Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

Mark Penn, Clinton strategist, warns Obama -- and the media

A veteran Democratic political strategist has some advice for what appears to many to be a Barack Obama campaign rattled by the explosive entrance into the campaign of John McCain's vice presFormer Hillary Clinton presidential campaign strategist Mark Pennident pick, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Mark Penn, the high-priced strategist who did such a good early job of launching Hillary Clinton's Democratic presidential campaign to doom at the hands of Obama, tells he's worried that the Windy City gang will repeat the mistakes of the last two losing Democratic presidential campaigns by returning to the base after their convention instead of staying more on the convention message of centrism.

"It was more about tax cuts and strengthening the economy," says Penn, who notes that all campaigns go through periods of stress. "I think it was a message that was resonating. And so what happens in a situation like this is everybody rushes in with different pieces of advice. And it can be very hard to stay the course."

Penn says that if there's one thing the Obama campaign has been good at for 19 months it's scheduling major speeches on topical issues to focus attention on its agenda, and that it ought to do that on the ...

... economy. And avoid lipstick fights with McCain-Palin, especially between the Democrat's top candidate and the GOP's No. 2 candidate, Palin.

"The fact that the Republican convention was as successful as it was, was basically out of the hands of the Obama campaign," Penn acknowledges.

"I think these polls will settle down close to even. And I think the real important thing [for Obama] is not to overreact, not to be caught in a back and forth with Palin, but to get your candidate rising above it."

Penn also has a strong warning for the media, caught unawares by the Palin selection and now eagerly pursuing virtually anything to do with her.

"I think here the media is on very dangerous ground," Penn tells "I think that when you see them going through every single expense report that Gov. Palin ever filed, if they don't do that for all four of the candidates, they're on very dangerous ground.

Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin besieged for autographs

"I think the media so far has been the biggest loser in this race. And they continue to have growing credibility problems.

"And I think that that's a real problem growing out of this election. The media now, all of the media -- not just Fox News, that was perceived as highly partisan -- but all of the media is now being viewed as partisan in one way or another. And that is an unfortunate development."

So does the strategist, who had his own complaints about sexism in media coverage about Sen. Clinton, think the media is being harder on Palin than other candidates?

"I think that the media is doing the kinds of stories on Palin that they're not doing on the other candidates. And that's going to subject them to people concluding that they're giving her a tougher time.

"Now, the media defense would be, 'Yeah, we looked at these other candidates who have been in public life at an earlier time.'

"What happened here very clearly is that the controversy over Palin led to 37 million Americans tuning into a vice-presidential speech -- something that is unprecedented -- because they wanted to see for themselves," Penn adds. "This is an election in which the voters are going to decide for themselves. The media has lost credibility with them."

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photo (top): Mark Penn. Credit: Associated Press.

Photo (bottom): Sarah Palin besieged for autographs. Credit: Stephan Savoia / Associated Press

To get all Ticket item alerts sent directly to your cell, go to Twitter here and register free.

Comments () | Archives (31)

The comments to this entry are closed.

With every slanted story and every biased interview, another block of Main Street American voters move to Palin's corner. If you haven't figured it out, California and east coast voters are not the ones who will decide this election. Palin is a very attractive candidate in a vast part of this country and if you keep trying to destroy someone they can identify with, they will destroy Obama at the voting booth.

Lost credibility? Only among Palin's fans. Is it that hard to understand that people want new facts, not things they already know?

And how can they not be eager, after how much dirt they've uncovered about Palin in so little time? If she had been properly vetted, this never would have happened to her. But McCain needed a gimmick, not a running mate.

Sarah Palin wiil put Obama on that bridge to nowhere

I can't believe I'm agreeing with a democratic strategist. It's about time someone realized the major media venues are in the tank for the Democratic party. As an independent I'm sick and tired of the partisan bickering and want a president who will do what is best for all of America not just his comrades in politics. Obama keeps harping that McCain has voted with Bush 90% of the time, but on the other hand he has voted with the Dems 97% of the time. For an "agent of change" who proposes to reach across the aisle that's not a very good record at all.

Penn's idea of a major speech is a good one. It should contain the economic message and be tough on the opposition. This did work in Denver. When fighting against McCain's Karl Rove squad, staying on the high road is a lost cause. Better to suffer a little criticism than to lose. Obama/Biden must focus on the double talk and outright lies being spouted by McCain/ Palin. It is doubletalk to say McCain fought Republicans when he voted with Bush 93% of time on all major issues including war, taxes and healthcare. The Rove people are experts at using propaganda techniques like the Big Lie, but Obama/Biden miust hammer home the truth: McCain is a Bush Republican: "You can't throw the bums out if you are one of the bums". Obama received the excellent advice that to win it is not whether you can take a punch that counts, it is whether or not you can give one. In the waning weeks ahead, Obama/Biden must follow three tracks: (1) Expose the McCain/Palin lies, (2)Get out the Obama/Biden policy message (3) Deliver hard direct blows at McCain/Palin as fake mavericks playing the American Idol game. In American politics, candidates to who don't fight back with iron fists lose to Swift Boaters and Willie Horton ads and Rove's specialty, The Big Lie.

"That's not change," Obama told a responsive audience. "That's just calling something -- the same thing -- something different. But you know, you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig."

this was Obama's comment!!!!

the American public and the media is just a tool in the republican hands these days.
god bless America. America will need the blessing if Mccain gets elected.
we americans really need to see the truth, not half of it.

If Mccain by any chance is elected its is the American people who will suffer so i dont get y people r supporting mccain who can only deceive the public and approve ads that states only half the truth.
i don't think serving ones country loyally makes a person qualified to lead it, and it surely does not give the person the right to take the country in the wrong direction

Obama is smart. He'll find his way. He doesn't need a wind-bag like Penn telling him anything. Obama will win. McCain will lose. Obama '08!

I was former Hillary supporter and I approve this message. Now I have become McCain democrat. Democrat party still have a chance with me: be more truthful. Never ever re-edit Florida and Michigan misteps again. It was all Obama's primal techniques to win election. No more. I will also vote against any Democrat in my state who flip flopped from Hillary.

It's funny how most people did not realize how bias the mainstream media is, and only now are beginning to see it!

The mainstream media knows that most people are naive to the fact that words are powerful, and can influence minds to think one way or another.

When Fox News was beginning to get popular because of how they presented the news in a more centered to right leaning way, the mainstream media pounded out the assumption that Fox were liars, when in fact, they just presented the news in a different way, sometimes telling more of the story that the mainstream media presents. Thus, the mind of some people started to believe this, and in turn, put up mental walls that closed their minds to alternative views.

The mind of man is easily deceived! Be aware! Think Clearly! Do your homework!

I disagree with Mark Penn. The media is doing stories on Sarah Palin that they are not doing on the other candidates because nobody knows who she is. Nothing has been officially published by the McCain campaign about her bio. and her record. Surprise! Here she is, "a hockey playing, moose shooting, gun toting, mother of 5", who can deliver a good written speech full of criticisms and lies about "the opponent" while we find that she, herself, is a lie.

No one else vetted her and she is not allowed to "meet the press" or the public without a canned speech that we have heard over and over again, until she can be treated "with deference and respect". And why should she be treated with defernece? We have only 50 days to find out all we can about her. If not for the media, we would know nothing about the bridge to nowhere that was almost a bridge to somewhere, and everything else we have found out.

She deserves to special treatment or handling and deserves as much scrutiny as we can get. If you campaign as a Reformer, we need to know that you charged your state a per diem to work from your own home, even if that is acceptable in the oil and gas revenue rich Alaska, some of us might find that questionable....

They are just renting her anatomy. But, chances are grave that she could be president, and it is very important that she is scrutinized and the facts made known. She has "met the press" once and confirmed what we all suspected: she knows nothing.

Please read article posted "Be Careful What You Say While Campaigning…. God May Be Watching." @

Maybe the "IRS" should go thru every expense report filed by the "MEDIA" I wonder how they "PAD" theirs. I am sure we would find a hist of questionable items. Maybe Billions of dollars of items that they have padded. Lets start with say Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, Barbara Walters and the View Crew. I wonder how much they are ripping off the taxpayers and the stockholders of the various corporations they work for. Now that would be some story.

VJ Machiavelli

All I can say is what she says: "Thanks, but no thanks Sarah!"

Touche'... Mark Penn is absolutely correct.

But what Mark is not telling is that Barack Obama has put himself in a "box". And the media has inadvertently placed "their candidate" firmly within all four corners with "super glue".

America has seen and is appalled at the level of inconsistency performed by the media. The inconsistencies coupled with the inconsiderateness equate to sexism and misogyny on an reasonable scale.

Sarah Palin represents "precisely" what is on the mind of Americans... even with her "imperfections".

Look, she knows Bush-Cheney screwed up.... She stated it! She knows the Republican Party needs to be "overhauled"... She said it! She is fully aware if the "economic ills" Americans are facing. But, more importantly... She's a economic realist.

"$700 Billion Dollars a year is given out in foreign aid by the US. Invest that money in the PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES, NOW"!

McCain-Palin08... "Made of the Right Stuff"

this character has as much insight and opinion of truth that should be flushed down the toliet.His shrewd advice in my opinon and I would imagine to many others indicate a divisive agenda to promote negative support for Obama.Nice try Penn ,but you blew it already with your management skills.
No Way McCain-Obama All The Way 08

R - revoltingly
E - egregious
P - pawns
U - usurping
B - banal
L - lies, as well as
I - insidious
C - character
A - assassinating
N - nincompoops

I hate to admit it, because he really screwed Clinton up, but on this one...he is right on the money. Especially regarding the media.

Penn says that if there's one thing the Obama campaign has been good at for 19 months it's scheduling major speeches on topical issues to focus attention on its agenda, and that it ought to do that on the ...... economy.
Sarah has been excellent at for longer than 19 months her scheduling major speeches on local & national topical issues to focus attention on Alaska's agenda, and that she has to done that on the Alaska's economy. Sarah addressed issues in Alaska. If Sarah can Govern a state who's land mass equals a 1/3 of our nation's land mass; why would anyone doubt she wouldn't help as VP to do the same for our nation?

And it can be very hard to stay the course.
Sarah has stayed the course of drastically improving the average Alaskan's life & Alaska.

"I think here the media is on very dangerous ground," Penn tells "I think that when you see them going through every single expense report that Gov. Palin ever filed, if they don't do that for all four of the candidates, they're on very dangerous ground.
Obama & Biden wont have the same experience as Sarah "if" they was treated the same by the media. They aren't Sarah. They don't have her record of goals, objectives, or success. Obama's & Biden's voting records for their states is lacking in improvement of their states budgets & schools & natural resources to as many of their states citizens. They are not Sarah or McCain..
"I think that the media is doing the kinds of stories on Palin that they're not doing on the other candidates. And that's going to subject them to people concluding that they're giving her a tougher time."

As long as Obama keeps the media doing the kinds of stories on Sarah that they're doing than no media will compare him or do stories on him or Biden. Obama is out of his abilities limits with natural resources & taxes & budgets compared to Sarah. Just compare how he voted in & for Ill. on natural resources & taxes & budgets compared to Sarah.

Sarah's personal, family, & professional life is picked apart by the media daily with the Obama's "gang" of over 200 pushy rude spies in our stores, our churches, our local organizations, to businesses, our schools, our neighborhoods, our daily life. With no regard of respect to private citizen's basic rights. They stop you to question you on everything on Sarah or her family or what you think of her. Imagine your community's population increased by over 30% over night with reporters & camera crews who's goal is to personally question you publicly & professionally with cameras & note pads..

We do not understand, in their ignorance of who Sarah is, they will prove all that Sarah has done for Alaska; that "none" has been able to do. Her record in Alaska stands on sound solid inspection for it self. Our budget, our development of natural resources, our tripled budget for special needs students, our schools, first ever eletric power to over 53 communities by wind; improvements in our lives in so many more ways. She'll do it for our nation with McCain.

This is the way Obama runs his campaign here in Alaska I fear him "leading" our country with his gang.........

Sara Palin has an 80% approval rating the higest of any politician in the country, maybe of all time in the US. A rating that high means EVERYONE IN HER STATE, both Dems and Republicans approve of her policy. She should make this point every time she is asked a stupid question where the interviewer wants to play GOTCHA! All the talk about no one knowing Palin is BS. The people of Alaska Know her very well.

It's hard to see how Mark Penn was taken off the Clinton campaign. He has that mature professional ability to focus on the objectives and issues and not the personalities.

Is it too late for him to start a career in our military?

When I run for President, I hope he is available.

Really? Mark Penn thinks centrism is the right solution for this problem? Really? That would come as a surprise if he hadn't spent his whole career giving the exact same advice in every situation. This guy isnt an advisor, he is an ideologue. And his ideology is that one ought to have no intellectual scruples, and just find the point one iota to the left of the republicans and sit there for the whole election.

The media is being hard on Palin??? Gimme a break! All the news media are playing right into the hands of the masterfully maniuplative Republican Party. Instead of challenging them about keeping Palin on a leash and only allowing ONE interview, all the news media are eating up the single NBC interview. NBC dishes it out in small parcels, naturally for the ratings, and all the other news outlets can do is report on that interview, day after day after day, as each snippet comes out. The Republicans planned this well, and every news outlet is falling for it.

Shame on the news media for being so timid, for acting like scared little puppies just waiting for a scrap from the table.

I'm not saying the news media should attack her, far from it. I'm saying all the news media should be screaming out loud at the farcical, manipulative way that the Republicans are protecting her and demanding she be treated with kid gloves. Did they demand "deference" in order to interview McCain or get him on news programs? Of course not!

It's shocking how easily the wimpy, ratings-hungry US news media, desperate to please their corporate owners, have become eunuchs.

The media in some ways has been too easy on Palin. Last night many commentators acknowledged that her answers to many questions were scripted and thin. But they were reluctant to present that as a serious problem. More often, they commented on how most of the public had made up its mind, and how many of her supporters like her for her persona, and may be less concerned about her presenting a substantive case on the issues. Potentially, that is a huge problem for our country if she were to be president. Already we have suffered a president who is incurious and idealogical. Given that the McCain campaign has reversed itself on the experience question, has limited her contact with the media, and is being untruthful about her record, no level of scrutiny is unwarranted.

So, no one, except that old guy, and Republicans knew who Palin was.

What's that tell you?

Where is the best and the brightest? If Palin was a female Democrat Govenour of Alaska, that took on her own party we would of all well known about her.

But, the unbiased, expert Lame Stream Media, has just found out about her.

Basically, if you're not a lefty, you don't exist. This incestious attitude and behavior comes from those at the New York /Washington/LA hive.

Thank God for the Internet. Death to Papers and to the MSM!

Media biased? Nah, we just like reading stuff about Palin rather than that other guy. Who is that other guy? I forgot. Who cares? He's a non-factor now.

Mark who ?
he ran Hillary's ship aground. credibility.Period.

This race is very close to being over........sadly,..... and here are the reasons I think so..
Obama unfortunately allowed the entire celebrity image to influence him in a very unfortunate way.
In fact, in the Aug. 23rd Newsweek article, one of Obama's press contingents of his "inner circle" has acknowledged that within the last several weeks Obama has made new rules that none of his insider press corp is allowed to speak with him unless spoken to. In addition, many of his insider press corps have not even been allowed to meet, or talk to him in person. The reporter says that Obama has not even come back to their bus to talk with them in weeks.
This member of Obama's inside press corp states that Obama has become a different personality over the last few months. One with a great deal of anger, frustration and secretiveness. The inside pool reporters have now been given a very long list of exactly what can, and cannot be photographed, reported on, or talked about.
Reading this article makes one understand better why Obama has been making the serious mistakes we've have all seen in the last few weeks. He, unfortuneately, is folding under the pressure of the political race.
Seeing this myself, in his recent shooting from the hip comments, his numerous mistakes over the last few weeks, and his vicious attacks toward Palin, the Newsweek article clearly seems to be on target.
The question I have to ask myself is: If he is folding under the pressures of this political race, how would he react in a true National Security situation like September 11th, or a NATO-Russian conflict, or Nuclear armed Iran?
Because I do knot know how this man will respond under really serious stress, I have to say that it scares me to Vote for him. I'm sorry, but this is just my opinion. I welcome listening to others that are intelligent, rational and serious concerning this subject.

Martin C.

Sarah "Deference" Palin. Shame on the Republicans.

Read this for your daughters!

Senator Clinton and Governor Palin are proof that women can and do diverge on important issues.

Even on the question of whether women should vote!

Most people are totally in the dark about HOW the suffragettes won votes for women, and what life was REALLY like for women before they did.

Suffragettes were opposed by many women who were what was known as 'anti.'

The most influential 'anti' lived in the White House. First Lady Edith Wilson was a Washington widow who married President Wilson in 1915, after the death of his pro-suffrage wife.

The First Lady's role in Wilson's decision to jail and torture Alice Paul and hundreds of other suffragettes will never be fully known, but she was outraged that these women picketed her husband's White House.

I'd like to share a women's history learning opportunity...

"The Privilege of Voting" is a new free e-mail series that follows eight great women from 1912 - 1920 to reveal ALL that happened to set the stage for women to win the vote.

It's a real-life soap opera about the suffragettes! And it's ALL true!

Powerful suffragettes Alice Paul and Emmeline Pankhurst are featured, along with TWO gorgeous presidential mistresses, First Lady Edith Wilson, Edith Wharton, Isadora Duncan and Alice Roosevelt.

There are tons of heartache on the rocky road to the ballot box, but in the end, women WIN!

Thanks to the success of the suffragettes, women have voices and choices!

Exciting, sequential episodes are great to read on coffeebreaks, or anytime.

Subscribe free at

It's a pathetic thing in journalism when you know exactly which candidate each reporter is going to vote for. FoxNews blatantly pushes republicans and MSNBC and CNN blatantly push the democrats. Whatever happened to the days of unbiased journalism? The days of Walter Cronkite are but a distant memory. Keep in mind that I'm not talking about opinion/spin shows like the O'Reilly Factor and Keith Olbermann Countdown... I'm talking about the supposed "journalists" like Brit Hume and Andrea Mitchell (add Charles Gibson to that list) who engage in this lurid behavior, shamelessly spreading their propaganda around the country. They are just as partisan as the Hannity's and Hardball's of the world... except they call what they do "news". It really should be a crime to call yourself a journalist when you're in fact a partisan. What we have now is a few powerful elitists trying to use the mass media to manipulate the public to vote for their candidate. It's sad that the public can't trust the media and the media can't trust the public.

This Sarah Palin is a very ambitious politician . She will be President sooner than most of you realize.


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
President Obama
Republican Politics
Democratic Politics



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: