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. Canadian black & white man for Obama.

    It is obvious that the media publish Obama story more than McCain, but these stories are base on lies.
    How could Americans be fool to believe what is not true.

    All the people who are attcking Obama often admit they just want to mislead the public and they also believe these negative ads works.

    Do you people think with your head mind and soul?

    Here they tell you " they want to have fun with their supports play on you mind" said McCain. McCain campaigning for presidency if not fun.. let the people think clearly not rumour mongery, negative campaign.

    August 12, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |


    August 12, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  3. Susann

    When you stand back and look at it : EVERYONE is subtly against Barack. Hillary used the same man that McCain is now using to attack Obama using the same nasty tactics. I think Obama realizes this. Obama is playing a chess game with amateurs. BA ROCK the Vote!

    August 12, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  4. Chris from San Antonio

    re: Mike from Tx

    Project much? Do you really want to discuss which supporters are mindless? Which supporters constantly vote against their interest? Don't open a can you can't close.

    August 12, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  5. Francis, MS

    I hope African Americans will wake up to the fact that all that glitters is not gold. There are some ruthless people out there who pretend they're working for the Democratic Party, but in actuality, they're working for themselves.

    Hillary has fired this guy, and he's still working for her. Why? Because there's more money where that 5 million dollars came from. If he has to throw principles, people and his mother under the bus, so be it.

    As an AA, I don't blindly work for the Dems any longer (thanks to Hillary); I question the motives before giving my time and energy.

    August 12, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  6. Sylvia

    How in the world did HRC hire this man for her campaign. Its just proves that she has bad judgement. Well, Obama is a celebrity and does that mean McCain is a career politician. He has been running for President forever and he is going to die old doing that.

    August 12, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  7. Susan from Scotts Valley, CA

    Mike, TX and all the rest of you who keep saying that Obama has nothing to say, you're not listening or even willing to listen. Obama has made VERY CLEAR his policies. So why aren't you listening? I don't want to use the "R" word but if Obama keeps repeating his policies on Iraq, the economy, health care, energy, education, etc. etc. etc. and you keep saying he doesn't have any policies what else can be the reason? You may not like his policies and that's fine. But if you say he doesn't have any, there has to be a reason you refuse to hear.

    August 12, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  8. Good Decision by Clinton

    Although Clinton lost, she did so with respect for Obama. At least she didn't take Penn's advise to take the low road of lies and deception. Those are the politics of fear.

    Obama 08.

    August 12, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  9. Sylvia

    CNN, you are full of crap. I do not believe what you report most of the time.

    August 12, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  10. Kiah

    Well from someone whose strategies were on the LOSING end I'd say that's good news for Obama. And hopefully McCain and his crew will continue to seek out the praise and reinforcement from Mark Penn.

    August 12, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  11. Committee for Effective Leadership

    The ad was houmorous but also hit the sore point in Obama's campaign – a total lack of experience. The recent reversal of his position regarding Russia's attack against Georgia is just another example of Obama's total lack of experieince and leadership ability. Throughout Obama's total primary campaign through the present, A,erica has seen countless examples in debates with Senator Clinton, on the campaign trail, in interviews, and in reactions to national and world events where Obama has shown hesitancy in taking the lead – answering a cruical question before others have weighed in, and waiting for national pundidts and polls have given him a clue as to where he should come done on important issues. This is a tell tale sign of inexperience and a lack of leadership qualities. America cannot afford to seat this individual in the most powerful position on the planet - it would be a sisaster waiting to happen.

    August 12, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  12. Mike, TX

    Can you say slimy? Sums up Penn in one word. Anyone that supports his BS is either racist or stupid – Basically a republican!

    August 12, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  13. p davis

    who cares what he has to say , we are so over the Clintons

    August 12, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  14. Greg, Brattleboro, VT

    There is a disguised strategy from the Clinton camp to destroy our Obama . Two top supporters raising doubts on Obama at this moment is well calculated, but American people are not stupid. It's already engraved: Obama, our next president!

    To Mike, TX,
    You are pathetic!

    August 12, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  15. A Nightingale Sings in Berkley Square

    Mike, TX – Stay out of the sun, it's cooking your brain.

    August 12, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  16. Doris,Memphis, TN

    Hillary and Bill have paid this creep to come out and smear Obama.
    The Clinton's can not accept their loss. I feel they are behind the John
    Edwards leak because he supported Barack. They are evil and

    August 12, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  17. Michelle

    Who gives a rat azz about this over blown bag of winds opinion
    NO One!!!!

    August 12, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  18. Obamacan!

    Hi hater's!

    August 12, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  19. Trish Hussein - PA

    I hate Hillary Clinton more than I have hated anyone during my lifetime. She has done more damage to this country than anyone in the history of politics. She is a dispicable, horrible human being and so are her stupid, anti-american, anti-democratic supporters who continue to stir up trouble and continue to keep the party divided. You should all be ashamed of yourselves and should grow up before we have that horrible, terrifying old man as our president.

    August 12, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  20. Bob Indianapolis, IN

    "Stupid is as stupid does." -Forrest Gump

    August 12, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  21. fella from Chicago

    Whoa!! the hate spewing forth from the Obama supporters. How dare a fellow Democrat say a Republican has the right strategy to use against their candidate. The Manchurian Candidate from the far left (born in Hawaii but claims he's just a commoner like us) has followed MCain in changing his mind on off shore drilling to following the good Senator from Arizona's lead in the Russian/Georgia conflict. Except when it comes to getting the UN involved. Russia sits on the Security Council with veto power. Don't go to the UN. Senator Obama; pay close attention to Senator McCain and learn how a real Commander-in-Chief would handle the bad boys from Russia without having to go to war.

    August 12, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  22. Greg, OR

    He's a coward of the worst kind. He'll never stand on principles, he doesn't have integrity or morals, but he's going to attack someone who does. He was perfect for Hillary, two peas in a pod. The sleazier you are, and the less character you have, the better for the Clintons.

    This man is NOT going to prevent me, or most Americans from taking our country back. Yes, I know with slithering snakes like Penn, country and honor is not on their list. What a wonderful surprise he'll get in November. I would love to see his fat, doughboy face on November 5th, the slime ball.

    Obama 08

    August 12, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  23. Texas Trail Dog!

    Well it definitely showed OBAMA like Britney and Paris as the dumb BUTT he is. and is no way prepared to lead this country through the crisis years we have ahead. His supporters need to face facts he was not the peoples choice and he is not qualified for the job.

    August 12, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  24. somoonesux

    Sir, your hair is falling off

    August 12, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  25. Tommy

    Negative slimeball ads like this one are effective with one segment of the U.S. population...mindless idiots that cannot think for themselves, like the ones that re-elected the worst president in the history of this country...George W(orthless) Bush!

    August 12, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
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