August 12th, 2008
01:21 PM ET
10 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. Fran

    What is up with Hillary's and her campaign workers? Stop reporting on what these guys say!!!!

    August 12, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  2. You should have voted for Hillary!!!

    Gee just what the country needs, a rock star as the next President. What happened to picking someone for their brain and not their looks?

    August 12, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  3. Regalito

    Listen to all the Obamaites whine when the lights are pointed on their poor little candidate – as he runs for the shadows. So glad the moderate Dems are waking up to reality. Obama is not qualified and he doesnt share western values! Plus his wife is scary! AnNyone but Obama. Remember: NObama 08!

    August 12, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  4. Carolyn

    Whatever Mr. Penn you are not running for President and niether is Hillary Clinton. So get over it.

    August 12, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  5. Redbug-OH for OBAMA


    August 12, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  6. Lynnette

    CNN, Why are we supposed to care about anything that the former Clinton campaign has to say?
    Get over it, she lost and this guy is one of the main reasons why.

    August 12, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  7. Franky

    "This man needs to go back in whatever cage he came out of. Sen. Clinton needs to reject this kind of support because it is not needed in the Democratic Party."

    You know, the more this guy talks, the less respect I'm having for the Clintons. And no, is not Hillary's fault or her family but I gotta tell you, their inside people they pick, I'm questioning their judgement.

    Sorry Clintons, that's how I do business...

    August 12, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  8. Nat Turner

    I think reporting trivial remarks such as those expressed by Mark Penn only hurt the image of U.S. politics both here and abroad. It's no wonder why candidates resort to attack ads. No one pays attention until the mud starts slinging.

    August 12, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  9. Clinton Supporter

    Now you know why Penn got fired.

    August 12, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  10. OBAMA Supporter all the way

    Obama's not a celebrity.

    He's... intelligent, motivated, team player, fighter for the people of america, family man, humble & next world leader and our next President!

    August 12, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  11. Haters

    The truth comes out about Clinton's campaign. The staff was egotistical (like Clinton), they fought each other (fighters like Clinton), they sabotaged each other (like Clinton). The management of her campaign reflects who she is.

    It's all coming out now. So....Clintonites, the truth, as we have been telling you idiots is that she lost because she cut her own throat and Obama is a better candidate.

    But again, her supporters reflect her (the can't accept responsibility)

    August 12, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  12. cbrew66

    Lots of hatred here. You far left liberals pretty much expose your true nature when things get tough. It's just one post after another of Hate hate hate. Oh yea, lots of practice hating Bush too. I am neither Republican or Democrat. I actually want the Moderate Dems to win this cycle so we can finally focus on worker's issues. But man, you libs are just hate filled people.

    August 12, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  13. Evan L. Lehman, M.D., Indianapolis, IN

    The last paragraph indicates that Mark Penn may be an American FIRST and a Democrat SECOND. Bravo! All Americans, Democrats AND Republicans, should be Americans FIRST and partisans SECOND.
    Evan L. Lehman, M.D.

    August 12, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  14. Kelby from Houston, TX

    Why does the media keep reporting on this guy?
    In what magazine are his memoes being posted?
    It is apparent that he is a loser. It is clear that he is very sore about losing the job he had in the HRC campaing which equaled a total revocation of his ideals. He is sore about the campaign loss. Right now, he is having a catharsis through CNN.
    I think CNN is seeing a one sided race and they are doing everything they can to make it exciting. Rev Wright (the media gift that kept on giving) is out of the public light. He needs a replacement. Mark Penn is that replacement. But his story is not gaining the type of traction that Wright did. They are still looking to raise doubt and debate on Obama. I don't trust the polls and now I don't trust CNN.
    Are you the most trusted name in news? you were

    August 12, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  15. Anonymous

    Mike, TX, I guess your hero is the guy who wants to give MORE millions in tax breaks to companies who lied on their taxes and didn't pay any!! There your hero LOSER! It's funny how you call dems mindless and yet it's the repukelicans who follow BLINDLY!! They say pay, you say how much!! Your the VERY person they want supporting them, give your money to them and don't ask any questions, trust us, your life is good, your life is good, remember your life is good!! AND YOU BELIEVE THEM!!! LOLOLOL WHAT A TARD!!!!


    "I'm an idiot repukelican"

    " KICK ME" lolololol


    August 12, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  16. James From Chicago

    Penn is a pig, and that is why Clinton fired him. Thank God she didn't
    do everything he told her to do.

    The best news of the day, I was at a Chamber Of Commerce monthly
    meeting and 90% of the member will vote for McCain if Hillary is
    not on the ticket with Obama. I'm glad people are coming to their
    senses. And no i am NOT RACIST I just don't trust OBAMA.

    August 12, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  17. LindaSF

    No, it was not effective. It made McCain look like he is grasping at straws and Paris Hilton smacked him right back which is exactly what he deserved.

    August 12, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  18. Chris

    How would he know? He botched the Clinton campaign.

    August 12, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  19. John McShame, Obama Is Going to Tax You & Cindy, but Not Me & 95% Americans Making < $250,000/Yr



    HILL AND SOR LOOOOOOOOOSERS, GET OVER IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    OBAMA '08/'12!!

    August 12, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  20. rlp-politcal

    This is what "we" have allowed our politcs to come too. We can look at an ad and judge someone....

    McCain is talking about washington as if he has not been there for the last 30 years... and we sit and want to believe anything he says because you are stick to a party line.

    we are lost and stupid to put up with this crap...

    August 12, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  21. John PA

    Negative ads only work on the ignorant, and in this country, we are loaded with them.

    August 12, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  22. RyanD.

    In light of the Atlantic story, it is no surprise this backbiting idiot favors McCain.

    Watch CNN continually push this Clinton vs. Obama non-story, its laughable.

    Obama 08'

    August 12, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  23. merry

    Yes and we all saw how effective Mark Penn was for the Clinton campaign.
    I am trying to figure out why anyone would report what this guy says as anything but what it is, baloney!!!

    August 12, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  24. MMN-Milwaukee WI

    CNN put a ticker for Dubya telling Russia to "Reverse unacceptable course in Georgia".
    Here is the “pot calling the kettle black”. Bush with the support of McCain and his likes morally bankrupted the USA leadership in the world and here is the true definition of empty words. Can Bush or McCain right now get any support from any other country in the world to help Georgia whose sovereign nation is being raped by Russia? Guess what Russians knows empty words when they hear them. With US troops buried in Iraq until victory is secured (whatever that victory might be), America has its hands tied behind its back and Bush has his foot in his mouth gagging trying to tell Russia to respect Georgia’s sovereignty. What a joke! And this is beyond lame. My 5 months old SON is better than this, he says a lot that I don’t understand but I we communicate and understand each other very well.

    August 12, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  25. arc, Lugano CH

    Mike, TX August 12th, 2008 10:25 am ET
    I just realized exactly who Obama. Obama is really Omarosa. Talks a lot, doesn't say much, totally ineffective, brags a lot, very self centered.
    Obama's followers are as mindless as their hero
    ...but not quite as mindless as establishing the basis for an opinion of a candidate for president on a reality television show...Thanks for the giggles, mate.

    August 12, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
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