Penn Again

My colleague Marc Ambinder has the story of Hillary Clinton’s campaigning pretending to bow to Mark Penn-related pressure, as Penn agrees to “recuse himself” from his company’s union-busting work. Penn also insists that he never did any of the union-busting work personally. So, in short, Penn and Clinton are promising that in response to labor’s complaints they’re going to . . . keep doing all the same things. He’ll still be profiting from his firm’s union-busting work. Ari Berman has more:

“The logic of the question has considerable merit,” says Harold Ickes, a longtime Clinton advisor and ambassador to organized labor. “Mark has told us that he is taking extra steps to assure people on the outside that he does not engage with clients that may be involved in controversial issues. The phrase ‘Chinese wall’ has been used.”

Ickes predicts rival campaigns will use the anti-labor connection against Clinton. “You don’t want to have attention deflected from the candidate,” he says. […]

Penn’s “recusal” must thus be seen as a classic case of PR spin; a phony gesture that fails to address the underlying problems or the reasons prominent labor leaders are upset with Clinton’s campaign.

Now I assume that if the unions keep up the heat, they’ll eventually get Clinton and Penn to go further on this front. That said, I think it says something that she found herself in this position in the first place. A Clinton administration, like the Clinton campaign, would doubtless be pro-union in a whole variety of ways. Clearly, though, she doesn’t really have her heart in it. She also clearly seems to value her relationship with Mark Penn (who’s really a problematic figure for all sorts of broader reasons) over her relationship with one of the central pillars of the progressive coalition.