Politico‘s Mike Allen has written a mini-preview of a “blockbuster” Atlantic article called “The Front-Runner’s Fall,” and in so doing reported that Mark Penn, the widely loathed campaign strategist for Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s campaign, advised that Barack Obama should be portrayed as having a “limited” connection “to basic American values and culture.”
In short, Penn advised Clinton to portray Obama as an “other,” which is more or less what her campaign implied from time to time anyway and is certainly what John McCain‘s campaign is implying now.
Atlantic senior editor Joshua Green reports that Penn “suggested getting much rougher with Obama in a memo on March 30, after her crucial wins in Texas and Ohio: ‘Does anyone believe that it is possible to win the nomination without, over these next two months, raising all these issues on him? Won’t a single tape of [the Reverend Jeremiah] Wright going off on America with Obama sitting there be a game ender?”
Green also writes that “major decisions during her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination would be put off for weeks until suddenly Clinton ‘would erupt, driving her staff to panic and misfire.'”
“Green reports that on a staff conference call in January where Clinton received ‘little response’ or ‘silence’ to several of her suggestions for how to recover from the Iowa loss and do better in New Hampshire, ‘Clinton began to grow angry, according to a participant’s notes,’ Green recounts. ‘This has been a very instructive call, talking to myself,’ she snapped, and hung up.”
The eight-page article “draws on internal memos, e-mails and meeting notes to reveal what the magazine’s September issue calls ‘the backstabbing and conflicting strategies that produced an epic meltdown.'”
Penn, the presidential campaign’s chief strategist, wrote in a memo to Clinton excerpted in the article: “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.”
“A key take-away from the article,” says Allen, “is that Clinton received a lot of accurate advice, including from Penn. He wrote a remarkably prescient memo in March 2007 about the importance of appealing to what he called ‘the Invisible Americans,’ specifically ‘WOMEN, LOWER AND MIDDLE CLASS VOTERS’ — exactly the groups that helped Clinton beat Obama in key states nearly a year later.
“But no one synthesized and acted on the good advice.
“‘The anger and toxic obsessions overwhelmed even the most reserved Beltway wise men,’ Green writes. ‘[H]er advisers couldn’t execute strategy; they routinely attacked and undermined each other, and Clinton never forced a resolution. [S]he never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles’ heel.
“What is clear from the internal documents is that Clinton’s loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many she did not make.”