John Edwards: Don't Replace Corporate Republicans with Corporate Democrats

Yesterday, John Edwards criticized the corporate nature of the Clinton campaign and why it is the wrong way for Democrats.  John Edwards highlighted Senator Clinton's chief advisor, Mark Penn, as a prime example:

"Bush has been a perfect example of cronyism, because Blackwater has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans and to President Bush. I also saw this morning that Sen. Clinton's primary adviser, Mark Penn, who is like her Karl Rove - his firm is representing Blackwater. I think it is important for Iowa caucus-goers to understand the choices they have in this election. And it is the reason I continue to say we don't want to replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats."

Ben Smith (quoting John Edwards)

Who is Mark Penn, what's the story on Blackwater, and why should any care that Clinton's chief advisor is a union buster?  All around the fold.

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Mark Penn: Hillary is the Walter Mondale of 2008

Richard Allen Greene, who is filling in for Ben Smith over at the Politico's 2008 Democrats blog, passes on the details of a new memo chief Clinton strategist Mark Penn wrote in response to a memo from the Obama camp on its fundraising strength, and it appears that Penn is making a rather interesting comparison about his candidate.

Obama strategist David Plouffe released a memo last week arguing that Hillary Clinton's advantages were essentially those of incumbency, that her support was thin, and that Obama should actually be considered the front-runner.

Mark Penn, Clinton's chief strategist, responded today with a memo that seemed designed to bludgeon all opposition into senselessness through the sheer power of numbers (links to 40 polls showing Hillary in the lead!)

Penn strongly implies another i-word is the best description of Hillary -- not "incumbent," but "inevitable."

In recent election cycles, any time a candidate has had as much as 35 or 40 percent of the vote consistently across polls in a multi-candidate field, that candidate has gone on to win the nomination. In the last race, Joseph Lieberman was in the teens at this point while Walter Mondale's numbers in the 1984 Democratic primary were comparable to Hillary's now.

I'm not entirely sure of the wisdom of this line of argument. Does he want Hillary backers to think of her as the Mondale of 2008? Sure, Mondale got the nomination but.... [emphasis added]

I must say that if I were a strategist for a presidential campaign I probably wouldn't be likening my candidate to Walter Mondale, even if the comparison is warranted (and I'm not clear that it is, as I'll talk about in a moment). After inching to a nomination that was expected to be his at least somewhat easily Mondale was trounced in the general election by 18 points. Is Penn insinuating that that's the road he sees for Clinton? Barely winning in the primaries after having already secured the support of the Democratic Party elite, only to be creamed in the general election?

But the comparison between Clinton and Mondale is not a perfect one -- and the differences are ones that make Clinton look relatively weaker. For instance, while Mondale was able to use his superior fundraising to eventually defeat Hart -- by the end of May 1984, when the nomination battle was in full swing, Mondale had raised twice as much as Hart (18 million to $9 million) -- Clinton has actually been outraised by a fairly large margin in primary dollars by Obama. Even with the large transfer Clinton made from her Senate campaign to her White House campaign, she still does not have nearly enough cash to swamp Obama as Mondale was able to do to Hart in 1984. And, in fact, if the fundraising numbers continue at about the same pace, Obama might be able to swamp Clinton, or at least force her to spend more and earlier than she had initially hoped to.

This is not to say that Clinton's lead in polling, both nationally and in a number of the early states, does not make her at least somewhat of a favorite at this point for the Democratic nomination. But as noted above Fritz Mondale only limped, rather than ran, across the finish line in 1984 after once appearing to be the prohibitive favorite -- and even then he was only able to do so after greatly outspending his younger, forward-looking, new politics challenger, Gary Hart. And this time, though Penn doesn't mention it, Clinton won't be able to throw relatively as much cash at her problems, should they arise, as did Mondale.

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Bill Clinton's $200 haircut

Revised

Hillary Clinton proudly promotes herself as a champion of the middle class, and yet Bill Clinton went and got a $200 haircut.  Does this bother you? It does not bother me.  In fact, my mother-in-law thinks Bill Clinton is "guapo". I say $200 well spent when you can get my beloved mother-in-law to approve.

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Unions to Clinton: Please Tell Penn We Don't Like Him

Mayor Quimby's response to Mr. Burns blocking out the sun:
People, take it easy. We're all upset about Mr. Burns' plan to, uh, block out our sun. It is time for decisive action. I have here a polite but firm letter to Mr. Burns' underlings, who with some cajoling, will pass it along to him or at least give him the gist of it.

Union leaders to Hillary Clinton on Mark Penn's union-busting:
The presidents of two large labor unions have written to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to complain that Mark Penn, her pollster and chief strategist, is chief executive of a public relations firm that is helping a company fight a unionization drive.(...)

"If Hillary is pro-worker and pro-union, she will certainly take steps to rein in Mr. Penn," Mr. Hoffa said in an interview. "He cannot serve two masters, working for a pro-union candidate and working for anti-union companies."

In the letter, Mr. Hoffa and Mr. Raynor said, "It is with distress that we write you today," adding that they valued Mrs. Clinton's positions on many worker-related issues.(...)

In interviews, Mr. Hoffa and Mr. Raynor stopped short of calling on Mrs. Clinton to disassociate herself from Mr. Penn.

Mr. Raynor said, "She ought to send a clear message to this guy Penn that she is unhappy about this union-busting stuff and that he shouldn't be associated with it."
Wow! Way to rock the boat and challenge the status quo! A couple of unions would like Clinton to "send a message" to Penn on their behalf. That's pretty strong stuff. I wonder what that message would be? Perhaps they can look to Quimby for more advice on how to organize a union in the company where Penn's firm in conducting the union busting:
"I propose that I use what's, uh, left of the town treasury to move to a more prosperous town and run for mayor. And, uh, once elected, I will send for the rest of you."
Wouldn't want to play hardball or anything. After all, the company Penn's firm is seeking to keep non-union only employs 17,000 workers.

TarHeel has more in the diaries.

More on Screw the Base Day

Here's Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's chief strategist, on her work for corporate interests and for Clinton's campaign, written on an internal corporate blog.

I have found the mixing of corporate and political work to be stimulating, enormously helpful in attracting talent, and helpful in cross- pollinating new ideas and skills.  And,'' he added, ``I have found it good for business.''

And what does Clinton think of this, asks Howard Wolfsen?

The real question from the campaign perspective is whether Senator Clinton is comfortable with what Mark is doing, and the answer to that is yes, unequivocally,''

As I've written and will continue to write, Clinton is brilliant, warm, and very charismatic.  Frankly, though, I'm not sure if that makes the Penn problem more or less damning.  It certainly shows that there's a political machine that is embedded deeply in the Democratic Party at its highest echelons wedded to lobbying culture.

And while we're on screw the base day, I'm enjoying this.

Democrats who campaigned successfully last year against a "culture of corruption" in the Republican-controlled Congress found themselves one-upped today when more than 30 of their own members voted for a GOP motion to strengthen the package.

By 228-192, the House adopted a motion by Lamar Smith, R-Texas, to recommit the first of two lobbying bills -- a measure requiring quarterly disclosure by lobbyists of bundled contributions to candidates and party units -- to broaden the disclosure requirement to cover bundled donations to other PACs as well.

Woo-hoo!  Better parking spots for Democrats!  Universal health care for all Democratic members of Congress!

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Diaries

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