-master himself.

    April 7, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  15. Doug, Florida

    At McBush swearing for President
    Obama: You just had to keep fighting didn’t you Hillary
    HRC: It was my turn Kid. No line jumping

    Go OBAMA 08

    April 7, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  16. Conan

    Listen....you can hear the Clinton's dreams dieing.......

    April 7, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  17. Larry from LA

    Actually Hillary's people met with Canadian officals before Obama regarding NAFTA. Why is that not discussed more?????????

    April 7, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  18. Patriot

    She takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Go Hillary. Stop the Obama train wreck. Save our Country from destruction.

    April 7, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  19. Bernie Moore-Knowles

    With all do respect, Mr. Gergen – I bear to disagree. Penn was involved in a business interest that is not so welcome to us as voters and particularly to Clinton's platform – or so she says as she crosses about the country. This is one of the reasons that we as voters do not trust Clinton(s). She represents herself to voters in one manner and then disregards these stands with her deep embedded interests to parties that have gone on to destroy the economical well being of America. Frankly, I always listen to your commentaries and 99.9 percent of the time, I agree with you. But, if you think that Penn's forced resignation from his position and eventual demotion was not valid considering the circumstances? Please think again, Mr. Gergen. Think again. Voters do not trust the Clinton(s) and mistrust her cronies even more. Will it make a difference to her campaign now that Mr. Penn has been demoted? Journalists have debated why her candidacy has faltered? There is a block of voters in this election that are educated and informed. A great, extensive and varied block and we are determined to vote our will. Our will is that the next President of the United States not be imbedded (sp?) with special interests AND more importantly? The next President must have our trust. You can spin Hillary Clinton any way that you want as journalists – simply put? She is not likeable. She can not be trusted.

    Bernie Moore-Knowles
    Papa'aloa, Hawai'i

    April 7, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  20. Chuck in Oregon

    Sorry, but you can not convince me that the Clintons had no idea as to what Mr Penn was all about. They knew what his company was all about and what they did for a living. I would not be one bit surprised if Penn's company was involved directly or indirectly with the past NAFTA negotiations. The simple fact is that they had hoped this would not have come to light, but it did. Americans are not that stupid so give us some credit will you. As for Obama's advisor, that was NOT in any sense of the word worse, in fact it is childs play when compared to what just happened. This was not a renegotiation of a deal, it was a new deal, that again would go against American jobs.
    It is a shame that the Clinton's have been able pull the wool over the eyes of so many Americans.

    April 7, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  21. T Brown

    The fact is… you can't play in the superbowl until you have won the playoffs.

    April 7, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  22. mat

    "Still, it was a far cry from what one of Barack Obama’s top advisers did when he met with Canadian officials on NAFTA and his mistake properly set off a mini-firestorm."

    are you serious? as a canadian living in the US, I have been closely watching the news and I never saw any proof that this actually happened? So much for reporting the facts David.

    April 7, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  23. Lanny Davis

    David ... do you really think anything changed? They argued fot months over Penns real title, he was or was not the strategy director or the pollster ... now he's been "demoted" but is still a "voice". What exactly changed?

    Also a bit disappointed that you rehash the Obama Canada story incorrectly.

    April 7, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  24. Unbelievable

    Penn has not left the Clinton campaign – so let's report the truth here.

    Also, where would this issue be if the Obama campaign acted like the Clinton campaign? This issue would be plastered all over the front of news papers for days with people on talk shows talking about it and Obama mentioning it at every campaign stop. Thank God Obama is different.

    What we do need is for the press to fairly report this, along with the Canadian report about the Clinton campaign approaching them before Ohio. Additionally, we need the press to research into the connection between a conservative female member of the Canadian Parliament visiting former President Clinton at his house the same time the Obama report surfaced – that sounds fishy.

    Let's get some fair press out there – the Clintons have it wrong – the press has been overly hard on Obama and any potential issue around him – while Hillary has skated through Canada, Bosnia, Columbia, and let's not forget the other lie she has been telling about the hospital (seems like she did as much research on that as she did on Bush's war resolution she voted for and the intelligence report she never read).

    Oh, and Gergen, we know you are pro-Hillary – but in the interest of honest reporting – do you think you could be fair and honest for once?

    April 7, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  25. Dave in DC

    If the campaign really turned against Penn in February, and was looking to get him out the door, then they have probably not been letting him write the course over the last 2 months, which I suspect is the case. It's hard to believe that Penn was still detailing the campaign strategy until yesterday. To the extent he had already lost the trust of the remaining leaders, his removal makes no difference.

    Ciinton Campaign Journal: Mark Penn stopped talking today, just two months after we stopped listening.

    April 7, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.