Mark Penn's E-mail

There are important political stories of the day, and then there are the juicy stories of the day. Here's some of the that sweet nectar:

As the campaign faces a make-or-break moment, some high-level officials are trying to play down their role in the campaign. Penn said in an e-mail over the weekend that he had "no direct authority in the campaign," describing himself as merely "an outside message advisor with no campaign staff reporting to me."

"I have had no say or involvement in four key areas -- the financial budget and resource allocation, political or organizational sides. Those were the responsibility of Patti Solis Doyle, Harold Ickes and Mike Henry, and they met separately on all matters relating to those areas."

Howard Wolfson, the campaign's communications chief, answered that it was Penn who had top responsibility for both its strategy and message. Another aide said Penn spoke to Clinton routinely about the campaign's message and ran daily meetings on the topic.

First, giving a quote like this to a reporter while your candidate remains viable is like the NTSB issuing a report on an airplane before it's crashed.

Second -- Penn's statement is literally accurate but macroscopically misleading. He has no direct reports, but he has something worth 700 of them: Hillary's cell phone number and e-mail, and permission to call her whenever he wants. Also: Bill's cell phone and e-mail.

Third, -- Penn's formal title is "chief strategist."

Fourth, in the Clinton campaign, the message drove the strategy, which drove the organizational priorities. Why didn't Clinton compete in Minnesota, allowing Obama to earn 20+ extra delegates there? It wasn't because they tried... it was because they decided, strategically, that they'd rather spend money elsewhere. That was a decision that Penn was both privy to and helped to make.

Fifth, well -- enough piling on. Penn is talented, terribly smart guy who pays close attention to optics -- though too often, perhaps, not to his own.