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. Latrece

    We as Democrats should stnad by our principles and be united as people atha wants better in this country. Please try not to bash anyone

    April 11, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  2. Paulinus, Canada

    David, you are missing the point. Do you know that Rev Wright was Bill's advisor after his affair with Monica?

    The fact that Penn was not fired, makes one believe that Hillary was behind the deal. Penn was negotiating and that is different to the Canada NAFTA incident, which Clinton was also accused of.

    April 11, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  3. Marge Hibbing Mn

    How come he kept those two insurance lobbyist til someone found out he had hired them to do his Health Plan...gee oh yeah he would have fired somebody...ONLY IF HE GOT CAUGHT AT IT.

    April 11, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  4. Hillary 08!

    BO, you are a prima donna, and a hypocrite and everyday I see your self inflated ego shrinking! What about your involvement with Wright? You brought him on board and continued to allow him to serve on your African American Religious Leadership Committee knowing what he was all about. Use something else to inflate your ego. You are so superficial! I'm looking forward to future news about your relationship with Rezko.

    April 11, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |


    April 11, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  6. Tim from Buffalo

    I think Obama's Mark Penn comments are about equal to the "He wouldn't have been my pastor" comments Hillary made. In the end it won't change anyone's mind.

    I do think a paster (and campaign spiritual advisor) having controversial opinions is far less severe (find me a pastor that doesn't offend anyone) than a top campaign strategist not giving up his job at a lobbying firm that's pursuing interests in direct opposition to Clinton's campaign. Should Penn have been fired? In a well ran campaign Penn wouldn't have been hired.

    I believe, this issue, like all of Hillary's problems in this campagin, are directly related to how poorly her campaign has performed and been managed.

    April 11, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  7. Brahms Alexis

    I don't understand why the people can't see clearly who to vote for already. From the start of this race I have been saying the same thing we need a new face, a new leader in washington. We need a leader with no special intrest and this leader is clearly Obama. What else we going to find out about Hillary before november that might cost the democrats the white house. She has been branded by washington, do we really want to take the chance and let her be the nominee and loose in November against McCain, who's going to be nothing more than a third Bush term....... Can we risk four more years?..... That's some hundreds of billion dollar question.

    April 11, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  8. Brain

    Boy, for the ones that think Obama isn't going anywhere, I just seen him give a speech and the place was loaded, big time ! Looks like the minister movie didn't effect him. Hillary was marching in the St, Patrick's Day parade looking like she was just elected President. She even wore a black coat to look Presidential, closets she will ever get to it. Our news channels are in bed with the Clintons with gender card being put at the center.
    This lady is a disgrace!

    Go Obama.......

    April 11, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  9. Lily

    Let's see, just like his own campaign staff talks to other countries and tells them that he is only talking rhetoric, that he doesn't mean what he says. He had on talking to the Canadians and is foreign policy advisor talking to the Britons. Give me a break, this guy is nothing but hot air and I wish someone would burst the bubble.

    April 11, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  10. Boomer

    Somebody suggested Obama should have gotten rid of his pastor! How does one do that??? What a specious argument. Obama's pastor is not employed by his campaign. Come on, KC, put your thinking cap on. Hillary is in a really stew of her own making and I think she's just about cooked!

    April 11, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  11. Bob Stephens


    You would have fired Penn, because you have integrity, something that is totally lacking in any of the Clinton family.

    April 11, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  12. California Voter

    Did Obama "fire" his spirtual advisor? Folks don't for one minute think that there is not all kinds of monkey business going on in the Obama campaign - when the media is hyping you, you get away with much more. What about the news that the Obama campaign was blocking 100's of people in CA seeking to run as delegates. Out o 1,400 delegates the campaign wanted to eliminate 800. There's lots of stuff going in that is not so "clean" on the Obama side. Check out how he won his previous elections for yourself. Don't let the pretty face fool you. No wonder Michelle referred to Barack as "her accessory". Now talk about Hillary Clinton wearing the pants, guess who's wearing them in the Obama family.

    April 11, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  13. Barry IL

    Ok, let Senator fire Penn. She should. How can he trust as an adviser a person who went behind her back to cut the deal she opposes? But what can she do with President Clinton who collected $800,000 from Colombia company-linked to the free trade deal?

    April 11, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  14. fred

    He has none David. There is NOTHING crediable about Obama!!!

    April 11, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  15. d

    Words actually mean NOTHING. He said, she said!!!! Words are NOT actions. Why didn't Obama do the same with his Church or his Pastor, or his communist and marxist allies???? I strongly believe both these candidates are absolute liers to the nth degree. They pander the we the people, and think we will believe them. ACTIONS speak way LOUDER than WORDS. I certainly hope America WAKES UP. We have three major candidates that will not take our country back, will not hear the average American Citizen. ALL of our Politicians need to be looked at with a microscope!!!!!

    April 11, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  16. DB, San Francisco

    I am so tired of Clinton's double-standard. She hammered Obama about the Canada meeting then her top strategist meets on trade with Colombia and she laughs off a money connection. Every day I am more convinced that Clinton is pure rhetoric and politics-as-usual. If you like the deceit and lies that have plagued the White House, by all means, vote for Hillary. I can't.

    April 11, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  17. A. Harrison

    And Rev Wright would have not Been OUR PASTOR!

    April 11, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  18. Xavier, Washington, DC

    Hilldog loyalists, please stop the smokescreen by confusing apples and oranges. This situation is nothing like Obama's past issues. Rev. Wright and the policy advisor weren't running Obama's campaign. Further, Obama did fire the advisor, and Rev. Wright is no longer his pastor nor does he have any affiliation with Obama's campaign. Face it, Hilly messed up this time.

    April 11, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  19. wayne

    clinton has damaged Obama, the Democratic Party and herself to the point where she has handed MCCain the POTUS job.

    Nice work hillary. Can't wait until you run again 4 years from now.

    April 11, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  20. Gail

    Keep the faith, God will provide

    Obama 08 – Dems Unite to beat McCain

    April 11, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  21. Matthew Taylor

    Well, I guess many of Clinton support who make a contrast between a spiritual decision and campaign decision definitely like Hillary needs Jesus. The two cannot be compared. Bill and Penn shared the same view, and there both her Husband and Advisor should have been fired.

    April 11, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  22. Latina Here

    I as a voter I also want to know about Obama's tax records, CNN is not looking at his throught a fine comb like they did Hillary.

    CNN I know you will not post this but I at least want you to read it and explain why are you so bias.

    April 11, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  23. dave, michigan

    All this is showing is the Obama "PRESENT" BS.
    Is the facard begining to crack?
    Obama is simply a master of media misdirection, remember that AC 360 plug.

    April 11, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  24. anonymous

    Can't argue with that.

    Hillary should probably fire Bill as well 🙂

    April 11, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  25. Rose - Baltimore, MD

    For all you guys saying that Obama should have fired his pastor or got out on his church. Is Wright on Obama's campaing payrole. The guy is a retired minister. We are talking about Penn who is said to be fired yet still actively involved in clintons campaign. Clinton things people are fools, the only people you are fooling are your supporters.

    April 11, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
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