August 12th, 2008
01:21 PM ET
6 years ago

Penn says McCain ad effective

 A Mark Penn memo reportedly said the U.S. wouldn't vote for a candidate who was not 'fundamentally' American.
A Mark Penn memo reportedly said the U.S. wouldn't vote for a candidate who was not 'fundamentally' American.

(CNN) – John McCain's recent campaign commercial linking Barack Obama to vapid celebrities was unanimously criticized in Democratic quarters, but one of the party's leading strategists says it did the job.

In an op-ed in the Politico, former top strategist Mark Penn to Sen. Hillary Clinton said negative ads are often effective in forming public opinion around a candidate, and specifically pointed to the McCain campaign's recent ad featuring Paris Hilton and Britney Spears as an example of an effective television spot.

Related: Memo could keep Clinton-Obama rift open

"Fair or not, as advertising it did its job: It used humor, stuck viewers with memorable images and created a debate, just as Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 ‘Daisy’ ad, Walter Mondale’s ‘Red Phone’ spot 20 years later and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ‘3 a.m.’ commercial in 2008 did," Penn wrote.

Watch: McCain's "Celeb" ad paints Obama as out-of-touch celebrity

Penn, who was behind Clinton's headline-grabbing "3 a.m." ad that questioned Obama's readiness to lead during a national security crisis, also said the Illinois senator should have responded more effectively to the Hilton/Spears ad.

"The Paris Hilton ad also bore a Republican political trademark — attacking a candidate’s strengths rather than the candidate’s weaknesses," Penn wrote. The spot attempted to portray Obama’s leadership for change as something fluffy and useless. Obama did not immediately hit back on the air."

Penn, who was ousted from his formal role with the Clinton campaign last spring, faced fresh criticism earlier this week after newly-released campaign memos revealed that he advocated painting Obama as foreign.

"His roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values," Penn wrote in a March 2007 memo to campaign colleagues.

soundoff (307 Responses)
  1. Jeniffer

    I don't care what they say. Obama has my vote. Simple as that. I'm just here waiting for election day to go vote for Obama. I don't even care what the news say anymore.

    August 12, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  2. INSANE IN THE MCCAIN

    McCain Supporters,
    Below are only a few position McSurge has changed positions on:
    1. McCain opposed off-shore oil drilling; now he supports it
    2. McCain strongly opposes a windfall-tax on oil company profits. Three weeks earlier, he was perfectly comfortable with the idea.
    3. McCain thought Bush’s warrantless-wiretap program circumvented the law; now he believes the opposite.
    4. McCain defended “privatizing” Social Security. Now he says he’s against privatization (though he actually still supports it.)
    5. McCain wanted to change the Republican Party platform to protect abortion rights in cases of rape and incest. Now he doesn’t.
    6. McCain thought the estate tax was perfectly fair. Now he believes the opposite.
    7. McCain pledged in February 2008 that he would not, under any circumstances, raise taxes. Specifically, McCain was asked if he is a “‘read my lips’ candidate, no new taxes, no matter what?” referring to George H.W. Bush’s 1988 pledge. “No new taxes,” McCain responded. Two weeks later, McCain said, “I’m not making a ‘read my lips’ statement, in that I will not raise taxes.”
    8. In 2002 McCain said, it is OK for Bush to detain suspected enemy combatants in Guantanamo bay, without bringing any charge against them. In now (2007) he is against it, and even wants to closedown Guantanamo bay.
    9. In 2006, McCain said he was the “greatest critic” of Rumsfeld’s failed Iraq policy.
    In December 2003, McCain praised the same strategy as “a mission accomplished.” In March 2004, he said, “I’m confident we’re on the right course.” In December 2005, he said, “Overall, I think a year from now, we will have made a fair amount of progress if we stay the course.”
    10. We can’t have a time-time for Iraq, and It’s OK to stay in Iraq for 100 years;
    ……….. 4 months later McCain appear agrees to an18-month time-table for a withdrawal
    McCain is no straight-talker….so…If you support McCain…. could you tell him to rename his bus/plane….. the FLIP-FLOP EXPRESS ?
    By keeping “straight talk express” on his bus & plane, McCain is insulting the intelligence of every American. Even a dummy, can easily tell McCain is the king of Flip-Floppers
    ……..FLIP-FLOP EXPRESS …. This is a better description of McCain, isn’t it ?

    August 12, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  3. mike

    To Pam (10:48am): Why does the media keep reporting this? Because it is in THEIR interest to foster discord, thereby driving up their ratings/page views. It is disappointing and counter-productive, but hey, if it makes for a better story, no matter how unsubstantive, then why not? CNN is quite guilty of this. (And therefore, I doubt I'll see this posted).

    August 12, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  4. the heart of the matter

    mark penn and karl rove–what a couple of ugly people–they have no character at all–rove is eltist and should be in jail(we would be if we ignored a congressional subpeona) and mark penn well hes proved how great he is-further john mccain may have been an american hero but just continues to lie in his ads–time and time again and the media doesnt really call him on it–but he want running THAT kind of campaign! funny but the clinton people dont really seem to have party loyalty(not the voters) the support staff–they want to help all of us get back on track yet they seemingly would throw us to the dogs with mccain–the same policies that dont work!!

    August 12, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  5. JB - NYC

    If all you numb skulls HATE this guy. He must be very smart. Cheers to you Wolfson!

    August 12, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  6. liz

    Is Penn actually on McCain's payroll? He really should be since he is doing such a great job campaigning for him.

    August 12, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  7. blaising

    Same old junk. Plays great in the old folks homes. Problem is, Obama's not runnin' for "Alzheimer-in-Chief"

    You old fart strategists are gonna' ride this outdated junk all the way to also-ran in November.

    It was nice knowin' ya...don't let the screen door slam ya in the rear an the way out.

    August 12, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
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