This just in: Mark Penn has not been fired.
The news is all over the story that Mark Penn, after embarrassing himself by going to Columbia to promote a "free-trade" agreement that Hillary Clinton opposes, has been fired as Hillary's chief strategist. Fired. Right?
Nope. Look closely, chilluns. Mark Penn is still with the campaign.
The New York Times has the scoop on Penn's actual status. Sort of. And they ... bury it.
The headline trumpets" Top Clinton Aide Leaving His Post Under Pressure." And then, way down in the fourth paragraph, they explain what's going on:
Mr. Penn’s shift — he will continue to do some polling — is the latest upheaval in a campaign that has seen its manager replaced, faced critical money shortages and has often lagged behind Senator Barack Obama of Illinois in a cohesive message and ground strategy.
So it's a shift in position - not a firing. (Josh Marshall speculates here about what's actually going on.)
Let's be clear about what "firing" really means. Usually in politics, firing means asking for a resignation. So Samantha Power was fired. (From a volunteer position, no less.) Amanda Marcotte was fired as John Edwards' blogger (which I still think was a mistake). Mark Penn has not been resigned, and he has not been fired.
Even Maggie Williams never said that Penn was terminated:
"After the events of the last few days, Mark Penn has asked to give up his role as Chief Strategist of the Clinton Campaign; Mark, and Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, Inc. will continue to provide polling and advice to the campaign."
So he was the chief pollster and chief strategist, and now he's only "providing polling and advice"?!?! Give me a fucking break. This is a shell game. Nothing has changed except for Penn's title. Hillary Clinton is perfectly happy to have an top advisor who is directly working against her interests. Not just someone with philosophical differences - someone who is getting paid to undermine her. (Not to mention someone whose brilliant strategy decisions - most notably the Super Tuesday knockout punch that wasn't - have been a case study in how to lose a campaign.)
Mark Penn deserves to be fired. But it hasn't happened yet, and it probably won't actually happen until Clinton's campaign comes to a grinding halt sometime in the next few months.