Clinton Pollster Mark Penn
(December 2007)

One good thing about the protracted presidential race — maybe the only good thing — is that it provides a steady supply of Liars of the Month for the Ethics Scoreboard. The most recent silly and desperate fib comes from Hillary Clinton's pollster, Mark Penn, who lamely attempted to explain away Hillary's campaign's excess of zeal and lack of fairness when it attacked Barrack Obama's veracity by citing "essays" he wrote in the third grade and kindergarten.

After Senator Obama drew a contrast between Senator Clinton's ambition for the presidency with his own, saying that he never had a long-term plan to gain the White House, the Clinton campaign attempted to rebut him by issuing a substantial press release saying that his claim was contradicted by the statements of "his friends, family, staff and teachers." At the end of a long list of alleged examples of Obama confessing his lust for the Oval Office, the release cited these devastating pieces of evidence:

In third grade, Senator Obama wrote an essay titled 'I Want To Be a President.' His third grade teacher: Fermina Katarina Sinaga "asked her class to write an essay titled 'My dream: What I want to be in the future.' Senator Obama wrote 'I want to be a President,' she said." [The Los Angeles Times, 3/15/07]

In kindergarten, Senator Obama wrote an essay titled 'I Want to Become President.' "Iis Darmawan, 63, Senator Obama's kindergarten teacher, remembers him as an exceptionally tall and curly haired child who quickly picked up the local language and had sharp math skills. He wrote an essay titled, 'I Want To Become President,' the teacher said." [AP, 1/25/07 ]

Immediately, media pundits, Clinton opponents, Republicans, conservatives and just about everyone with a brain stem who isn't on the Clinton payroll reacted with derision. The Clinton campaign now considers grade school essays damning proof of inconsistency? The Scoreboard has argued that Senator Clinton's college thesis was not a fair target for her critics, but apparently the Clinton campaign disagrees. And since when do kindergarten students write essays anyway?

Caught in yet another embarrassing example of Camp Clinton's lack of restraint, decency and common sense when it comes to playing political gotcha, the campaign needed to do something. An honest campaign would have apologized; a less honest one might have claimed temporary insanity. Mark Penn, however, was sent to MSNBC-TV's Morning Joe show to explain that, you know, it was all a joke, just like it was just a "botched joke" when John Kerry told students that if they don't do well in school, they'll end up in Iraq. "It was a joke," Penn said. "And then the spin machines here are so hyped up here about Sen. Clinton and her campaign that someone would pick up on a joke like that and treat it as though it was serious."

Uh-huh. First of all, Mark, thanks for nailing down the Liar of the Month. Now some advice. Don't let Senator Kerry write your press releases. If the Clinton Campaign wants people to get the "jokes" it you claim it likes to put in facetious attack pieces, it better hold off until the Hollywood writers strike is settled.

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