April 11th, 2008
12:55 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama: I would have fired Mark Penn

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/11/art.obamapresser.ap.jpg caption="Obama said Friday he would have fired Mark Penn outright."]
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (CNN) - Barack Obama told reporters Friday that had top Clinton strategist Mark Penn been on his staff, he would have removed him for having met with the Colombian government to discuss passing a proposed free trade agreement with the nation.

"Let me put it this way," the Illinois senator said. "I'm not surprised that Sen. Clinton found herself in an uncomfortable position as a consequence, and I know that if staff of mine were putting me in that kind of position I would get rid of them."

On the campaign trail Clinton has emphasized her opposition to any trade deal with Colombia.

Obama also added, "I think it was surprising to me that a high ranking, if not the highest ranking, member of Sen. Clinton's team would be engaged in business activities and lobbying that was directly contrary to a position that Sen. Clinton had taken."

Penn resigned from his role as chief strategist, but he has continued to play a role in the campaign.

Responding to the comments Clinton campaign spokesman Jay Carson criticized Obama for not taking similar action against an economic adviser who reportedly told Canadian officials that the Illinois senator's opposition to NAFTA was not as ardent as he was letting on.

"When Sen. Obama's top economic advisor told the Canadian government not to take his anti-NAFTA rhetoric seriously, he first denied that the meeting ever occurred, and when that proved false he took absolutely no action. It's good to know he has a higher standard for our campaign than his own," Carson said.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (244 Responses)
  1. Ken, LA California

    You cannot compare this to the Canada situation, you have the guy who actually lobbys for the trade deal and George Bush unleashes the trade deal the week after, the reporters should be all over this.

    April 11, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  2. PA Voter

    He is SO RIGHT.

    Senator Obama has proven he is an effective manager throughout this campaign.

    April 11, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  3. Alex

    The difference is that even the Canadian goverment official has indicated that no conversation with any inference of support to NAFTA ever took place. Mark Penn has freely admitted to the meetings. Hillary needs to understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Like her chances of getting the nomination are a fantasy, and Obamas chances are a reality.

    April 11, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  4. AnyoneButHillary

    No comparison Dear-O'le-Hill. Mark Penn should have been fired. I find it curious that he hasn't been. Could it be that Hillary supports his effort with Columbia? I think so.

    April 11, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  5. kathleen retired Professional w/woman for obama

    Hillary got three (3) Superdelegates yesterday. They are coming
    in droves and clusters. I would imagine she begged all night long
    for them to come out at one time. Or, she may have even threatened.
    Can we know who they are. Really, who would do that for a liar??
    And three at one time sounds fishy to me.

    Obama must win or No One. 2008

    P.S. Obama, you must say that it will not be easy to walk away from
    that war. We support you and want you to do good, but our expectations might be a little high. The Republicans are leaving
    you a messopatania!!!!!! I hope Colin Powell will be V.P.

    April 11, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. KC

    Give me a break. You would have gotten rid of Penn? Just as you got rid of your hatred-spewing pastor? You have known for years that he holds radical hate filled, country-splitting views, and yet you didn't "fire" him.
    Don't be so quick to throw the first stone, buddy. Your record isn't perfect, either!

    April 11, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  7. Dennis

    I agree completely with Obama here. We're supposed to believe that an economic advisor to Obama was speaking on his behalf when talking out of turn to Canadian dignitaries. However, we are supposed to brush off Clinton's chief strategist promoting this trade deal? I don't think so.

    April 11, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  8. Brown

    I believe Clinton is going to have a very hard time defending herself before the PA primaries and lose as a result. Hillary is a pathological liar and can't herslf.

    April 11, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  9. Barb Canada

    Hmmmm hate to use the pot and kettle here but..........

    April 11, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  10. Edgar - Orlando, Florida

    Hillary supporter: I have to agree with Obama on this one.

    April 11, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  11. Sharon

    Then I guess you should have fired the "monster" lady AND YOUR MENTOR MINISTER.......BO you are a joke.......

    April 11, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  12. mike


    April 11, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  13. disgusted

    I would have left the church, you hypocrite

    April 11, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  14. Mike in Houston

    Would have....could have...might have...may have...etc.

    There is nothing in Obama worth voting for.

    However, Clinton is so conflicted and already bought and paid for by special interest groups. She is completely lacking in character.

    This is the democrats Christmas present from Howard Dean.

    McCain '08!

    April 11, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  15. Cowboy Jack

    wow, Obama is getting nervous about PA and hitting hard....

    the polls may be closing, but these polls don't take into account the large number of blue collar males (Archie Bunker Democrats who don't want to vote for Obama

    April 11, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  16. Dennis

    Another thing: Clinton keeps saying nothing was done against the economic advisor on Obama's staff, yet they took action against Penn. However, Penn is still working on her campaign. So really, it is a matter of semantics.

    April 11, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  17. John

    Sen. Obama,fire Rev. Wright first,and finally Rezko.These I would I could are wishful thinking! Why do you have to base your policies on Hillary's first? Be original for a change,rather than xeroxing all the time.

    April 11, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  18. Carol

    Yea, and she would have left Rev. Wright in the dust if she were you.......Yadeyadeya.....words, words, and more words. You are as negative as any other campaign has ever been. Nothing new. Just a little better marketing.

    April 11, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  19. Fabienne

    If Mr Penn Was on Obama's Staff, Loo Dobbs would have said: "Help me undersatand this folks, the guy says one thing and his campagn strategis go lobby on his back? It's outrageous!" But as it happened to Clinton, Loo Doobs did not have the courage the debate about it!

    Obama is right! Clinton should have got rid of this Penn. But it's too late now for her anyway!

    April 11, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  20. kathleen retired Professional w/woman for obama

    Obamaman, she cannot fire Mark Penn!!! He would write a tell all book
    About Hillary.

    April 11, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  21. Tim, Atlanta GA

    Not to mention that in the end of that whole Canadian NAFTA episode, it turned out to be a Clinton official that was downplaying campaign retoric, not an Obama official as the press led us all to believe!

    April 11, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  22. Hayden

    Obama is such a hypocrite!

    Go Hillary 08

    April 11, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  23. Uncle Sam

    This statement by Sen. Obama sounds eerily similar to one he made last month that he would have resigned from his church had his pastor not retired.

    April 11, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  24. Vanessa


    Mark Penn should have been fired

    Its even worst that Penn got the Columbian lobbying gig form Bill Clinton

    and Hillary Clinton didn't know???


    Thank you Obama

    April 11, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  25. Jenny, TX

    I have never trusted this guy and I never will.

    April 11, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
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