Monday, April 07, 2008

Reports of Penn's Departure, Exaggerated, Premature

Sam Stein on Huffington Post reports on a conference call that Mark Penn hed with the managing directors of Burson Marsteller (where he is CEO). They can't have been any happier about the events of the past week than were the Clintons (where he is no longer Chief Strategist, but still plenty plugged in.

Burson Marsteller has even more reason to be upset than the Clinton campaign: Penn's handling of the matter lost them the Colombia contract.

Stein confirms that Penn's resignation is (per Penn, anyway) a non-resignation.
"I think you've heard that I made the decision to step down as chief strategist of the Clinton campaign. Penn Schoen and Berland is going to continue to poll for it and I'll continue to play a role advising Senator Clinton and former President Clinton as well as the rest of the leadership of the campaign."
The Clinton campaign, apparently, is eager to absorb even more of his disastrous advice.

(Tags: Clinton, Hillary, Hillary Clinton, Mark Penn, Mark J Penn, Lobbyist, Burson-Marsteller, campaign)

Mickeleh's Take: Here are three things any chief executive (POTUS included) needs to master:
  1. Finding smart advisors,
  2. Empowering them to develop smart strategic options,
  3. Having the perspective and judgment to select the best of those options for implementation.
Seems to me that Hillary, working with Penn, is 0 for 3.

Mark Penn's Triangulated "Resignation"

Mark Penn, caught-out selling his knowledge and access to both sides of the free trade war, has resigned from the Clinton campaign. Or has he? He's dropped one title ("Chief Strategist"), but apparently he personally and one of his firms stay on the payroll and will continue to advise the campaign. Here's the official announcement from Maggie Williams, Clinton's campaign manager.
"After the events of the last few days, Mark Penn has asked to give up his role as Chief Strategist of the Clinton Campaign; Mark, and Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, Inc. will continue to provide polling and advice to the campaign."
Two questions: What were the unmentioned "events of the last few days," that led Mark Penn to ask to to give up his role? Is he gone or not? [Update: The answer is "not gone." Penn participated in this morning's conference call.]
  • Monday, Penn (wearing his hat as CEO of lobbying and PR giant Burson-Marsteller) met with officials from Colombia to advise them on strategies for getting Congressional approval of the Colombian Free Trade agreement. (Sen. Clinton has been wooing labor with her vigorous opposition to free trade—and has specifically denounced Colombia for anti-union violence.
  • Thursday, the press and blogosphere started playing back an unfairly edited Clinton remark from early March regarding leaks that an Obama staffer had back-channel conversations with Canada. The snipped version: "“Just ask yourself [what you would do] if some of my advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments," What Clinton actually said: "Just ask yourself, if some of my advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments basically saying 'ignore what I’m saying because its only political rhetoric,' I think it raises serious questions.” Well, close enough for politics.
  • Friday, Penn apologized for the meeting: "“The meeting was an error in judgment that will not be repeated and I am sorry for it. The senator’s well-known opposition to this trade deal is clear and was not discussed.”
  • Saturday, Colombia, taking umbrage a the apoloty fired Burson-Marsteller: "The Colombian government considers this a lack of respect to Colombians, and finds this response unacceptable.” (The $300,000 contract had been in place for more than a year, and as Joe Trippi noted, the only question is why hasn't this been an issue earlier?)
But there's one other event that surely preceded Mark Penn's asking to step down: A confrontation with Bill and/or Hillary. According to Ann Kornblut and Dan Balz this much has been leaked: "Clinton and her husband, Bill Clinton, were furious with Penn for going to the meeting, campaign officials said." Delicious details, surely to follow.

Steeped in triangulation (the art of finding middle-muddles between two controversial positions), Penn and the Clinton campaign offer us a non-resignation resignation. What exactly happened here? By giving up one title, but retaining a lucrative contract Mark Penn finds himself unable or unwilling to ask the Clash's musical question: "Should I Stay or Should I Go"

Mickeleh's Take: Given the long string of self-wounding strategic blunders that the Clinton campaign has made, and given the ludicrous and transparent goal-post moving spin that Penn has concocted almost daily in his press calls, it's amazing that he's held the Clinton's trust until "the events of the last few days." More amazing that he may still have it.

(Tags: Clinton, Hillary, Hillary Clinton, Mark Penn, Mark J Penn, Lobbyist, Burson-Marsteller, campaign)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Prime Time for Hillary

Sen. Hillary Clinton has just released a second 3:00 AM TV spot. This one is aimed at Sen. John McCain, and focuses on the economy.
"It's 3 am, and your children are safe and asleep.
But there's a phone ringing in the White House and this time the crisis is economic."
Despite the absurdity of anyone making a 3:00 AM phone call on the mortgage crisis, Clinton's team are determined to brand her as President 3:00 AM." Maybe she should change her slogan to "ready on night one."

When did keeping vampire hours become part of the presidency? Makes you wonder what she plans to do with her days. Maybe she'll give Bill the day shift and keep the graveyard shift to herself.

Mickeleh's Take: The Democratic National Convention should offer Hillary Clinton a 3:00 AM speaking slot. In her world, that's prime time.

(Tags: 3:00 AM, Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Campaign)