Bloggers on Mark Penn, Condoleezza Rice, and "death by blogging."

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
April 7 2008 6:11 PM

Out of the Penn

Bloggers weigh in on Mark Penn's departure, Condoleezza Rice's VP chances, and their own health.

Out of the Penn: Mark Penn, chief strategist for the Clinton campaign, was forced to step down Sunday after a conflict of interest was revealed. In his capacity as president of PR firm Burson-Marstellar, he met with the Colombian ambassador to discuss a free-trade agreement with the United States. An agreement that Clinton just happens to be campaigning against.

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A wide swath of bloggers thought the move was overdue. Time's Mark Halperin spells out 14 reasons why, and  Politico's Ben Smith sums up the general feeling by saying "[t]he knives have been out in Hillaryland for Mark Penn for years."

However, on the Atlantic's Current blog, Joshua Green offers a "semi-defense" of the unpopular pollster, though he concedes that Penn was bad news for the campaign overall: "Penn's idea of targeting women and highlighting Clinton's experience, which some (like me) found laughable, doesn't look quite so bad in hindsight. It has won her considerable support -- and as far as I know, it wasn't Penn who had her keep repeating those tall tales about the tarmac in Tuzla. His "3 a.m." ad was her biggest hit in weeks and probably allowed her to keep running." Perhaps Burson-Marstellar does some consulting for the Atlantic: Green's colleague Mark Ambinder also contends that Penn has been disproportionately blamed for Clinton's probable failure to secure the nod, and besides: "Clinton will lose this primary narrowly. About half of Democratic voters will have chosen her over Obama, a fact that will be lost in the final delegate tally. Clinton is responsible for increasing the turnout of white working class voters and women."

Liberal Steve Benen at the  Carpetbagger Report ticks off a list of burning questions, including "Will any major presidential campaign ever again make the mistake of putting one person in charge of strategy and polling? (The conflict is absurd — Penn crafted a plan, and then provided his own data to show how right he was)," and "How soon will Penn actually collect the $2.5 million the campaign still owes him?"

Wonkette perhaps reveals the collective id of the blogosphere, snarking, "Now he's just another fat bum spewing fireballs out of his mouth."

Read more about the aftermath of the Mark Penn era. 

Vice President Rice? Is Condoleezza Rice angling to be John McCain's VP candidate? On This Week With George Stephanopoulos, GOP strategist Dan Senor declared that the secretary of state has been "actively" chasing the nod. McCain says that's news to him.

At The Nation'sCampaign Matters blog, John Nichols seems happy to see someone with a similar stance on Iraq floated as a possible running mate for McCain, remarking sarcastically that it "[s]ounds like a match made in neo-con heaven... or in that corner of hell where a hundred-year war, er, occupation, seems like an attractive prospect." That's why some conservatives think Condi won't cut it.

The National Review's Jim Gerarghty doubts the veracity of the rumor, pointing out on the Campaign Spot that  "when the President's approval rating is about 30 percent, and the incessant mantra of the election is 'change', McCain probably won't want someone who's been associated with the foreign policy decisions in Washington for most of a decade." Self-identified "capitalist" Jason Pye agrees, saying, "It could potentially be a drag to the ticket in an already Democratic year." Meanwhile, libertarian Doug Mataconis at Below the Beltway sees her as a giant political question mark, asking, "Why do some conservatives back her even though, like Colin Powell back in 1990s, nobody has the slightest idea what her position on social issues or fiscal policy might actually be?"

Not everyone thinks Rice is dangerously unproven. Black conservative James T. Harris at the National Conversation offering up a prayer instead: "Dear Lord, Precious Lord... Let this rumor be true. Then allow Hillary to steal the nomination from Obama to ensure a McCain/Rice presidency. Then Lord, in your time, grant Condoleezza Rice the privilege of answering the phone that's ringing in the White House at 3:00 a.m." Fellow black conservative Bob Parks links to various caricatures he's seen of Rice on liberal Web sites and writes: "Condoleezza Rice on the presidential ticket would show America, if not the world, just who the Republican Party was and is. We would also get a good look into the dark, racist world of the Democrats."

Read more on Rice's chances.

Killer keyboards: The New York Times' posited Sunday that blogging can be harmful to one's health, citing a recent spate of heart attacks (three, two fatal) by middle-aged bloggers. Bloggers are having a coronary over the trend piece.

Michelle Malkin explains that blogging is an outlet for her, since "[s]ome people do yoga; I pound the keyboard. The blood pressure goes down either way." Dr. Helen (also known as the InstaWife), agrees that the Times drew its conclusions too swiftly: "Funny, I had a heart attack before I started blogging. Now I am fine. Coincidence? I think not," but also conceded, "I think many people who blog don't feel well to begin with." (Her famously opinionated husband, meanwhile, mocks the Times for its sketchily drawn conclusions.)

Ann Althouse says the key distinction the Times missed is that money is the root of all evil:  "I think the mindset that makes blogging oppressive is doing it for money. I don't think Dr. Helen is blogging for a living, and I'm not blogging for a living. I get money from ads, but blogging wouldn't be so fun and fulfilling if I was depending on it for my livelihood." (Matt Yglesias disagrees.)

Gawker's Ian Spiegelman concludes "Oh snap... I'd better post this shit before everyone beats me to it! But... getting... diz"

Read more on more on death by blogging.

Noreen Malone is a senior editor at New York magazine.