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Obama on Powell, Public Financing and Mark Penn

Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) speaks to the media, April 11, 2008, in Indianapolis. (Associated Press)

By Shailagh Murray
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Sen. Barack Obama addressed a number of newsy issues at a press conference this morning:

On his recent comment to donors that his campaign had created a "parallel public financing" system based on small donations in large numbers, which suggested he may bypass the real one in the general election: "I really wasn't trying to send a signal.... My position on public financing continues to be the same. I would like to see a system preserved. And I intend if I am the nominee to have conversations with Senator McCain about how to move forward in a way that doesn't allow third parties to overrun the system."

On his relationship with former secretary of state Colin Powell, who sounds increasingly like an Obama fan: "We're not speaking on a regular basis, but we speak occasionally, and every time we do I find it useful.... He's someone whose counsel I actively seek, so I appreciate the kind words."

On former president Jimmy Carter's intention to meet with Hamas leaders: "I'm not going to comment on former president Carter. He is a private citizen. It's not my place to discuss who he shouldn't meet with. I know that I have said consistently I would not meet with Hamas, given that it's a terrorist organization. It is not a state, and until Hamas clearly recognizes Israel and renounces terrorism ... I don't think conversations with them would prove fruitful."

On Mark Penn's demotion as top adviser in Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign after it was disclosed he had attended a meeting with Colombian officials to push a trade agreement that Clinton opposes: "I'm not surprised that Senator Clinton found herself in an uncomfortable position as a consequence. I know that if staff of mine had put me in that kind of position, I would get rid of them."

On former president Bill Clinton's remarks yesterday about the Bosnia imbroglio, including numerous statements of dubious accuracy: "I'll let the Clintons explain Bosnia."

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 11, 2008; 9:52 AM ET
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mr.Obama,do you think that you are better than me,do you think that you are chosen to lead me,i don't think so..!!

Posted by: Tim | April 11, 2008 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: edbrn | April 11, 2008 7:30 PM | Report abuse


"Better" than Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt combined?

Posted by: JakeD | April 11, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse



Posted by: mj | April 11, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Hillary, in between us mothers: if you had a daughter in her early twenties, would you let her do an internship at the white house if Bill Clinton was living on the premises?

Posted by: mom to mom | April 11, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

if you had a daughter in her early twenties, would you like her to do an internship at the white house if Bill Clinton was hanging around?

Posted by: mum to mum with Hillary | April 11, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Gaias Child: "Rice and Cheney did such a number on Colin Powell for his efforts to moderate the administration's eagerness to make war in Iraq ... you'd think Powell would get the major creeps thinking about Rice in line for the presidency."

The very idea of a "President Rice" should give ANYONE the major creeps. Of course, if McCain were to select Condi as his running mate it would be the height of hypocrisy (not to mention political suicide), given his longtime anti-torture stance and Rice's active involvement in the approval of torturing American-held prisoners as detailed by ABC News this past week:

Posted by: whatmeregister | April 11, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

The Hillary campain is highly funded by AIPAC the Israeli lobbing group, and its sympathisers. Americans need to get away from this type of foreign meddling into the Presidency of the United States. Elect Hillary, and you might as well have Benjamin Netanyhu as a Presidential surrogate, who believes in the anahilation of Palestinians from their lands -- a perfect recipe for another 9-11.

Posted by: Lauren Miller | April 11, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Interesting how Colin Powell emerged right after all the flurry about Cond. Rice for GOP VP candidate.

Rice and Cheney did such a number on Colin Powell for his efforts to moderate the administration's eagerness to make war in Iraq ... you'd think Powell would get the major creeps thinking about Rice in line for the presidency.

Moderate and thoughtful generals are much needed in the dialog.

Posted by: Gaias Child | April 11, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Obama's actions are troublingly hypocritical. Now he is saying it was an 'oversight' that he marked the box pledging to use public financing? He deflects ownership from any position he has take in the past that is now 'inconvenient' for him.

As for Penn, how can he say this when Goolsbee is still part of his campaign? It is splitting hairs to differentiate between Penn and Goolsbee. Obama said "I know that if staff of mine had put me in that kind of position, I would get rid of them". Goolsbee did and Obama didn't. At least Penn owned up and apologized, etc. Goolsbee said he was 'misrepresented' in a widely distributed memo, taking a page from the Obama book it seems.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

The difference between Penn and Goolsbee is that Goolsbee is a volunteer with a minor role in the campaign. Penn is the paid chief strategist. And given that Bill received $800,000 to promote the Colombia free trade agreement; all we have is Hillary's word (and we know what that's worth) that she'll vote against the trade deal. Do the math for yourselves.

Posted by: Sueb2 | April 11, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

"Obama's INCONVENIENT PROMISE to accept Public Funds in a General Election. Just one of many to come."

That is correct. Has anybody else noticed the hypocrisy that emanates from the Obama campaign. He supports Public Financing to make himself look good when he is not raising much money, but quickly dicards it and decries it as broken when he is raising tons of cash relying on "well-connected fundraisers with corporate interests". The man is a fraud.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

To all the Clintonites babbling about Goolsby:

There's a huge difference between what Goolsby did and what Penn did. The Canadian consulate in Chicago requested a meeting with Goolsby, a University of Chicago economist who advises Obama on economic issues on a volunteer basis but is not part of the Obama campaign staff, as part of a coordinated Canadian diplomatic effort to gather intelligence on the views of the major U.S. presidential contenders. Goolsby went to that meeting without the knowledge or consent of the Obama campaign, and not as a representative of the campaign. He stated his own views at that meeting which, according to him, were inaccurately reported in the diplomatic memo that was later leaked to the Canadian press. The Canadian government subsequently apologized for the leak and for the misrepresentation.

Mark Penn, in contrast, while working in a handsomely paid capacity as the key figure in the entire Clinton campaign operation, also secretly contracted to work for the Columbian government to help secure passage of a free trade agreement that Sen. Clinton claims to oppose. In short, while taking Sen. Clinton's money with one hand, Penn was also taking the Columbian government's money to stab her in the back on an important matter of public policy currently pending before Congress.

There's all the difference in the world between these two situations. What's shocking is that Penn was only demoted, not fired entirely, for this treacherous act of double-dealing. If I were a Clinton supporter I'd spend a lot less time worrying about Goolsby and a lot more time worrying about the snake-in-the-grass Mark Penn and how much influence he still may have inside the Clinton operation.

Posted by: Brad K | April 11, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Joe CHI said:
Obama said: "I know that if staff of mine had put me in that kind of position, I would get rid of them."
Why then, is Goolsbee still advising the Obama campaign? Obama is all talk, no action.

Hey Joe, it's good to get an education. It helps when you need to read and write. Goolsbee is an advisor, not a paid staff person but somebody who will give their expert advice when called upon. The fact that you do not know the difference here (Penn was the KEY STRATEGIST, paid staffer), then it's back to elementary school for you. Good luck. And maybe you should 'graduate' from elementary school before you harm the country with your vote.

Posted by: Debo G | April 11, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Tripp B. He didn't say he would have fired Goolsbee, he said he would have fired Mark Penn. Bill Clinton just can't pass up a chance to tell a lie and neither can Hillary. I think it's a strategy. Tell lies until you get caught and every time you get caught, tell another to take the attention off the first one.

Posted by: majorteddy | April 11, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

It's amazing how Hillary supporters think meeting with a country discuss trade agreements and actively lobbying (getting paid for doing it) for a country is the same thing. That's stupidity!

No wonder they support Hillary.

Posted by: Len | April 11, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

jk5432...You explanation of Goolsbee's NAFTA involvement is the truth that always gets lost on some Hillary supporters. The Canadian Government has officially debunked Obama's unpaid adviser commenting on NAFTA. The comment came out of the Clinton camp. Whether or not it was Hillary or Bill is unclear?

For Mark Penn to be at that high of level in the Hillary campaign and still by lobbying for CAFTA when Hillary supposedly opposes it is an amazing conflict of interest! He and polling group should be fired from the campaign.

Slick Willy (a.k.a. Bill Clinton) trying to defend Hillary on her false Bosnia trip recount proves two things to me. First that Bill Clinton just reminds us that he is an accomplished liar, and second, that Bill Clinton sees the Bosnia trip tarmac "misstatements" as very damaging to Hillary's campaign.

Posted by: AJ | April 11, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Because I believe a better argument can be made over NO OBAMA AND IT'S PRES. JOHN MCCAIN.

Posted by: JakeD | April 11, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

James and/or Allison:

I am not a Barack HUSSEIN Obama supporter, but I have an honest question. How can she win the general election without at least half the African-American vote?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Obama should fire Goolsbee. Obama should completely dissassociate himself from the Trinity church in Chicago, his new "pastor" Moss is just as bad as Jeremiah Wright.

Obama may have to fire his own campaign manager. Obama, Obama's own campaign manager David Axelrod and Obama supporter David Wilhelm (Wilhelm is named in Rezko's trial currently underway in Chicago)have some explaining to do about their relationships with the under criminal indictment Syrian born Antoin Rezko, under criminal indictment AUCHI, and Kenyan, African leader Odinga (Obama's cousin??).

This toxic trio will sink Obama's candidacy now and in the future.

Add in the revelations about Exelon, Crown, Emil Jones, Ayers & Dorhn, casinos, "pastors" Meeks, Moss and Wright and it's fatal for Obama. Imagine the 527 ads. Wow.

The Democratic party would be wise to remember that for decades white women have been the vast majority voting block in the party and WHITE WOMEN WANT HILLARY!




Posted by: James & Allison | April 11, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse


You probably think he is being consistent about public financing even though his original pledge mentioned nothing about 527s?

Posted by: JakeD | April 11, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse


This isn't the first time I've had to correct your misinformation, is it? One would think that you'd learn to do a little research before you comment. Honestly, it's just simple human decency.

Anyway, the Goolsbee and Penn situations aren't remotely comparable. Goolsbee never said anything to the Canadian government that was inconsistent with Obama's position on trade. In fact, it only turned into a story because of the Clinton campaign's constant misrepresentation of the issue and Nedra Pickler's penchant for writing anti-Obama smear pieces. In the end, the Canadian government unequivocally stated Obama and Goolsbee's consistency in their positions and issued a public apology for their part in the misrepresentation.

On the flip side, Penn (and Bill Clinton) have been paid to lobby for CAFTA. At this point no one's denying that they are, and no one's denying that they are two of the most senior people in the campaign. She can demote Mark Penn to less senior role, but she can't exactly do the same to Bill.

To sum it up, Obama has been consistent on trade and the campaign leadership has no known conflicts of interest. In contrast, some of Clinton's most senior campaign member's are being paid to lobby for trade agreements that she has campaigned against; this situation represents an obvious conflict of interest.

Posted by: Justin | April 11, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

This is getting increasingly damaging for the Democratic Party. Why is there nobody who has the b@lls to force a decision? The Clinton campaign is dead!

Meanwhile McCain is blundering along unnoticed.

Posted by: old_europe | April 11, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

For those less informed saying that Obama is "doublespeaking": Goolsbee is an advisor and NOT a paid staff member. Mark Penn is - still. There's a huge difference between the two!

Posted by: Tripp B. | April 11, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Maria posts:
"Senator Barack Obama uses double standards. Senator Obama still has Goolsbee as an economic advisor. "

JoeCHI Posts similarly:
"Why then, is Goolsbee still advising the Obama campaign? Obama is all talk, no action.

Why, exactly, should Goolsbee have been fired (aside from the fact that it sounds good to Hillary supporters)? The Goolsbee issue was a supposed statement made to Canadian officials on NAFTA which contradicted Obama's position. Multiple stories from the Canadian government have effectively debunked this and put the actual comments as having come from the Clinton team.

So, those of you posturing for Goolsbee's termination, what exactly has he said or done that even vaguely matches Mark Penn's actions?

Posted by: jk5432 | April 11, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

From Counterpunch:
On March 2, 2007 Obama gave a speech at AIPAC, America's pro-Israeli government lobby, wherein he disavowed his previous support for the plight of the Palestinians. In what appears to be a troubling pattern, Obama told his audience what they wanted to hear. He recounted a one-sided history of the region and called for continued military support for Israel, rather than taking the opportunity to promote the various peace movements in and outside of Israel.

Why should we believe Obama has courage to bring about change? He wouldn't have his picture taken with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom when visiting San Francisco for a fundraiser in his honor because Obama was scared voters might think he supports gay marriage (Newsom acknowledged this to Reuters on January 26, 2007 and former Mayor Willie Brown admitted to the San Francisco Chronicle on February 5, 2008 that Obama told him he wanted to avoid Newsom for that reason.)

Posted by: greenfun | April 11, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Obama's INCONVENIENT PROMISE to accept Public Funds in a General Election. Just one of many to come.

Posted by: greenfun | April 11, 2008 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Senator Barack Obama uses double standards. Senator Obama still has Goolsbee as an economic advisor.

Posted by: Maria | April 11, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Interesting how Obama has a way about things. He seems to be able to influence people in a positive way, for the most part. Although he should stick up for former president Carter- although that is going against the grain.

Obama vs Clinton-
Social Bookmarking Sites & the Web:

Posted by: Dave | April 11, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse


I guess "we all know" except for TonyC SA ; )

Posted by: JakeD | April 11, 2008 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Obama said: "I know that if staff of mine had put me in that kind of position, I would get rid of them."

Why then, is Goolsbee still advising the Obama campaign? Obama is all talk, no action.

Posted by: JoeCHI | April 11, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: RENEA 1 | April 11, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

JakeD wrote: 'That was a far cry from: I will "agressively pursue an agreement" with McCain on public financing.'

Ha! No it wasn't! He even said his position "has not changed" which means his previous statements hold true. Must he actually use identical adjectives and wording every single time he opens his mouth? Are you so completely incapable of parsing the English language that you require candidates to be parrots?

A simple and straightforward reading of Obama's ENTIRE answer to the question then, and his position now remains, that the third parties (like 527's, swift boaters, etc) can overrun the system; and if the two candidates can find a way around that or a way to accomodate that, they should do so.

An example of such an accomodation might be that they limit their own campaign spending to the public limit, but outside of that limit can respond in kind to any third party attacks or support not funded by the party or candidate. So, for example, if the swift boaters want to spend ten million independently of the McCain campaign slandering Obama, his campaign can spend ten million countering that slander without it counting toward his overall campaign spending. And vice versa for McCain if Democrats attack him, or unions run pro-Obama ads, or whatever. In short, a fair system that does not give one side or the other undue advantage because of a disparity in supporter resources. If McCain cannot agree to a fair system then he has no grounds for complaint about being outspent.

Obama's position on this remains consistent; a position is a concept and viewpoint, it is not a word recipe that must be repeated verbatim every time it is uttered.

Posted by: TonyC SA | April 11, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

If Obama would have fired Mark Penn, then why did he not fire his own economic advisor for meeting with Canada on NAFTA (which at first Obama denied.) Oh, yeah, because Obama sanctioned that meeting.

Also Mark Penn was "fired" (not resigned) as chief strategist and his company is now only doing polling. Maybe the "king of nuance" missed that differentiation.

And we all know that Obama is not going to use public financing. His is being very disingenuous and trying to mislead.

Finally, Obama will not criticize former President Carter (who indicated he favored Obama) but he will criticize former President Clinton. I guess it depends if the superdelegate is for him or the other candidate.

Similarly, Obama did not speak out against the hateful comments about McCain made by Senator Jay Rockefeller.. because that would mean slamming one of his superdelegate endorsers. Yet, his campaign took Hillary to task about Geraldine Ferraro's remarks...which pale in comparison.

If one does not see the hypocrisy... at least one needs to acknowledge the lack of consistency on Obama's part.

Posted by: Nickyle | April 11, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

IF all Bill Clinton can do is bring up Bosnia then I guess Obama really shouldnt be worried too much.

Posted by: nclwtk | April 11, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

That was a far cry from: I will "agressively pursue an agreement" with McCain on public financing.

Posted by: JakeD | April 11, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Mark Penn wouldn't have been MY strategist.

Filthy lobbyist vermin... Selling out to Blackwater, Countrywide Financial mortgage rapists, the big tobacco lobby, and sovereignty-threatening trade agreements. Clinton should never have hired him in the first place, never mind make him her right-hand man.

Posted by: Steve Charb | April 11, 2008 10:05 AM | Report abuse

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