Penn's Got Trouble

News that Hillary Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn, took a meeting with Columbian officials to talk about ways to advance a free trade deal is at once not surprising, given Penn's refusal to step down from his position as CEO of Burson-Marsteller.

I've asked several Clinton aides and advisers for their reaction. Some declined to comment. Others responded with pejoratives, but since I don't print anonymous pejoratives as a policy, I will refrain from sharing them.

It's true that other campaigns have consultants with day jobs. The closest analogy is that of Charlie Black, a senior McCain strategist who resigned from his lobbying/PR firm in order to devote his attention full-time to McCain. (The irony: Black's firm falls under the umbrella of Penn at Burson Marsteller.)

One of the toughest tasks for a political journalist these days is to try and find someone in Clinton world who is willing to defend Mr. Penn or his sense of political optics.

Incidentally, Penn has said that he has time for only two clients: Clinton and Microsoft. Now, perhaps, he has three.

Obama aides had nothing to say. (Indeed -- can you blame them for wanting to allow this story to unfurl without any help?)

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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