Hillary Clinton was going to be president. She knew it. So did her chief strategist, Mark Penn, the man who had once delivered victory for her husband Bill. Barack Obama was “unelectable”, Penn declared early in her campaign, “except perhaps against Attila the Hun”. How wrong can you be?
Not much more wrong. The Democrats have screwed themselves way too often on the “electibility” argument for way too long. Kerry and his “electibility” is what gave us another four years of Bush.
This is a man whose friend once described him as having “the IQ of Bill Gates and the emotional intelligence of an eggplant”. Now Penn says, in his surprisingly high-pitched voice: “Hillary ran on a theme of ready for change, ready to lead. Change was always a central and important part of her message.” That’s strange. I could have sworn it was more like, “Don’t trust the new guy, vote for someone with experience”. But anyway. “Look, at the end of the day, they both got about 18 million votes. It was the hardest-fought primary in the history of America. And it turned out that some small groups switched and became critical players.” Which is a pitch for his theory, obviously. “At the end of the day, they are separated by only 85 delegates out of close to 4,000.”
None of which answers the question. Let’s try again, being more specific about one of his biggest mistakes. People wanted a break with the past, Hillary could not provide that, and emphasising her experience only made it all the more obvious, surely? “The only thing I can tell you is that they [the Obama people] ran an excellent campaign,” he says. “We regarded him as a strong challenger throughout the entire period. There was no question that he had the personal abilities, the resources, all of the things necessary to win.”
Really? So why did Penn say in a memo of March 2007 that Obama was unelectable? “Huh. No. It doesn’t say that at all.” Yes it does, if the facsimile published by Atlantic Monthly magazine is correct. The great communicator appears thrown. “Those memos, right, that came out, were really … er, were really, I think, show you, you know, just a piece, because … a small part, a piece of how we were looking to, I think, set up or solve the fact that he was a very strong candidate.”
Just go check out the article and enjoy.
Penn had a chance to put Hillary Clinton in the White House, and he blew it. But of course, her defeat is not Penn’s fault. And he never said Obama was unelectible. And Hillary ran on change. And Penn never said that Obama was “fundamentally American in his thinking and values.”
I might not have a problem with Democrats and the Obama campaign helping to eliminate Clinton’s campaign debt if $5 million of it wasn’t slated to go to Penn.
He really is an ass.