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Penn Speaks Out on Clinton Run

By Anne E. Kornblut
Let the finger-pointing continue! The latest to weigh in (again) is Mark Penn, the former chief Clinton strategist, who in this GQ magazine q-and-a with Lisa DePaulo runs through what happened to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the primary -- and discusses what is fast becoming a central storyline in her defeat: her treatment in the media.

Excerpts follow the jump:

On the media:

MP: She was strong. She pushed back. He got asked the very same question on driver's licenses. He hesitated--he had to be asked, I think, two or three times by Wolf Blitzer--and then we thought, "Okay, we're back. We've done it. We've shown that she can parry it back effectively and that he couldn't answer this driver's-license question either." And you know what the media did with it? Nothing. The media played it not at all.

LDP: So you feel the media had a narrative and they were sticking to it, regardless of what happened, one way or another?

MP: Especially at that time. At that time, they did not come back. At a certain point here, when Saturday Night Live goes on, everybody realizes what a joke this has been, right? That the media has not been fair to her compared to him. That if they were tough on both or easy on both, fair enough. But...


MP: Well, I think, look, he had tremendous help from the media. No one has gotten media coverage-- If he had gotten fair media coverage...

On sexism:

LDP:So let's talk about sexism. Where did you see it?

MP: Well [laughs], you know, I think what really did happen in New Hampshire was a moment that crystallized it for a lot of women. Because I do think they saw her honestly expressing how hard it had been to work in this campaign--and then following that, you know, the "Iron my shirt" people, following Edwards making a comment on it. Right?

LDP: Edwards's comment was surprising, when he questioned what her tears said about her ability to lead.

MP: Yeah. He shouldn't have done it.

LDP: I remember thinking, Ewww. Like, I hope Elizabeth smacked him when he got home.

MP: [laughs] And I think it crystallized for a lot of women, "I get it," you know? There's been a double standard on Hillary here.

LDP: It's hard to put into words.

MP: But it was clear. From the beginning, I thought she would get a tremendous amount of support from women. Women are 54 percent of the electorate. For all the talk about more young people coming out? More women came out. Millions more women came out than ever before. It was the largest increase. They're really energized. But you know, at the time that Obama said, you know, "She's playing the gender card," the media played into that, you know? She wasn't playing the gender card. If anything, there was a lot of other stuff going on here. Not from the Obama campaign, but just in society generally. And I think Chris Matthews owed her a major apology, and eventually delivered one. The media had been outrageous.

LDP: You mean Matthews's comment about "The reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around"?

MP: Right. And the kind of nutcracker dolls you could find at the airports. You know, the kind of stuff that would just never be allowed against anyone else was almost commonplace against Hillary. And I think, actually, after New Hampshire, women woke up to that. They supported her from that time on very solidly. And I think they saw her as both qualified for president and their champion, and I think that they became increasingly upset at the media over time. I think the media's got a lot of damage to repair with the women in this country.

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 12, 2008; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Hillary Rodham Clinton  
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Another thing, Mr. Austin. You called the "race" speech of Sen. Obama unremarkable. Perhaps your experiences are different from mine. His speech resonated with me because I am like him, the person with the funny name and the strange accent. I perhaps know more about this country's history, constitution, geography etc than a lot of American citizens because I had to take a test to become one. Folks like me perhaps never take for granted the freedoms here because we come from places where our gender and economic situations made it unequal. I have to prove how "American" I am everyday. I am routinely pulled aside in airports because I look a certain way, but inspite of everything, I love this country because it has given me something precious. My own voice and a freedom to be who I am. Sen. Obama's speech resonated with me because of what this country is. A great melting point of races and a country of possibilities inspite of how I look, where I am from and my economic situation.

Posted by: Anon | June 13, 2008 5:05 PM | Report abuse

This is in reply to Mr.Austin. I am an Asian immigrant woman who comes from a part of the world where we had women heads of state who came into power because they were either the daughters or wives of men in power. This ruins countries and is not democratic. I have listened to henchmen of these women heads of state spin the accomplishments of these women when little or none existed. I never thought something like that would happen in America until the campaign of Sen.Clinton.
She is an accomplished woman, but she lost me when she and her supporters claimed she had 35 years of experience. When? As far I know she was the wife of Bill Clinton who was a governor and a president. Every husband does consult his wife about decisions, but to claim that as experience ? How can that be. My husband and I work in the same field and bounce off ideas quite a bit, but if I were to claim that as experience in my resume, I would be fired and probably get into legal trouble. Sen. Clinton's true experience in politics is as a Senator. Just because she was married to a Governor does not make her experience the same as a Sarah Palin, Ruth Ann Miner,Janet Napolitano etc who are actual female governors. Gloria Steinem claimed Sen. Clinton's 8 years as first lady among her experience. Who has drunk the kool-aid Mr.Austin ?
As for who won the election in 2000, I know who won. It was close, so close and Bill Clinton and his conduct is one of the reasons whether you choose to accept it or not.
You say more people voted for Sen. Clinton than Sen. Obama. I submit it is because you included Florida and Michigan. Sen. Clinton did not play by the rules, agreeing to something and then doing something else. Sen.Obama is no angel, but he is different. The fact that a man of color has emerged inspite of all the odds against him says something about America. Sen. Clinton and her campaign spin meisters reminded me of my third world home country while Sen. Obama and his speech about race especially reminded me of why I came here. I used to love Bill Clinton, but after he disrepected his family, his office and his country by his conduct and his latest antics, I lost all respect for him.

Posted by: Anon | June 13, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

For the record, I was the author of the comment that begins, "Even the Wright controversy was performed by the media to Obama's advantage." I forgot to sign my name.

But I am writing now to comment on Anon's ridiculous assertion that Bill Clinton is "one of the reasons we were subjected to the Presidency of Mr. Bush." Anon seems to forget that the reasons for the Bush presidency were a media that was relentless in its bias against Al Gore, a fact that allowed Bush to be competitive, and a decision by the Supreme Court to stop the counting of votes in Florida and allow a bogus certified vote tally to stand.

Anon may not remember this, but Gore WON the popular vote by more than 500,000 votes and actually won Florida in 2000. Bush is an illegitimate president. Since Anon is not claiming that Bill Clinton was behind these facts, Anon's argument is self-evidently false.

We should also note that more Democrats voted for Hillary Clinton than for Barack Obama. And you know what? More people would have voted for Hillary Clinton than will vote for Barack Obama in the general election. There's a reason why Bill Clinton is the only Democrat to win the White House since 1976 and the only Democrat to win re-election since 1964 and why Obama-like candidates (for example, Dukakis) lose to Republicans: Americans don't want liberals like Barack Obama to run their country. They want progressive centrists like Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The bottom line: Anon's point of view couldn't be more objectively wrong. One thing you will notice in Obama fans is that they routinely make arguments that have no basis in reason and/or facts. They remind me a lot of George W. Bush fans.

Posted by: Andrew Austin | June 13, 2008 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Give me a break Mr. Penn. You and the rest of the team blew it and you are blaming everyone but yourself. And how about the comment that Sen. Clinton will somehow run the country well even though she ran the campaign badly. If she cannot manage a campaign with no idea where the money went, lent it her own money and essentially is leaving scores of small businesses with unpaid bills, how the hell is she going to run the country ? Call me sceptical, but I prefer to base my judgement on what I see versus what is spun to me.
I have problems with the candidate claiming experience by association, her suspicious lack of memory with Bosnia, Bill Clinton and his antics. Yes, Mr. Penn what will Pres. Clinton do in the White House is a decider for some people. If he could behave so recklessly when he was President and had basically the country and even the world to run and yet found time to sneak in an affair, what would he do now? His behavior was one of the factors that lost Al Gore the presidency. Hillary Clinton may have chosen to forgive him because being Mrs. Bill Clinton is advantageous to her. But to many people like me, Bill Clinton will not be forgiven not because of the affair, but because he was one of the reasons we were subjected to the Presidency of Mr. Bush and look where the country is now. And therefore, they do not want the Clintons in any shape or form, ever.

Posted by: Anon | June 13, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Even the Wright controversy was performed by the media to Obama's advantage.

The establishment media never called Obama on lying about his relationship with Wright. There was no digging into Salem Baptist and Reverend James Meeks, St. Sabina's Catholic Church and Revered Michael Pfleger. There was no investigative pieces showing how Obama spent two decades deeply immersed in the south-side Chicago radical community (FOX News is the exception). The press played the central role in allowing Obama to pass off his relationship with Wright as fleeting and superficial.

When Obama gave his unremarkable speech on race (unremarkable except where he essentially claimed that racism isn't much of a problem anymore and that those who say it is are emotional basket cases), the media touted it as the best speech of a generation.

When Wright resurfaced, the media gave Obama advice: "Angrily denounce him, Barack, and everything will be okay." So Obama dutifully angrily denounced him (albeit with all the passion of Mr. Spock) and the press extolled Obama's virtue.

The press was so pro-Obama and anti-Clinton during the primary it was surreal. The major Media - FOX News excepted - became an adjunct to the Obama campaign.

It was obvious that the corporations that control the media were determined to keep Hillary Clinton from winning the nomination. They are engineering the nomination of the weakest possible candidate. The motive is self-evident.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 13, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

What do you think about Barack Obama 's saying and his real person if he is president?

But in a sign of the urgency to raise campaign cash, Rendell said Obama didn't want to reschedule tonight's fundraiser, even though the governor warned him that many Philadelphia donors were headed to the New Jersey shore for the weekend. Rendell said Obama told him: "We don't need the people. We just need the checks."
By Fredreka Schouten, USA TODAY


Posted by: USAmastermind | June 13, 2008 7:06 AM | Report abuse


Democratic Party has destroyed our nation Dreams. One is for Women revolution, two is for Color is president, third for 4 terms democratic party in the WHITE HOUSE..
Hillary would be a next president in two terms, and followed Barack Obama for another two terms. So we make history not only for Women, Black but for Democratic Party.

Yours truly,

Posted by: USAmastermind | June 13, 2008 6:30 AM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Dean:

We so much supported and contributed to the best candidate to be president, no matter what parties that person is. Hillary is the one, we all think best represent us as Commander in Chief. But the DNC, again make a big mistake in choosing a best qualified candidate for Democratic Party. Our family members , friends, co- workers are still come up with the only issue that we will contribute to the BEST candidate for now. AND we think John McCain is BEST FOR NOW.


Kenneth Family

Posted by: USAmastermind | June 13, 2008 6:29 AM | Report abuse

Electoral College Outlook: McCain 270, Obama 268
by Robert Novak and Timothy P. Carney

Posted: 05/28/2008

Posted by: USAmastermind | June 13, 2008 6:28 AM | Report abuse

I don't read this as MP blaming the media for her loss (though he sure doens't seem to be owning any responsibility for it!).
What is wrong with pointing out double standards? BHO did answer the driver's license question in much the same manner that HRC did - even with two weeks "notice" - and it barely made a ripple on cable tv. Whereas HRC's answer was dissected and analyzed and criticized and . . .
Matthews (and MSNBC in general) has been a caricature of news programming . . . pinching the cheek of a presidental nominee? eewww.

BHO benefitted from favorable media coverage (Rev Wright being the one exception); and HRC campaign strategy was flawed this year.

Posted by: Echo21 | June 12, 2008 9:06 PM | Report abuse

On Fox News, Terry McAuliffe said "Hey, I own a Hillary
Nutcracker?" And in Texas, Senator Clinton's campaign headquarters put a photo of the Hillary Nutcracker up on the walls of their offices with the caption "Crunch Time". And Hillary laughed and signed hundreds of nutcrackers at rallies. Of course, Mark Penn was probably too busy polling on important stuff like whether they should allow Streisand to publicly endorse Hillary to notice any of these things.

Posted by: Gibson | June 12, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse

The thing that strikes me here is Penn's comments that the reaction to Clinton crying illustrated a double standard. That may be true, but if anything that's a case where double standards cut both ways.

Certainly, Clinton was beset by sexism that male candidates didn't face. But, many candidates get heckled and harassed and in this case, there was another double standard that worked in Clinton's favor.

You'd better believe that if a male candidate teared up in front of the media because of the stress of the campaign, he'd be drummed out of contention in no time. Not only did Clinton survive it, she benefited from it. I think that's a double standard any candidate would welcome.

Posted by: SSFSCoWA | June 12, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

There were a lot of things that went wrong her campaign. From early reports, she wasn't courting the media the way Obama was, and the media reacted in kind. Granted Obama needed the media, so creating a good rapport was essential to gain enough recognition to open the eyes of the viewing public. Remember he was running against what could be termed as a well established celebrity. Granted never before have I seen well rooted persons from the opposing party lending support and endorsements in a primary campaign as Obama had received, ala Sue Eisenhower. This spoke volumes. However it didn't mean HRC had to run a primary campaign as if it were the general election campaign. I believe that too was a turn-off to many. The 'misspeak' on Bosnia, the change in position as it pertained to Florida and Michigan. I don't think that bode well with many. Granted she had a point that the votes needed to be counted. But at the same time, to show she was party-loyal, she like the other major candidates should have dropped her name from the Michigan primary to show solidarity. She didn't. And all this because she had not expected to have to campaign after Super Tuesday in February. It was poor planning on the part of the strategists.

After having won the primary in TX and OH, polls indicated she was up by 4-6% in PA, and then came the Wright snippets on youtube. It's timeliness seemed suspicious, knowing that as Carville stated PA is Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west and in between is Alabama. After the hits on this, days later she comes out with a political statement she would never have him as her minister. Perhaps a true statement, but she didn't indicate she knew Rev. Wright at all. But there were photos of him at the White House during the Clinton years. She never slammed the party responsible for posting it, knowing how inflammed an audience reaction. I realize she was in a tight campaign, but where is the party solidarity? This is a primary campaign! The winner whomever it would have been had to proceed to the general election and would need the other's undeniable support. This 'win at any cost' surprised me and opened my eyes to much of the negative which I had only heard. I realize there are times you have to be tough in order to acquiesce people and politics have evolved to that. But having been a First Lady, she should know how to be tough, but at the same time recognize when it's time to put the honey out rather than the vinegar. It would have served her much better.

Posted by: eww | June 12, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

As a democrat, I will vote for Sen. Obama.
But Sen. Clinton is my first choice as the
most qualified and prepared candidate. And
yes the media, print and TV, especially
MSBC pulled out all stops to denigrate Sen.
Clinton and skew the election results. We
need to do away with the caucus sytem that
also gives unfair advantage to a minority
of voters.

Posted by: | June 12, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Penn is the antithesis of a team player. It was his strategy that doomed Clinton's campaign. He failed to zero on the fundamental message voters wanted to hear: change.

Posted by: J.D. | June 12, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Penn is the antithesis of a team player. It was his strategy that doomed Clinton's campaign. He failed to zero on the fundamental message voters wanted to hear: change.

Posted by: J.D. | June 12, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse


Even though Obama's past reeks with associating with shady characters, terrorist supporters, and a racist anti-American "Pastor", sexism, race, and the "Wright baggage" not being known during the first 11 primaries overrode Clinton's support of more astute people. Then the media in effect gave Obama millions of dollars worth of free advertising by mostly giving him a free pass. This because they did not want to risk being accused of playing the race card. Also Obama outspent Clinton by far on ads, and he still beat her by only 2%. Without the above Clinton would be the nominee today.

That Obama received the above support to achieve the position of democratic candidate for the Presidency does not speak well for the democrats or even for America. Too bad.

Posted by: Billw | June 12, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

They have to invent a new word for chutzpah to describe what it takes for Anne Kornblut to type:
"and discusses what is fast becoming a central storyline in her defeat: her treatment in the media"
with a straight face. This nasty child spent a year recklessly trashing her profession and the reputation of the Washington Post in a disgraceful campaign to gnaw through Sen Clinton's ankles.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2008 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I'm just waiting for the media to rabidly tear ron paul to shreds and tell him to get out, that he'll do anything to win, including claw his way to the top...and then talk about how his divisive tactics are ruining the republican party. oh yeah, it won't because the MSM has shown it was on the obama camp and ron paul is besides the point.

Posted by: jennifer orozco | June 12, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Blaming the MSM is a cop-out. Her campaign fully expected everything to be over by Super Tuesday (so much for every vote counting up to that point).

I personally thought the tears on both occasions were dramatic and put on. Apparently not all women sense woman games.

Hillary Clinton lost due to her own blind ambition and inability to stand up for herself to the people who brought her campaign down - and one of the biggest one was Mark Penn.

Most of us were tired of "politics as usual" and the "kitchen sink" was it for me. Up to that point, I was very happy with either candidate.

So many people point out Obama's bad judgement with the company he kept (i.e. Reverend Wright). Maybe more of them need to look back and see the company Hillary kept was even worse as was her judgement.

Posted by: Dani girl | June 12, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

The sooner this loser reunites with Teller and gets back on tour, the better.

Posted by: whatmeregister | June 12, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Obama had his fair share of the media attacks during the primaries. just rerun FAUX NEWS since Iowa

this self pity from the clinton camp is making me sick

Obama had a better run... it wont make Penn a lesser man to give him credit.

and remember if it was winner take all for the democrats obama would have had a different strategy

Posted by: EddyUdi | June 12, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Hillary brought most of the Media heat on her by acting so arrogant and presumptive. Also, her husband was schtupping everything in skirts...and that sent a message too - that Hillary was not a moral person, and just in it to get more money.

Stop crying Clintonians, and get on with life after Billary!

Posted by: Daddio on the Paddio | June 12, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

trying to re-write history... they were behind, they were out of money and they went negative. The iron the shirt guy influenced noone and you know it, if anything it put a bee in the bonnet of all the women working life from a defensive position.

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | June 12, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Ahh yes typical Clintonianism, nothing is ever there fault. Never take responsibility, the right wing attack machine, the left wing attack machine, the media. And of course the underlying current: SEXISM.

Of course this all pales in comparison to McCain who accuses anyone who disagrees with him ageism or of questioning his war hero status. Clintons may not take the blame, but at least they allow debate.

Posted by: Julian | June 12, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

There was some unfair media attention given to all sides. But to blame the media for Hillary running a losing campaign is simply ridiculous.

When you have political surrogates of Hillary like Terry McAuliffe saying that FOX NEWS is fair and unbaised, you know that the Clinton camp engaged in major spin during the last few months of the campaign.

Instead of giving credit to Obama and his campaign for out-organizing and out-fundraising the Clinton Machine, Clinton surrogates simply blame the media and sexism!

Even children who play little league sports know better than to blame the referees and spectators, when they lose a game!

Posted by: Obama-Junkie | June 12, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Everything.. anything.. is reason why clinton lost but clinton and penn himself.

cmon man face the truth and let the pain go, dwelling on so much 'what ifs' and self denials can only increase the fustration.

Hillary met a better opponent, thats the reason you lost. period!!

Posted by: EddyUdi | June 12, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Can't wait for the book

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2008 1:18 PM | Report abuse

"I think the media's got a lot of damage to repair with the women in this country."


Posted by: Echo21 | June 12, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

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