Advice for President Obama: Don’t Listen to Mark Penn

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


Outside of his inner circle, few Americans did as much to put Barack Obama in the White House as Mark Penn. It was Penn, you may remember, mapped out then-Sen. Hillary Clinton entire campaign strategy without taking into account the small fact that convention delegates were allocated proportionately and not winner-take-all. The result was that the Clinton campaign poured most of its resources into a few big states where it barely broke even on delegates, while Obama was able to build an insurmountable delegate lead by competing everywhere else. Math!

Now Penn is back—this time with advice for President Obama in a GQ interview on how to avoid embarrassing himself next November. Among other things he believes the President should downplay one of his singular national security accomplishments—killing Osama bin Laden—and consciously refrain from undertaking similar operations:

He’s already mentioning it in speeches, and he has to stop. Never ever put the Osama mission in political terms. People are going to want him to put this in ads. Don’t. Everybody knows he did a great job! This was a different kind of thing for sure, but after impeachment was over, Joe Lockhart had this great phrase: ‘We’re in a gloat-free zone.’ The president’s gotta stay in a gloat-free zone…

Obviously he took the biggest risk of his presidency with the Osama operation, and it completely paid off. He was right. But watch out now for overconfidence. Don’t try this again with Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban. The next risk could end up being a disaster that is very difficult to recover from. Sometimes I think Bush got into Iraq because the original Afghanistan mission seemed to go so easily—and he wound up with something that defined the rest of his presidency.

I’d love to meet the Obama voter who decides that he’s going to vote for Mitt Romney instead because, back in early 2011, the President gave a few speeches in he which he mentioned the successful resolution of a 10-year man-hunt for the most universally hated man in American history. (Perhaps he’s one of Penn’s vaunted Micro-trend demographics?) Anyway, the whole interview is not very long, but I’ll make it even shorter for you: The simplest way for President Obama to embarrass himself next November is to start asking Mark Penn for advice.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate