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. Mike Orlando, FL

    Give me a break Obama. This news is old, stop trying to bring up a dead story. Talk about the issues and not who you would have fired. The American people want answers and they want solutions to the problems that this country faces, you're not the one to deliver the solutions....Hillary is!

    April 11, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  2. Antoinette

    You cant compare a pastor to a person who discusses NAFTA and is the highest ranking person on your team.

    Apples to Oranges here people

    Besides, he denounced what the man said and he is no longer on the team

    But Penn is stil there......


    April 11, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  3. Mel

    Is Obama questioning Clinton's judgement for keeping Penn? If so, what about Obama's judgement in dealing with Tony Rezko while Rezko was under Federal investigation, and Obama knew it?

    April 11, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  4. Sick and tired

    Obama always claims he "would have" done differently. He was against the war before he voted continually to fund it. He would have fired Penn like he did his pastor.

    This guy is nothing but Fool's gold.

    April 11, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  5. carmen

    Where is his judgement! Why fire him when you can just laugh it off. hah ah ah

    April 11, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  6. vincent

    Apparently Rev. Wright's ugly rantings were not "directly contrary" to the positions of Senator Obama. Otherwise, by his own logic, Obama would have "fired" Wright from his life during those 20 years.

    April 11, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  7. Angus McDugan

    She would have fired him too if she disagreed with his position. Remember if she is elected then Bill will be running the show.

    April 11, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  8. JBilly from Fl

    I cannot even believe Obama would have the nerve to make that statement, after his high ranking committee member met with
    the Canadians and did not get fired. Obama always talks out
    of both sides of his mouth.

    And mark my words, if Obama is elected the Rev. Wright will be
    right by his side.

    April 11, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  9. Soldiergal

    It's been proven that Obama's campaign had no meeting with the Canadians, and that this story was spun by the same Mark Penn. If you're going to attack anyone, get your facts straight.

    Obama's spiritual advisor may have been Pastor Wright, but who advised HRC to tell the Bosnia story over and over and over? Or fact-checked the hospital story? Isn't there someone advising her how not to mismanage millions of dollars in campaign spending? Her campaign has larger problems than America's elderly white women are willing to admit.

    April 11, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  10. M LAMELLA, Alexandria, VA

    ALL Obama says is "I would have" this and "I would have" that, "I would have voted against the war," How do we know? He wasn't even in the senate at that time to even HAVE a vote! Its easy for him to say what he WOULD HAVE done, because he was never put in the line of fire to actually have to make those hard decisions. He's always talking about what he WOULD HAVE done. Just give it a rest and actually DO something.

    April 11, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  11. david

    Obama is a blatant hypocrite.

    Hillary or McCain (God forbid) will get my vote.


    April 11, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  12. Brad

    Yes, I'm sure $800,000 with the prospect of more had a little bit to do with it... the Clintons are lying sacks of #@$& and they have become everything that they say the oppose. These people are at the heart of America's decline into third world nation status.

    April 11, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  13. carol

    I think Clinton campaign is dragging this on and using so much money without thinking the repucations of fracturing the party eventually. Why don't you drop sen. Clinton. Nobody in America believes in you and I have never seen a president that can not be trusted with what she/he says.

    You spinned all the cards and no card to flip now.

    YOu blamed the media but I remember you saying in a very candid manner how you were on Bosnia fire. That image will never go away when I saw the footage of the tape you walking out of the plane and kissing a girl in Bosnia.

    keep wasting your money but not with my vote.
    I have heard so many PA people say how disgusted they are with you.
    We don't vote for liars!

    April 11, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  14. gary

    Give me a break Obama. You wouldnt even let your Pastor go.Your just a smooth con man.you got a the young people's mind's twisted with your empty speeches.They have no common scence. You bought them just like a product. I seen through you from the begining.Your not even in the leauge of HRC. You have done nothing for this country.HRC has always been there for the people of this country.You have done nothing but brought your changes of division, hate ,and racist issues since you have been in this race.You play the race card everytime HRC fights back. All your O.B. supporters are haters.Thats the change this country is in for if you get a elected.God help us all

    April 11, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  15. Wayne

    It's a shame she could laugh about it. American job losses are real, painful and unbalanced trade agreements are the reason why. I guess Hill can laugh. They made 109 Million dollars. 100 times more than Obama and Michelle made.

    April 11, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  16. jimmy velman


    April 11, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  17. Eli

    Obama is such a JOKE.

    April 11, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  18. Jeff Radun

    Didn't Obama have astaff member meet with the Canadian government and say Mr Obama lied to voters when saying he would renegotiate Nafta but the staffer was demoted not fired.
    Also he had one of his surogates say what he says to voters about Iraq would not be what he would do as president. That person was not fired they resigned.
    Same with Penn he resigned or was demoted how ever you look at it.
    Look who is calling the kettle black

    Also the media and the dems new about Mr Wright long ago and everyone kept quiet and even Obama new all the hate Mr Wright spoke about yet he kept him as his adviser and ONLY AFTER it came out did he distance himself

    April 11, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  19. Wendy

    One of his top advisors WAS involved in a NAFTA issue......and Obama DID NOT fire him!! Once again, he's talking out both sides of his mouth. His advisor told the Canadians that whatever Obama is saying about NAFTA, they are not to take it seriously because it's all political positioning. His advisor was acting on behalf of Obama.

    Mark Penn, however idiotic this man is, was acting on the behalf of his employer.....and his employer is NOT Hillary. Penn also has a regular day job that he's responsible for and he was meeting with the Colombians to work out a NAFTA deal between them and his EMPLOYER. BIG DIFFERENCE!!! Was it completely stupid to try to work out a NAFTA deal with the Colombians, knowing that Clinton is totally against it?? Yes, and his employer could certainly have sent someone else out there to do the job.....but Penn chose to do it himself. And he should be fired from Clinton's campaign!!

    But, of course, the Obama maniacs will spin this to their advantage. What they don't seem to understand is that people with half a brain can see right through them.

    April 11, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  20. Katherine

    Obama should fire his own campaign manager David Axelrod. CNN should ask Obama and David Axelrod about their connections to Antoin Rezko, currently under criminal indictment on trial in Chicago, ask Obama and Axelrod about their connections to Odinga of Kenya, Africa, and of course ask about AUCHI, also currently under criminal indictment. (IS Odinga really Obama's cousin??)

    The Obama-Axelrod-Rezko-Odinga-AUCHI revelations are fatal to Obama's candidacy now and in the future.

    Obama's negatives are rapidly rising with these revelations and not to forget more scandals such as Crown, Exelon, casinos, Emil Jones, "pastors" Wright, Moss & Meeks, etc.

    Obama is unqualified and unelectable.

    No amount of 24/7 media promotion is ever going to change that. Why do you think the corporate owned media promotes him? They know he cannot win.


    April 11, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  21. AJ-Philly

    Hillary has a husband and a top paid staffer lobbying for a trade deal that she opposes. Conflict of interest. Point Blank. You really have to wonder what side she is on here. Obviously she is a liar so I don't take her on her word.

    She keeps bringing up the NAFTA story but it was debunked by the Canadian Gov. and Goolsbee wasn't a paid adviser or a lobbyist.

    She is a liar and this story is "The Reckoning".

    April 11, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  22. Miles

    Go Obama we have your back. Don't get tired, when the darkness comes, dawn is near.....Oregon is waiting it's turn for you !

    April 11, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  23. linus

    The controversy around Clinton concerns something that one of her advisors DID, whereas the controversy around Obama concerned something that a Canadian official SAID one of Obama’s advisors SAID. There is a big difference.

    More importantly, the section of the Canadian memo that specifically discusses NAFTA clearly stated that Obama intends to make changes to reduce the loss of US jobs and to strengthen environmental regulations. This is entirely consistent with everything he has said on the campaign trail, so the memo itself is internally inconsistent and not worth the paper it was written on.

    April 11, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  24. Rosa

    oooooo............BIG MAN TALKING! Easy to fire others but why not fire your pastor, why not fire the Canada employee of yours doing business "winking" on your part? Why man? You talk a lot of bull. Go back to doing business with Rezko and stop milking your donors for more money to go on vacation to the Virgin Islands brother!

    April 11, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  25. carrie

    sen obam is a man or courage and discipline,nd i know he would have fired penn
    but the clintonns are corrupt liars,with no sense of dignity,shame or pride.i mean bill turned the white house into a brothel.
    take ur pick

    April 11, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
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