This business of having clients on both sides of the same issue is known in most places (not counting, of course, Your Nation's Capital) as a conflict of interest. Some conflicts are easy to avoid. But being paid by Clinton to advise her on how best to oppose the Columbian Free Trade Agreement and being paid by Burson-Marsteller for advising the Columbians on how to minimize opposition (like Clinton's) to the same pact is - even INSIDE the District of Columbia - a serious conflict.
The Clinton campaign stated that Penn was meeting with the Ambassador in his role as the CEO of Burson. But a spokesman for the government of Columbia, according to the Wall Street Journal, appeared to disagree, saying:
"The ambassador met with Mr. Penn to discuss the bilateral agenda. There have also been meetings with the advisers to the campaigns of Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain. It's the embassy's job to explain Colombia's reality."
Well, that certainly sounds like the Ambassador thought he was meeting with Penn, at least partially, as a representative of the Clinton campaign.
On Saturday the country of Columbia fired the PR firm of Burson-Marsteller. According to the WSJ's Jackie Calmes, after Penn called the meeting "an error in judgment," the Columbians canned B-M saying:
"The Colombian government considers this a lack of respect to Colombians, and finds this response unacceptable."
By Sunday night the pressure - internally and externally - became too much and Penn was out as the Senior Strategist and More of the Clinton campaign.
It didn't take long for the Clinton insiders to begin dancing on Penn's professional grave. Again, according to Jackie Calmes in the WSJ:
Mr. Penn has been blamed by Clinton advisers and supporters for a flawed strategy that has left the New York senator, once seen as the inevitable nominee, instead struggling against Sen. Obama for the Democrats' nomination.
As the old saying goes: In Washington, ya want a friend? Buy a dog.
As the new saying goes: Wanna wear two hats? Buy a second head.
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