As the Clinton campaign worked to reverse the trend of negative media coverage that they felt had been running against them, there was a certain brilliance to the microstrategy of publicly hurling pollster Mark Penn under the bus. By the time the critical primaries in Texas and Ohio loomed, the media was already well sated on Penn's shanks to turn their ravenous maw on anyone else from the Clinton camp. So Penn went down on record as being the primary cause of their campaign's woes, and it's one more hurdle their candidate has winningly cleared.
Today's WaPo post-mortem gives the Clinton campaign's in-fighting the full-on CSI treatment. But Peter Bake and Ann Kornblut give special attention to Penn, stating that one of the post-primary goals for the Clinton camp was "denying Mark Penn credit." The "depth of hostility" toward Penn is fully measured (exemplified in a hilarious exchange between Penn and his nemesis Harold Ickes where the phrase "[Expletive] you!" is featured), and the cause for blame is enumerated. We learn, among other things, that Bill Clinton's post-South Carolina "Jesse Jackson" remark was Penn's baby:
On Jan. 26, the day of the election, Penn sent an e-mail to the senior campaign staff comparing Obama's victory there to Jesse L. Jackson's two wins in the 1980s. Bill Clinton made the same comparison to reporters that day, generating even more anger among African Americans who perceived it as a way of marginalizing Obama by portraying him as a black candidate who appeals only to black voters.
Still, buried in the piece, we find evidence that Penn was not the only guy in the room with a bad idea. In fact, Penn can claim immunity from prosecution on one of Clinton's most thundering duds:
In Austin on Feb. 21, Clinton had a solid debate performance, although her aides groaned as she accused Obama of offering "change you can Xerox." The line, advisers said, was offered during debate preparation by Bruce Reed, a Clinton White House official, but onstage it came across as forced and drew boos.
Reed is, by the way, president of the conservative Democratic Leadership Council.
So there you have it. It's not all Mark Penn's fault. And like Clinton's Prometheus, he lives on - either to bring the candidate fire or to have his liver devoured by crows.