Clinton advised to cast Obama as ‘un-American’

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s top campaign strategist advised her to cast presidential rival Barack Obama as having questionable "roots to basic American values and culture" and use the theme to counter the image that his background is diverse and multicultural.

"I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values," Mark Penn wrote in a March 2007 memo to Clinton.

Clinton did not take Penn’s advice, revealed by a report in the September issue of The Atlantic magazine.

The article says Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination went from front-runner status to failure for a number of reasons, from badly managed money to blistering warfare between advisers. Clinton, the candidate who said she was ready to lead on Day One of her administration, did little to quell the infighting.

Clinton grew angry during a conference call with her senior aides about how to recover from her loss in the Iowa caucuses. She found herself doing most of the post-mortem, to near-silence on the other end of the line.

"This has been a very instructive call, talking to myself," Clinton snapped, and hung up, the magazine reported.

Mostly, the disputes were over whether to go negative against Obama, a half-black, Harvard-trained lawyer with a gift for soaring rhetoric and big themes.

Penn advised going negative.

Obama’s background — he grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii — was a "lack of American roots," Penn wrote. Also a weakness, he added, was the divisive rhetoric of Obama’s controversial pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who cursed America during a sermon.

"Won’t a single tape of Wright going off on America with Obama sitting there be a game-ender?" Penn wrote in a March 30 memo.

Penn’s memos also contained prescient advice. The memo from March 2007 talked about the importance of a key voting bloc he called "the invisible Americans" — women and lower- and middle-class voters.

Those groups helped Clinton beat Obama in key states before she quit the race in June.


  1. RichardKanePA

    I am reluctant to steer back to Hillary, when the side tracking is on an important subject, but Hillary refusal to totally smear Obama shows her basic integrity.

    I think she would be a great vice president.

    Good luck with the comments above I hope everyone can make their points without getting too personal.

    Thank you. Hillary for trying to stay decent.


  2. colocritic

    Buckethead, I totally agree! I live where I can see the rockies out of my family room window.

    Sandra, I’ve been enjoying your posts for quite a long time now and agree with most of what you say. Even when I don’t I’m still there cheering you on. CHB needs you and more like you. Please reconsider and don’t leave us. As Buckethead said, “hang in there.”


  3. buckethead

    Keep it up Sandra. I live high in the rockies and don’t get much discourse without CHB, so please hang in there.

  4. Sandra Price

    Ridingchick. A young horse woman from Creston California won a silver metal yesterday for hunter jumpers. Her name is Gina Miles and she had to ship her horse from San Luis Obispo California to Beijing. Can you imagine that? She hit the front page of the SLO Paper this morning and I am pleased as punch. If I could bring a picture to show you I would. She is a lovely young girl with a magnificient horse. Should still be on the front page.

  5. Sandra Price

    Okay Flapsaddle, get the hell off my back. You talk big and back stab even bigger. This election is turning the internet into a slanderous theater of destruction and even people like Lew are being destroyed. You are the epitome of back stabbing and don’t ever use the word ethics on this site as you cannot even define it.

    I’m leaving Doug, no need to toss me out again. If you knew what this jerk Flapsaddle does to others, you would not believe it. I’m losing respect for CHB because I tried to introduce the issues months ago and nobody bothered to reply. You would rather listen to B.S. of diversion from Flapsaddle rather than honest debate. I hope someone here can do it. I tried and will not again. BTW my blog from CHB is on Google so at least some others are interested.

    No more invisibible Americans for me, I’m looking for action.

  6. ridingchick

    Sandra, I know how you feel. I have been so discouraged to the point that I had stopped reading and posting on CHB and others that I constantly read and post to.

    It’s unfortunate that some of our citizens, are still continuing to vote against their own interest. They had rather stand in soup lines than to send the Bush McCain clan packing.


    Obama ’08

  7. Flapsaddle

    The “politics of personal destruction” was a term coined by Bill Clinton to describe the impeachment proceedings against him; however, the art of personally attacking and attempting to destroy an opponent is as old as human history. Senator Joseph McCarthy was an extremely successful practitioner of the art until he was effectively destroyed by the blow-back from his own venom.

    Jefferson, Hamilton, Burr, Jackson, Lincoln, FDR, Truman, Nixon, Clinton, Bush et al. either received it or tried to apply it. For every Rove there is a Carville or a Penn affording the same opportunity to others. Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, Jennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky could doubtlessly say – as did Lincoln about tarring and feathering – if it wasn’t for the public recognition and implied high honor they’d just as soon forgo it.

    I’m glad that Hillary Clinton decided not to follow Penn’s recommendation; however, ever-cynical as I am about politicians, was her decision based on ethics or effectiveness?

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle