Sunday, April 06, 2008

At least he knows when to quit

By Edward Copeland

The millions he took for running Hillary's campaign into the ground wasn't enough reason for Mark Penn to quit. Telling the Los Angeles Times that he wasn't behind the campaign's strategy when it was flailing at the same time he insisted on being called chief strategist wasn't enough either. Even his consulting firm's ties to Blackwater couldn't do it. Finally though, being caught representing his firm for the Colombian government on a trade pact Hillary opposed and where the Colombian president admitted he wasn't sure if Penn was acting on behalf of the firm or the campaign was the final straw, though Hillary saw no conflict. Bye-bye, Weasel.

ALBUQUERQUE, April 6 -- Mark J. Penn quit Sunday as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's chief strategist, the second shake-up in her campaign's top ranks since the onetime front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination began trailing Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Penn had been a polarizing figure within the Clinton campaign for months because of his personality as well as his strategic vision, but his departure came as a result of another continuing controversy -- the conflicts of interest that resulted from his representing major clients as president of Burson-Marsteller, the giant public relations firm, while working for Clinton.

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that Penn had met with Colombia's ambassador to the United States to discuss promotion of a free-trade agreement, one that Clinton opposes. Penn apologized Friday for an "error in judgment," and the Colombian government responded a day later by firing Burson-Marsteller.

Clinton and her husband, Bill Clinton, were furious with Penn for going to the meeting, campaign officials said. Trade has been a divisive issue in the Democratic race and a particularly significant one in Pennsylvania, the next state on the primary calendar. The New York senator has pledged to take a "timeout" from free-trade agreements until their impact on the United States becomes clearer.

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