Mark Penn Justifies His Actions

>> Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Clinton Campaign has come back into the headlines with the release of their internal communications and The Front Runner's Fall by Atlantic Senior Editor Joshua Green. The focal point of that article was the fact that Penn wanted to go relentlessly negative. He wanted to attack Obama's Americanness. Here is what Penn suggested Clinton do

target Obama’s “lack of American roots”:

All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new light.

Save it for 2050.

It also exposes a very strong weakness for him—his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values. He told the people of NH yesterday he has a Kansas accent because his mother was from there. His mother lived in many states as far as we can tell—but this is an example of the nonsense he uses to cover this up.

How we could give some life to this contrast without turning negative:

Every speech should contain the line you were born in the middle of America to the middle class in the middle of the last century. And talk about the basic bargain as about the deeply American values you grew up with, learned as a child and that drive you today. Values of fairness, compassion, responsibility, giving back.

Let’s explicitly own ‘American’ in our programs, the speeches and the values. He doesn’t. Make this a new American Century, the American Strategic Energy Fund. Let’s use our logo to make some flags we can give out. Let’s add flag symbols to the backgrounds.

Not only did Penn suggest attacking Obama in this way we also know that Penn was behind the most famous attack ad of the Primary.

Penn created his infamous “3 a.m.” ad, questioning Obama’s readiness for a crisis, with these voters in mind. Before presenting the ad to the senior staff, he secured Hillary Clinton’s approval to broadcast it. But even Clinton’s newfound willingness to attack did not prevent Penn from being challenged. His detractors had two rationales: that attacks would look desperate and drive up Clinton’s already lofty “unfavorable” ratings; and that if she continued down this path she would irreparably damage her reputation and possibly that of her party’s nominee.

Penn also advocated major attacks regarding Jeremiah Wright

Does anyone believe it is possible to win the nomination without, over these two months, raising all these issues on him? A “nice” campaign that wins the states along [sic] that can be won—will that be enough or do serious issues have to be raised about him?
If you believe that serious issues need to be raised then we have to raise them without continual hesitation and we should be pushing the envelope. Won’t a single tape of [the Reverend Jeremiah] Wright going off on America with Obama sitting there be a game ender?
Many people (Peter Hart excluded) believe under the surface that 20 years sitting there with Goddamn America would make him unelectable by itself.

So Penn was the man who really wanted to go negative for pretty much the entire campaign. He looks pretty bad in the piece. So in response to this he has come out with an article for Politico that attempts to justify his philosophy and regain some of his luster. The Title of this self serving piece is Negative ads: They really do work Penn has this to say for in favor of his actions

Clever negative advertising works. That is reality.

The tactic meets with media and pundit disapproval and spawns accusations of negativity, but the reality is that a clever negative ad can be devastatingly effective.

The 2008 presidential race is shaping up to be a close battle, and the tighter it is, the more the advertising will be ratcheted up, by both of the campaigns and the myriad independent groups sure to emerge.

Of course, voters publicly condemn negative advertising and suggest they would never be swayed by it. That was my experience in focus groups more than a decade ago, which found negative advertising to backfire. But Republican consultants such as the late Lee Atwater have used these tactics successfully in campaign after campaign. When reality and research differ, it is the research that is wrong.

Penn is saying that if Republicans do it and it works that makes it all OK. That really misses the point that in a Primary their are attacks that should be made and those that should not. Attacks based on policy and the candidates record are fair game but those of the type that Atwater and Penn like are totally different. They are not negative ads, they are smears.

Mark Penn fails to realize that just because something could be used to do a job does not mean that it should. The types of smears that Penn and Jerome Corsi advocate are not a tool that should be accepted. It is not "just politics". we should look for our politicians to be better than smear merchants and liars. Fight on policy and vision not lies. The article also has several parts that are supposed to pat Penn on the back as he toots his own horn like here

Fair or not, as advertising it did its job: It used humor, stuck viewers with memorable images and created a debate, just as Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 “Daisy” ad, Walter Mondale’s “Red Phone” spot 20 years later and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “3 a.m.” commercial in 2008 did.

Penn lumps his own ad in with some of the most famous of all time. That might be a little arrogant as the effectiveness of his ad has not been demonstrated in any statistical way. Also, did you know that Al Gore fired Penn for being incompetent during 2000? Penn takes his shot at Gore

Picking a president is not just about the candidates’ strengths but also about how their weaknesses can manifest themselves. Imagine if, in 2000, Al Gore’s advertisements had hit George W. Bush hard over incompetence on foreign affairs and as a trigger-happy cowboy.

That is Penn in hindsight not when he was in charge. He told Gore he was up by 18 when it was not true. This article by Penn is totally self serving and just a chance for him to toot his own horn.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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