Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Mastermind Speaks!

Mark Penn, the chief strategist who did more than anyone to kill Hillary Clinton's campaign, is copping a plea. In today's New York Times, he explains that "it wasn't the message--it was the money" (the lack of it, he means) that did her in.

After the Bay of Pigs, JFK cited the old saying, "Victory has a hundred fathers, defeat is an orphan." But Penn's paternity of Clinton failure's is too well-established for denial, so the next best thing is to claim that the foundling died of malnutrition.

Aside from Penn's own culpability in misspending the campaign funds, starting with the decision to ignore Iowa until it was too late, his fingerprints are on everything that went wrong--from the hubris of acting as if the nomination was a done deal to not seeing that the race was about change rather than experience ("ready from Day One").

It was only when Penn was fired in early April for embarrassing the candidate by meeting with Colombia's ambassador to the US about a bilateral free-trade agreement, a pact Clinton opposes, that she started winning primaries and closing the gap with Obama.

Early in the campaign, someone had to explain to the genius that primary delegates are awarded proportionally, not "winner take all." This did not daunt Penn, who discovered "soccer moms" (talk about sexism) during Bill Clinton's reelection and makes a specialty of slicing and dicing voters into demographic slivers such as "young knitters", "extreme commuters", "tech fatales" (women who like technology) and "powerful petites" (women who are small and proud of it).

Now he can discover a new population subset--moronic manipulators.

The largest portion of the Clinton campaign's unpaid debt is owed to Penn. They should demand a discount, and Barack Obama should look for a way around the financing rules to send him a check as a thank-you.

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