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Everyone Hates Mark

If you follow Democratic national politics then you know that Mark Penn is one hated MOFO. The Chief Strategist for the Clinton campaign has a special talent for raising the dander of his opponents (and even supporters on occasion) that matches Karl Rove's.

So, when stories break that paint him in a bad light his critics respond with glee. You can expect the party to start any minute now.

In what is either an astonishing conflict of interest or a king size bit of political double-speak, Mark Penn appears to have been meeting with the Colombian ambassador and promoting policy that is in direct conflict with Hillary Clinton's stated positions on trade.

It all started this week when reports said that Penn had met with the ambassador to discuss what the Wall Street Journal described as a "bilateral free-trade agreement, a pact the presidential candidate opposes."

The explanation of this apparent conflict varies depending on who you talk to but the most popular theme centers on Penn acting in his role as a lobbyist, and not a representative of the campaign. That would mean he's being paid to argue both sides of an argument. Not bad work if you can get it.

The other fly in this ointment is Clinton's comments when the Obama campaign seemed to be caught telling the American people one thing on trade, but secretly assuring allies that such talk was just that: talk.

I would ask you to look at this story and substitute my name for Sen. Obama's name and see what you would do with this story... Just ask yourself [what you would do] if some of my advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments.

Al Giordano responds:

Mark Penn is not - as in the case that Senator Clinton cited on March 3 - an unpaid issues advisor, but, rather, the commander-in-chief of the Clinton campaign: the chief strategist, pollster, message czar, and the highest paid member of her campaign staff.

I can't remember a presidential campaign in my lifetime in which the top strategist moonlighted for corporate accounts during the heat of the primaries (if that's really what he was doing with the Colombian ambassador, as claimed: note that the Embassy told the Journal that it didn't know which hat Penn was wearing). The conflict of interest is staggering.

VIA Andrew Sullivan

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