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Obama: "I Would've Fired Penn"


From CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic:

INDIANAPOLIS – Barack Obama said he would have fired his adviser if he had met with a foreign government to promote a policy he disagreed with, as Clinton strategist Mark Penn did. "I think it was surprising to me that a high ranking, if not the highest ranking, member of Senator Clinton's team would be engaged in business activities and lobbying that was directly contrary to a position Senator Clinton had taken," Obama said, referring to Clinton's opposition to the Colombian free-trade agreement. "And you know, I'm not surprised that Senator Clinton found herself in an uncomfortable position as a consequence, and I know that if staff of mine were putting me in that kind of position I would get rid of them."

Penn has since stepped own from his role as Clinton's chief strategist, but continues to unofficially advise the campaign and is employed as her chief pollster. Clinton spokesman Jay Carson responded by pointing out that Obama economic adviser Austin Goolsbee is still a part of his campaign. "When Sen. Obama's top economic adviser told the Canadian government not to take his anti-NAFTA rhetoric seriously, he first denied that the meeting ever occurred, and when that proved false he took absolutely no action," Carson said. "It's good to know he has a higher standard for our campaign than his own."

Obama also reiterated his promise today to have talks with John McCain on public financing if he is the nominee; however, he also suggested that he may not accept that option. Obama described the current public financing system as "creaky" and said that small internet donations may be a better option.

"I think that it is creaky, and needs to be reformed if it's going to work," Obama said. "We know that the check off system has been declining in participation, and as a consequence, the amount of money raised through the public financing system may be substantially lower than the amount of money that can be raised through small donations over the internet, which presents candidates, then, with some pretty tough decisions in terms of how they want to move forward if they want to compete in as many states as possible."

The issue of public financing resurfaced on Tuesday, after Obama told a group of high dollar donors in Washington, D.C. that his campaign fundraising parallels a public financing system. "Really what I was trying to suggest is that through the internet and the enthusiasm of this campaign, we've created a model for being able to compete at the highest levels of politics without being dependent on big moneyed interests."

The campaign raised more the $40 million in March, the majority of which came from donations raised over the internet. That's more than double the amount presumptive Republican nominee John McCain raised last month, and his campaign is continuing to call on Obama to accept public financing in the general election.

"We will always welcome an open discussion with Barack Obama, but he has clearly committed to public financing in the general election should he win his party's nomination, and we expect him to keep his word," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. "Any hedging or clever language from Senator Obama seems more like something you would read in a predatory home-loan, not the 'Audacity of Hope.'"

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