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. Appiah-Marfo

    What a hypocracy!! Hypocracy at its highest order. Sen Clinton should have done better given the way she treated Sen Obama's campaign strategist on the eve of the Ohio primary about the Canadian-Nafta episode. She can't cosmetically fired Penn. I mean Penn must be completely "fired" to demostrate that she mean what she says. Any thing short is unacceptable, period. As the saying goes "If you can't remove the log in your eyes, don't attempt to remove the beam in anothers".

    April 11, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  2. vince

    we have had 8 years of nothing being done other then spending our money on a war that will never end with this big jerk in office now .hey i got an idea lets elect another dumbie(obama) for 4 more years so nothing gets done at all. come on people wake up hes nothing other than a big talker .to bad you flushed joe biden down the toilet he was the only one that knew what is going on

    April 11, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  3. Elias

    I remember Penn say Obama is unelectable. Let's see his candidate if it is electable. This is what goes around comes around!

    Obama for America forever!

    April 11, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  4. Ben

    Hmmmmmmmm like he fired Wright, sure Obama is a bunch of hot air.

    April 11, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  5. Florida For OBAMA

    I must say, Obama has proven that he would have fired Penn. He does not accept those kinds of behaviors and that's why he has been running an EXCELLENT campaign.

    Yes we can!
    Obama '08

    April 11, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  6. African Prince

    What's up with Hillarry ... She is totally scaring us Africans ..Why does she wants to be President at all cost ..Was it destined for her to be President ... Come on America ..Please wake up !

    April 11, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  7. gary

    You O.B. supporters and Clinton haters are nothing but spoiled little children. You havn't got your own minds.You have to follow the Leader because your bias against a woman Leader.Most of you probably live with your parents so you dont need Health Ins.Most of you probably dont work ,so you dont need to worry about the economy.Your the worst haters on earth.Something to be real proud of.The woman haters are jealous of HRC. They should show her support ,but thats the youth in this country.If our future has to look forward to the youth in this country, we are in for a big fall.They vote for a canidate they dont even know, only what he tells them. Thats the brains the young people have.They dont care about our country just glamour ,rock video's and head full of empty hope. You are the the change (HATE).

    April 11, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  8. mdg

    This is why there shall not be a dream ticket.

    It would be a nightmare for the Obama administration to have loose cannon Bill out there making shady promises and pretending he's merely getting paid for speeches.

    Wake up, Dems – we can't afford another 3rd term for The Clintons, nor for John W(ar) McBush!

    April 11, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  9. garry

    Leave it for us Obama. American people are educated people and they are not ready to put up with liars like Hillary and Co.

    Cruise on and never get tired, we have your back all the way.

    May God bless you!

    April 11, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  10. David

    He should have been fired...... and Obama and his church should have fired Wright. Hypocrite!

    April 11, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  11. BCNU

    She won't fire Penn, period. Imagine all of the inside dirt he knows after 20 or so years with the Clintons. Taking him off of that "campaign supporter" funded gravy train (what has he made in the last year from her, something like 7.8 million) would open a Pandora's box of revelation.

    I personally would like to see it to confirm the suspicions I've held for years, but it'll never happen.

    April 11, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  12. Phil from Guadalupe, Ca.

    I do not believe Obama has any moral high ground to speak on this issue. Especially in light of the Pastor Wright and Meeks controversy.
    Needless to say that he never gave up his ties to Ayers a known terrorist. Is that what we are in for in an obama-nation?

    April 11, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  13. gene

    Yes, there were differences, the Obama offical went to meet with the Canadians to "wink wink', don't worry about what Obama was saying about trade, the canadians had nothing to fear. Mark Penn went as an offical of his company (which was stupid) and has since been relieved of his duties Here we have Obama saying he would have fired Penn, when he would not even tell his pastor that his hate white and hate America remarks were out of line, even up to the "God d....America" remarks Did not even have the judgement to remove his children from all this hate rhetoric. New polls show that Obama has lost about 14 point to McCain in the last few weeks. He has gone from ten up to four down. Hillary still still leads Mccain in the poll. Obama can not win the general election. He will lose all of the south, all of the border states, all the normal red states and Michigan because his lawyers held up the Democratic revote, plus he will lose one or both Ohio and Pennsylvania. He might even lose California. They have a repulican gov. and McCain has some support in the hispanic community.

    April 11, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  14. Alex H

    Eh, an appropriate response given Hillary's "Wright would not have been my pastor".

    April 11, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  15. Joe

    I love it. This issue is about staff people and free trade. Of course, the defenseless Clinton supporter only want to talk about Rev. Wright. He was the pastor of church where Obama was a member - not a consultant on Obama's campaign. IT IS NOT THE SAME. You people look small with those arguments, but I say keep it up. The polls show that the more the Clinton campaign endures in that game of gutter politics, the better it helps Obama. When will you learn? When Obama takes a lead in the PA polls? He already has a 10+ point lead in the national polls.

    April 11, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  16. TSD from Houston, TX

    Ok, the Rev. Wright thing, is null and void. He didn't leave the church. So? Did Catholics leave the church when the priest abuse scandal hit the papers? I seriously doubt it. Obama is taking a stand and I respect him for that. I also respect him for staying loyal to his church and his religion, like any other self respecting Christian should.

    April 11, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  17. Hillary to the White House

    Who cares what this man would of done. The Obama-mania must stop.

    Michelle Obama said she cant make ends meet on her $370,000 a year salary from the Univ of Chicago.

    April 11, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  18. Obama 08

    John the Clintons have taken money from Rezko as well so get your facts together and Barack doesnt have to fire his Pastor. Why don't you fire yours. A Pastor does not make policies, decide cabinet mbrs, they do NOTHING but Preach on Sun. So LET IT GO!!! The church has more than 8K mbrs some of them who are white. The clips you saw were not in context and some of what you heard Wright was quoting from a white man by the name of Peck. Ron Paul said our policies called 911 nobody was calling for his head. Pipe DOWN.

    April 11, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  19. Asians for Hillary

    Obama is the biggest hypocrite in history. You should have left Rev. Wright and his church. You should have fired your campaign high rank official who spoke to Canada government about NAFTA. You make me sick!

    April 11, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  20. Lee WV

    I agree,I see this as much more serious than childish name-calling and even who your pastor was.I guess Hillary wants these kind of ties to fall back on.

    April 11, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  21. joe

    Clinton and her campaign have divorced the reality and I don't think American people are ready to put up with them anymore. They said we hold them accountable. I was looking for a reason to vote for her but I think it is over for her with me. Simple!

    April 11, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  22. Robert in Toronto,ON

    I think Obama was indirectly jabbing at Clinton also about her exact same remarks when she brought up the Rev.Wright pastor answer last month.

    Don't get it twisted though, he is right and she should (A) know what her top strategist is doing that would create a conflict with her own message or (B) fire him instead of demoting him.

    So answer that Clinton supporters! How come you guys don't respond to that but say blanketed statements like "Go Hillary '08!!!". You answer questions the same as your candidate does! By glossing over it!

    April 11, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  23. jm

    Here is another example of Obama saying one thing and doind another.

    I guess we can put this in the category that he would have left the church if the Reverand was still the Pastor.

    Another statement he does not have to act on.

    All words not action.

    April 11, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  24. Joyce in Florida

    Senator Obama is such a hypocrite. He must really be getting desperate to find anything he can throw "his kitchen sink" at. He will not win Pennsylvania and he knows it. He absolutely has no credibility. Like others have said, he is a copy machine. Senator Clinton, please stay and fight to win the nomination. I am with you 100%. GO HILLARY 08!!!!!!!!!!

    April 11, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  25. Elisabeth

    I have never trusted Obama and I never will.

    April 11, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
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