April 4th, 2008
03:00 PM ET
12 years ago

Penn calls trade meeting 'error in judgment'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/04/art.penn.gi.jpg caption="Mark Penn is a chief strategist for the Clinton campaign."](CNN) - Clinton campaign strategist Mark Penn said Friday it was an "error in judgment" for him to meet with the Colombian ambassador to advocate for a free-trade agreement Hillary Clinton has said she opposes.

"The meeting was an error in judgment that will not be repeated and I am sorry for it," Penn said in an issued statement. "The senator's well known opposition to this trade deal is clear and was not discussed."

The meeting, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, occurred Monday. Penn appears to have been acting in his role as chief executive of the international communications and lobbying firm, Burson-Marsteller Worldwide. The Colombian Embassy hired the firm to help achieve congressional approval of a bill allowing free trade with the country - a proposal Clinton has sharply criticized.

Earlier Friday, Clinton spokesperson Mo Elleithee said the New York senator "remains steadfast against the Colombian Trade Bill," and maintained Penn's meeting was "not in any way done on behalf of the campaign."

Clinton has sharply criticized America's free trade agreements as she campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination, and was particularly critical of rival Barack Obama in February when it was reported that one of his chief foreign policy advisors had suggested to a Canadian official that the Illinois senator was not as anti-free trade as he was claiming to be on the trail.

"I don't think people should come to Ohio and tell the people of Ohio one thing and then have your campaign tell a foreign government something else behind closed doors," Clinton said then. "That's the kind of difference between talk and action and that I've been pointing out in this campaign."

"I would ask you to look at that story, substitute my name for Senator Obama," she also said. "If some of my advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments and basically saying ignore what I'm saying because it's only political rhetoric ... I think it raises serious questions."

Earlier: Campaign: Penn wasn't representing Clinton in trade meeting

Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Mark Penn
soundoff (304 Responses)
  1. Sue

    Mark Penn is the Clinton campaign's CHIEF STRATEGIST! Given Hillary's propensity for lying and obfuscation, how can we ever be sure that this wasn't a "wink, wink, nod, nod" moment?
    To all superdelegates: Hillary cannot be trusted and is unelectable!
    To all voters in the upcoming primaries: These are your jobs that Hillary's chief strategist is playing with. Don't be misled like the voters in Ohio were over NAFTA.

    April 4, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  2. Marc in Toronto

    Error in judgment? Remember just days before Ohio how Hillary made a big to do over Barack Obama's aid's meeting with a Canadian government official!! As it turned out it was Hillary Clinton's aid that spoke to a Canadian government official giving the old wink wink.

    How many faces-personalities does Hillary have? Now she's trying humor and a speech about MLK that was far from sincere. I bet that book she threw in her dorm was aimed at Bill.

    April 4, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  3. Really?

    Apparently, when the phone rings at the White House at 3:00AM, one of the lobbyists Hillary is in bed with will pick it up.

    Nice job cratering your own campaign, Hillary. How could your judgement be so bad?!?! I'm not a politician, and even I know better than to hire a guy that claims to work for me, while also being a pro NAFTA lobbyist, while also advising McCain.

    Wow! There has just GOT to be more to this story! If this is all true, this is the peak of stupidity all around!

    April 4, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  4. Jeff

    Now I just substituted Sen. Obama name by Sen. Clinton as she suggested! HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SPIN THIS????

    April 4, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  5. Melanie, TX

    Wow! This is the best thing that could happen for this nomination process. It makes Obama look even better, now that we know the Canadian wink was from Hillary. I have been fearfully checking the headlines for the next attack on Obama as Hillary flounders recklessly. CNN – why don't you correct the NAFTA story from Canada???

    April 4, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  6. Lanny Davis

    she did meet with the canadians, so theres no need to hypothetically swap out names to find out that in fact the clintons should be on vlad sticks

    April 4, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  7. Go McCain

    Hey RW: Yes, everybody has probably lied at some point in their life. However, Hillary is applying for a job so, in essence, she is lying on her resume. How about a doctor that "lies" about his credentials–do you say "ok–he's only human" when he screws up and kills a patient?? Hillary is a liar–plain and simple.

    April 4, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  8. Go Obama!

    Look America, see what's going on...........

    Remember the OHIO story? She had her campaign stuff contact Canadian govt. (All of Canadian media reported it) and then had Bill go to Canada and ensure that Obama's name get's substituted in the story (which it did) right before the Ohio primary.

    She was up to the same strategy again, I bet. Her plan was to have Penn talk to Colombian govt. and then somehow substitute Obama stuffs' name in place of Penn...

    The only difference is that she got caught this time. I guess, as you saw, so you reap!

    April 4, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  9. John - Maryland

    Shheeeesh!! Ohio – You were duped "period". Most of you probably voted on racial / gender lines but you were duped. This would have been over if you all voted differently... PA. Please do not make the same mistake. NO ONE TRUSTS THE CLINTON CAMPAIGN.

    it will be OBAMANATION.

    April 4, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  10. jr

    If Obama's campaign doesn't jump all over this (because getting rid of the strangle hold lobbyists have on our governments decision making processes is one of his spoken goals) then shame on them.

    It's appears to be another 3 am wake up call for Hillary. Unless she gets rid of this guy, I'd have to give her an "F" in decision making on this one.

    Right now she's starting to remind me of Humpty Dumpty.

    April 4, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  11. hab

    This is outrageous. The Clinton campaign manipulated the trade issue in Ohio and now they are caught cheating. Wakeup America.

    April 4, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  12. Michael C Wolski

    Nothing in Pennsylvania will change.It's been a FIXED election from the start , and Hillary ,with Florida and Michigan,will be the nominee. Look how our last president did. He was/is the dimmest light in office I've ever seen, yet he got TWO terms as president.So hillary getting "elected" is really not so farfetched.The funny part is ,the more she lies, the more support she'll get. America is the" Joke" in the eyes of other countries.Our criteria in voting for presidential cxandidates is comical.

    April 4, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  13. Hanging Chad


    Once again, Sen. Clinton shows that she can't handle
    her own people.


    April 4, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  14. Jacques

    See what happens when you let lobbyists have too much control. Mark Penn is killing her campaign.

    Obama 08

    April 4, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  15. Shannon from Washington

    She just keeps digging herself in deeper and deeper. . . . It is ironic that she does not see it.

    April 4, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  16. Terry Frakes

    i will not vote for Obama or Hillary. Obama is a hypocrite and i despise him now. I used to support him, dont trust him so i have decided to vote for McCain . and thats not much better, but i do trust McCain.

    April 4, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  17. OlderBudWeiser

    With the phone ringing at 03:00 every day she will be sleep deprived and misstate, mishear, misspeak, misjudge, ad infinitum. I worked graveyard for 20 years and didn't screw up decisions and actions.
    Solution: go home and take Bill with you, Obama probably won't call you for advice!

    April 4, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  18. "Typical White Woman" in NC

    Obama to Clinton:


    Heeeee Heeeeee

    April 4, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  19. jim

    Billary's done like dinner!!! In Canada, we have our own group of political buffoons, but I'd have to say not one stoops to the nadir of Team Clinton. Billy-Bob, the serial philanderer, committed perjury, was impeached, and now gets paid hundreds of thousands to give speeches. Only in America. He's an absolute master at faking sincerity-the bitten lower lip, the quiet southern drawl, the "I feel your pain" schtick has seved him well. The problem with Billary is she can't pull this faked sincerity act as skillfully as Hubbie. She's a transparent phoney who simply lacks the ability to lie as well as Billy. They deserve each other --both pathological liars who will resort to any form of deceit, disingenuousness, mendacity or criminality to get power. Do you really believe Billary stays with this guy because she loves him??? Go figure.

    April 4, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  20. we wanh hillary, not mccain...screw him.

    Hillary and Nader in 2008

    April 4, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  21. C. Hankins

    Please post the comment I sent in about Sen. Clinton getting fired for being unethical and lying. I think it shows a pattern of her behavior throughout the years. Your readers can find this at Watergate Era Judiciary North Star Writing Group Clinton fired.

    April 4, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  22. "Typical White Woman" in NC

    "Error in Judgement" Anyone see a pattern here?

    April 4, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  23. Mike

    America, wake up Hillary is not the one....make all the excuses to justify her actions and her judgements, her misspokes, her not understanding the question, need I go on....this woman is capable of doing anthing under handed..she is self obsorbed... now the next question is, just how dumb are the American people.. Stand there and let her tell you story about the woman who lost her house, liten to her comparing her self to Rocky..and again listen to the 3 am story, of a different version... She'll tell you everything but the TRUTH

    April 4, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  24. Nicolas from Canada

    Wait.... this story is not on the front page? What's that all about

    If Obama got negative press coverage for the Canada meeting , I hope she gets the same

    April 4, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  25. Lynn in Iowa

    So Hillary Clintons chief strategist is also a lobbyist? Go figure, huh?

    April 4, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
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