Jonathan Alter: Mark Penn has “IQ of Bill Gates and the EQ (emotional intelligence) of an eggplant”

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In the latest issue of Newsweek, Jonathan Alter gives his perspective on “the men behind Clinton and Obama,” which happen to be Burson-Marsteller CEO Mark Penn (Clinton) and David Axelrod (Obama).

Alter and Penn attended Harvard together, where Alter says the Burson CEO’s nickname was “Pig-Penn.” He explains:

He has the IQ of a Bill Gates and the “EQ” (emotional intelligence) of an eggplant. His awkwardness makes him an especially strange choice to be CEO of Burson-Marsteller, one of the largest public-relations firms in the world, but the company (which represents Blackwater, predatory lenders and a few anti-union companies) obviously values him for his grasp of the “science” of selling tarnished products.

Kevin McCauley at the O’Dwyer PR blog continues:

The PR business would be well-served if Penn ultimately cut ties with Camp Clinton. This blogger has heard loud rumblings that the image of the PR business is suffering because the head of one of its biggest firms is a part-time CEO.

This blogger was told by the head of a large firm that he recently lost a competitive pitch to B-M. It just finally came down to clout in Washington. “How could we compete with someone who has the ear of the next president?” he said.

The obvious answer? You can’t.