The Samantha Power Flap

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Top Obama foreign policy advisor Samantha Power has resigned her role in Obama’s campaign over some harsh remarks she made about the Clinton campaign yesterday.  The Fake Angeleno — for the most part politically neutral — is deeply saddened.

Demographically, my heroes skew heavily to the old-or-dead segment of the population.  Samantha Power is a very prominent exception.   If you don’t know her biography, here’s the short version: Born in Ireland in 1970, emigrates to the U.S. at 9, receives public school education, completes undergrad at Yale, teaches herself Croat and becomes a war correspondent in the Balkans, returns for three years at Harvard Law, realizes law is too morally ambiguous a profession for her, writes the Pulitzer Prize winning book A Problem From Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, becomes a heavy-hitting human rights crusader and professor at the Kennedy School of Government. 

As my friend Paul Kiel once said of Power: "Wow.  She’s not like the rest of us.  She speaks in complete paragraphs."

Power signed on as a foreign policy adviser with Barack Obama in 2005, and has been a top player in his brain trust ever since.  This was a big selling point with me for Obama.   ‘Now here is a candidate,’ I thought, ‘who appears to be showing some real interest in how U.S. power might be used much more effectively to raise global human rights standards and prevent genocide before it happens.’  As David Kurtz just wrote on TPM, "Power is Obama’s Condi Rice." 

Of course, Power (praise be) is no Condi Rice…  Someone like Rice would have been far too politically seasoned to have made an unguarded comment like Power did yesterday.  By now, you probably know what she said:

We f***** up in Ohio," she admitted. "In Ohio, they are obsessed and
Hillary is going to town on it, because she knows Ohio’s the only place
they can win.

"She is a monster, too – that is off the record –
she is stooping to anything," Ms Power said, hastily trying to withdraw
her remark.

Ms Power said of the Clinton campaign: "Here, it looks like desperation. I hope it looks like desperation there,  too.

"You
just look at her and think, ‘Ergh’. But if you are poor and she is
telling you some story about how Obama is going to take your job away,
maybe it will be more effective. The amount of deceit she has put
forward is really unattractive."   

There is, of course, truth to her argument.  (Resolved: The Clintons will stoop to anything.  We all know which side gets the best of that debate.) 

But Power’s finest hour these remarks were most certainly not.  After fellow young professor and Obama adviser Austin Goolsbee became embroiled over his reassuring remarks on NAFTA to the Canadian government last week, you knew the hammer would have to come down hard on Power today.  The Clinton camp was swift in calling for her resignation, and this morning they got it. 

Power had to resign …  quickly.

Politically, Obama would have been ill-advised to go the mattresses for her after the Goolsbee flap and with the race running the way it is right now.  It’s the country’s loss.

I’m sickened at the thought of how this is going to play out in the media the next few days.  Does the Clinton camp try to brand Power as a vituperative, crackpot-wingnut and the walking, talking proof of Obama’s foreign policy weakness?  You bet they do.  They’ll certainly stoop to tarring Power as if she’s of a stripe with, say, Bill Shaheen.  Fortunately, the damage will be only temporary.  As a thinker, journalist, and as a human being, she’s way too strong and accomplished to be destroyed or cripplingly tarnished by a media feeding frenzy.  I’m wagering we’ll see Power return to Obama’s inner-circle if he can vanquish Clinton and bag the nomination.            

A final note: I was still undecided between Clinton and Obama during the lead up to the South Carolina primary.  In the end, it was Clinton’s willingness to "stoop to anything" that brought me squarely over to the Obama camp.   I was absolutely disgusted by the Clinton campaign’s strategy of branding Obama as the "black candidate."   This clip of Bill Clinton doing just that is one of the most cynical things I’ve ever seen.

That Power has been forced to resign for speaking the truth — albeit in an inappropriately incendiary tone —  is a bitter irony.   Her brilliant foreign policy mind was a concrete reason to be excited about Obama’s message of change.

UPDATE: David Corn notes:

The Clinton people do deserve chutzpah points for trying to turn
this nothing-burger into a full-course feast. During a conference call
with reporters yesterday, Clinton’s top spinner, Howard Wolfson,
compared Obama and his aides to Kenneth Starr because they dared to
question Clinton’s refusal to release her income taxes. (In The Washington Post, Dana Milbank credited me
with asking the question that prompted the Ken Starr remark –a quip
obviously locked and loaded before the call.) The comparison was ridiculous. But in Democratic circles, there’s not much of a bigger slur than, Hey, you’re Ken Starr! For Democrats, Starr is the functional equivalent of a monster.

So the Clinton crowd does not have the moral high ground in this
round. Yet what was the net result? Power, a talented journalist and
thinker who gives a damn about genocides (certainly more so than Bill
Clinton did during the Rwanda nightmare), was forced off Obama’s
campaign.

 

 

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