Penn E-mail Urged Geffen Attacks, Library "dump"

Hillary Clinton's first major mistake of the campaign, her staff has long admitted, was whacking Barack Obama after his supporter David Geffen trashed Clinton to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd on Feb. 20, 2007.

Much of the blame for the overreaction has been shouldered by Clinton communications boss Howard Wolfson, who demanding an apology from Obama -- and insisted Obama's campaign return Geffen's campaign contributions.

But Newsweek's epic account of Obama's campaign this week points a finger at Clinton's top strategist and pollster Mark Penn. The controversial Penn, the story claims, advocated a scorched-earth response -- then trashed Wolfson for the response when it triggered a damaging backlash.

A Feb. 21, 2007 Penn E-Mail -- entitled "How do we hit back?" -- obtained by Politico, suggests that Penn was a prime mover in goading Clinton's brain trust into a sharp response linking Obama with the entertainment mogul's remarks.

He wrote:


We should see if we can use this interview to reveal a vicious personal agenda on Geffen's part and undermine the whole "new politics" agenda of Obama. And consider – [W]ill Obama disavow this interview or does Geffen speak for him? (If he disavows, will he give back the money from Geffen? If he does not disavow, then how is this new politics – looks like the old "slash and burn."


The most startling passage, however, is Penn's apparent suggestion that the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock do a public "dump" of files pertaining to Geffen's 1990s pardon request on behalf of Leonard Peltier, a Native-American political activist jailed for murder since the 1970s.

Geffen, once a major backer of Bill Clinton, turned on Clinton after he denied the Peltier request but pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich.


Dowd seems to attribute [Geffen's anger at Hillary Clinton] to a Geffen request for a pardon. If there are documents related to that pardon request in the Clinton library, I would dump them out.


At the time, Clinton Library officials were coming under fire for denying scores of requests for documents pertaining to the both Clintons during their White House days. Clinton lawyers, who have still released only a fraction of items requested, cited federal law and other legal considerations for the denials and delays. 

Penn didn't immediately return a request for comment.

The entire memo is after the jump.
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