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. larryh wi

    His last paragraph says it all, plain and simple. Lets see just how much experience does Nobama have, 143 days in the Senate, now he and his followers think he can follow in the footsteps of former Presidents! How much exp does McCain have, 26 yrs in the Senate, a distigushed military carrer, and lets not forget a few yrs as a POW. Not a togh decision here. Go John, eat him up, and spit him out.

    August 12, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  2. Informed Voter

    Penn Looks like a Neo-Con, Talks like a Neo-Con & Acts like a Neo-Con .. So he must be a Neo-Con

    August 12, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  3. cj

    I dont see how you are all led like sheep. Move to Europe and live your liberal/socialistic lifestyle. If you want change maybe we should look into an overhaul of congress starting with fake nose Nancy. How bout that for some liberal name calling

    August 12, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  4. Dannon, NY

    It is not a coincidence that Penn and Wolfson are coming out at the same time, before the Democratic Convention. They have a stake in Barack losing the general. So it's all about money, not principle. What a bunch of losers. No wonder Hillary hired them; she's just as selfish as they are. They will put themselves before millions of Americans who are hurting and suffering because of the Bush Administration. These political thugs would rather see McCain continue the Bush practices so that Hillary can win in 2012, then support the Democratic ticket. It's not American, it's greed.

    August 12, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  5. Paul from Jersey

    This guy is full of himself

    August 12, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  6. Edgar, NH

    So if you were born in Hawaii, you're not American? Who taught him geography–Attila the Hun?

    August 12, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  7. Mike

    How can you call Obama followers mindless when the majority of them are college educated. The mindless people are the ones making the accusations. First you call us Latte drinking elitists, and now you are calling us mindless. Nice work... Half of you think Hillary Clinton is still running for president. Who's minless now?

    August 12, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  8. Montana is Obama Country

    right Penn, and negative ads got your girl into the nominee slot.. look where it got you.. whining, owed money and rejected by public opinion..

    The high road is always best... even a navy man should recognize that instead of bring American down with negative oppression..

    Yes..We...Can...

    Barack Obama in 2008 & 2012........

    August 12, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  9. The Truth

    If these ads truly did work then what does this say about the intelligence of Americans?
    Keep fighting Barack, you have enemies everywhere from the PUMA nuts to the idiot Mcbush. You have consistently taken the high road and I respect you for that.
    There are only a few months left so stay strong, no one said the road to the white house would be easy, especially for a black man.

    Connecticut for Barack!
    Educated and Intelligent Voters for Barack!

    August 12, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  10. Republican for Obama - TEXAS

    Mark Penn needs to be in prison. He is a crook. I guess now he is working for John McCain. They are just alike. They both lie, cheat and steal.

    August 12, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  11. Eye Opener

    I dont understand one thing. Looks like CNN noone is willing to talk to CNN except this Scum bag.

    From yday I am seeing you guys are interviewing this idiot or the other dog Howard wolfson...

    Very Very bad job folks..You guys are not covering Olympics well instead you are running behind piece of scum like this idiot.

    August 12, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  12. Chris from San Antonio

    At least the PUMA people are still listening to him.
    Speaking of, has he been paid yet for his work in the Hillary Campaign?

    August 12, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  13. arc, Lugano CH

    Mark Penn could have saved Hillary Clinton 20 million dollars of her own money by merely planting Korans in WalMart stores across America. As long as McCain made good on his promise to veto beer, the nomination would have been sealed with the ‘isolationist-xenophobe-bigot-fear vote’ for Hillary.

    Instead Hillary was reduced to crying sexism and proclaiming that Senator Obama would lose the General Election because he is black. Let’s not forget her coy flirtatious smirk when she announced her Robert Kennedy strategy of still claiming the nomination in August.

    August 12, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  14. Michael Beusch

    "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.

    Hmmmmmm! The Daisy ad was used by a candidate (LBJ) who was going to win in a landslide anyway. Despite Mondale's Red Phone ad, he still came close to losing every state. And Clinton's 3 a.m. ad certainly didn't win her the nomination. If these ads "did their job," then why did two of the three candidates who used them lose?

    August 12, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  15. JJ

    Does he really know what he's talking about? I'd say no, since who he represented is not the nominee.

    August 12, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  16. pastoldnews

    I guess when you don't get paid one becomes angry and spiteful. Poor Hillary had to put up with this bum!!!!

    Negative is what I see in Mark Penn a big ball of resentment. Get over yourself!

    August 12, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  17. Matt

    The democrats run a campaign that would make Karl Rove blush.

    Someone needs to be held accountable for the attacks and lies spread by the Obama campaign.

    August 12, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  18. RB

    This is the guy who helped kill the queen.

    His commentary is irrelevant regardless if it is true.

    A LOSER

    August 12, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  19. Dameun Strange

    Penn took a campaign that was pretty much a sure thing and not only lost but took down a much loved former president in the process, right? So, why are we listening to this hack, again?

    August 12, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  20. Republicans Hate America

    That is because there are a great number of Americans that take pride in being mindless ignorant rednecks that have for too long been the voice of this country. The vast majority of us are waking up and will reject this way of culture when we vote in droves come November for Obama.

    August 12, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  21. Dawon

    The political news is pretty boring since Senator Obama is on vacation. McCain needs to take this opportunity to start his campaign for the White House, or is he on vacation also? Complain all you want that Obama receives more press. It's obvious that he's more exciting and makes for more interesting reading. Watching and listening to McCain is like watching paint dry. OBAMA 08

    August 12, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  22. Debbie - WV

    who is this guy?......his mom does not even care about him.

    August 12, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  23. Ted

    I agree with Penn. The thought of the United States electing someone to the highest office who does not openly showed his pride in America is a very scary thought.

    You won't have to worry about $4 gas or other economic issues if the safety and security of America is not protected. Of the 2 choices we have... McCain is the only one who would put our security first.

    The 90's were a good time for a Rockstar President. But now we need a President who will fight to protect our way of life.

    August 12, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  24. Garfield

    This guy is speaking with the endorsement of the Clinton’s; they want Barack Obama unelectable for their 2012 bid.

    This is shameful coming from someone who is suppose to be on your T.E.A.M.

    Although it is frustrating at times, the silver lining is the majority of the American people understand what we need to bring this gr8 country to higher levels of consciousness.
    Let me say it again:
    THE MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE IN THE GREAT COUNTRY KNOW TRUTH WHEN THEY “FEEL” IT, AND THIS TRUTH IS Barack Obama.
    Amen.

    August 12, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  25. Time to move on

    Penn is silently working for McCain so that his lobby job can be protected.It wont work,not this year not this election because people want their government back.
    GOD BLESS AMERICA,GOD BLESS BARACK OBAMA
    OBAMA 08

    August 12, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
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