Clinton Campaign: Kindergarten Crack Just a 'Joke'

That Hillary Clinton -- such a prankster! Yes, if there's one thing Hillary is known for, it's her great sense of humor and light touch. So when she included Barack Obama's statements as a third-grader and kindergartner in her press release for purposes of demonstrating he was lying when he said he hadn't long harbored presidential ambitions, we should have all realized it was just one more of Hillary's rib-ticklers. Too bad that gullible old MSM let itself get spun.

That in essence is what Mark Penn [file photo], Hillary's chief strategist, would have people believe about the press release Clinton put out two days ago. Penn appeared on today's Morning Joe, and talked soon turned to the release. No fewer than four times, Penn tried to pass off the to-all-appearances dead serious kindergarten citation as a "joke":
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Why bring up his kindergarten teacher?

MARK PENN: Oh, that is so silly. You know, I have to say that I really wonder at the end of the day -- he put out an attack on her, trying to say that she had some 20 year plan, and at the end of a long thing as a joke, the campaign put out that he always wanted to run from kindergarten. It was a joke! And the spin machines here are so hyped up here about Senator Clinton and her campaign, that -- that someone would pick up on a joke like that and treat it as though it were serious. The serious part was Barack Obama did not serve really much time in the U.S. Senate before running for president. I mean, he touts his foreign policy experience, the subcommittee he chaired never even met. The serious part of this is he has no practical national or international experience, not the joke at the end of a very long and serious release. Gosh, you guys are so spinnable.

SCARBOROUGH [facetiously]: We are so spinnable. Sometimes I'm just ashamed. Zogby polls, kindergarten polls, what's wrong with me, Mark?

PENN: Exactly.

There's only one small problem with Penn's "it was just a joke" claim. It's untrue.

Have a look at the Hillary release, here. It sets out five items as counter-evidence to Obama's claim that he had not been planning to run for president for many years. The items about essays he wrote as a third-grader and kindergartner are presented in precisely the same fashion as the other points. Absolutely nothing, in either word or graphic presentation, sets them apart or in any other way suggests they are presented as a joke.

This is the second time running that Penn has been caught out playing fast and loose with the facts in a Morning Joe appearance. Just last week, he scolded Scarborough for airing a Zogby poll showing Hillary losing to the GOP front-runners. Penn bizarrely claimed that the poll was "meaningless" because it was the first online poll Zogby had ever conducted. The problem for Penn: Zogby has been running online polls for almost ten years, and no one knows that better than Penn himself since, as the Zogby folks were quick to point out, Penn and the Hillary campaign . . . have been the #1 consumers of Zogby's online polling data.

Suggestion to the Hillary campaign. Stop attacking the press, and find someone other than Mark Penn to go on Morning Joe. If you insist on sending Penn, consider the counter-intuitive strategy of . . . having him tell the truth.

Aside: Last week, while huffily dismissing the Zogby poll as "meaningless," Penn held up Gallup as the polling gold standard. "That's a real poll. That's got 50 years of history," said Penn. Well, yesterday's new Gallup poll shows Hillary having lost 12 points of her lead over Obama. H/t Captains Quarters.

How now, brown cow?

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.