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Penn, Teller

Friends and colleagues ask me all the time if I think the Clintons want Barack Obama to lose. I invariably answer, “Of course.” The psychological and political reasons are obvious. For those who doubt that, they should read this interview with former Hillary Clinton campaign chief Mark Penn (h/t NRO). Here is the juicy part:

CBSNews.com: To what extent do you think Palin’s appeal to a lot of swing voters means that they vote for McCain? Or is the old adage still true that people vote for the top of the ticket?

Mark Penn: I think, at the end of the day, people do vote for the top of the ticket. The question is whether or not Palin has given people a better view of the top of the ticket and more and more confidence in terms of what he would fight for.

I think she clearly has energized the Republican Party in a way that they were not energized and that party members were very worried that McCain was going to choose somebody who wouldn’t have the more conservative values that the mainstream of the Republican Party has. Whether or not she’s really going to play or is playing a big role with swing voters, that remains to be seen. I think that’s a lot less clear.

CBSNews.com: Your former colleague Howard Wolfson argued that you all unintentionally paved the way for Palin by exposing some of the unfair media coverage that Hillary Clinton received. And, therefore, a lot of the media may now be treating Sarah Palin with kid gloves. Do you agree with that?

Mark Penn: Well, no, I think the people themselves saw unfair media coverage of Senator Clinton. I think if you go back, the polls reflected very clearly what “Saturday Night Live” crystallized in one of their mock debates about what was happening with the press.

I think here the media is on very dangerous ground. I think that when you see them going through every single expense report that Governor Palin ever filed, if they don’t do that for all four of the candidates, they’re on very dangerous ground. I think the media so far has been the biggest loser in this race. And they continue to have growing credibility problems.

And I think that that’s a real problem growing out of this election. The media now, all of the media — not just Fox News, that was perceived as highly partisan — but all of the media is now being viewed as partisan in one way or another. And that is an unfortunate development.

CBSNews.com: So you think the media is being uniquely tough on Palin now?

Mark Penn: Well, I think that the media is doing the kinds of stories on Palin that they’re not doing on the other candidates. And that’s going to subject them to people concluding that they’re giving her a tougher time. Now, the media defense would be, “Yeah, we looked at these other candidates who have been in public life at an earlier time.”

What happened here very clearly is that the controversy over Palin led to 37 million Americans tuning into a vice-presidential speech, something that is unprecedented, because they wanted to see for themselves. This is an election in which the voters are going to decide for themselves. The media has lost credibility with them.

CBSNews.com: Joe Biden said this week that Hillary Clinton might have been a better pick than he was. Do you think that’s true?

Mark Penn: Ask Joe Biden.

CBSNews.com: Well, that’s what he says. What do you think?

Mark Penn: I’m going to leave that one where it is.

Well, there you have it. The translation? “The media is doing to Sarah what they did to Hillary. And if Hillary were VP this would be a non-issue and we’d be picking out tuxedos for the Inaugural Ball.” It is equal parts self-justification and indictment of the MSM-Obama conspiracy theory. It couldn’t be more off-message from the point of view of the Obama camp. And Penn’s dead right about one thing: the media is less and less a player because its veneer of objectivity has worn off. Mark Penn may not be the most popular man in Clinton circles at the moment, but there is no better way to get back in their good graces than to carry their message out to the masses. And he’s doing a fine job of that.


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