Victim of Primary Tensions: Samantha Power Falls on Sword

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I think that Samantha Power is one of the outstanding intellectuals of our time. She has struggled with the question of how nations should respond to the signs of genocidal trends and been one of the key points of conscience within our foreign policy community.


Samantha Power also served as Barack Obama’s chief tutor on foreign policy during the first year of his tenure in the US Senate. I have no doubt that had she remained a “fellow” in his Senate Office, Power would have made sure he took the helm of Senate Foreign Relations Committee/European Subcomittee hearings to not only learn from those who might testify but to articulate his own views on the global challenges facing Transatlantic relations.
Regrettably, in what she tried to code as “off the record” comments after she spoke the words, Power referred to Hillary Clinton as a “monster.”
She has fallen on her sword, honorably:

“With deep regret, I am resigning from my role as an advisor the Obama campaign effective today. Last Monday, I made inexcusable remarks that are at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton and from the spirit, tenor, and purpose of the Obama campaign. And I extend my deepest apologies to Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, and the remarkable team I have worked with over these long 14 months,” said Samantha Power.

Hillary Clinton should quickly accept Power’s apology and acknowledgment of the kind of mistaken and overstatement that any one engaged in this contest could make.
And Hillary and Obama both should make clear that Samantha Power is the kind of voice who should be advising any presidential administration — including their own once elected.
Samantha Power is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide as well as the newly published Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

40 comments on “Victim of Primary Tensions: Samantha Power Falls on Sword

  1. csv says:

    Major bummer about Samantha Power. I followed her work with the Obama campaign and beleive she is able to contribute to the party in ways we have not tapped into as a nation. Her books are a must read and though I support Hillery in this primary (and gen. election), I have a great respect for her knoweledge and work she has done at Harvard (Carr Human Rights…) and educating folks on genocide. She is a must HAVE for our next presidents government….if she’ll have you. Good luck Ms. Power.

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  2. DonS says:

    I’m gonna throw this in, somewhat OT . . . but Glen Greenwald so very nicely reminds us of the still-existent tenacity of the British/Scottish/Irish press versus what passes for the press in the U.S., more reminiscent of whoring, IMO. You don’t have to have been watching too closely to have noticed this. I’m trying to remember if it was always thus. And I don’t think so. A particularly American twist, and particularly loathesome and democracy-killing.
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/03/08/carlson/index.html

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  3. karenk says:

    Firstly, to a “beltway outsider” this seems absurd, considering all the mudslinging that goes on in politics. Secondly, I have to agree with Angels response to leo. And koreyels post did’t change anything. koreyel, you spelled it out very clearly-like leo, you’re still blaming Hillary for what Ms Powers said and did. Hillary accepting or not accepting her apology, or even calling for her resignation, is irrelevent. Powers took responsibility for her own behavior and resigned of her own accord. Can’t blame Hil for that….

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  4. CeeHussein says:

    POA,
    Hillary recently voiced support for the crime Columbia committed in Ecuador. Add that to your list.
    Dan,
    People aren’t just thinking this about Hillary now.
    This morning I called to check if the books by Samantha Power were in stock.
    The clerk said “That woman is right. Hillary is a monster AND a bitch!”

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  5. JohnH says:

    Powers supposedly committed two gaffes: the “monster” and her attempt to elaborate on Obama’s Iraq withdrawl. Clinton seized on the second as showing hypocrisy:
    “While Senator Obama campaigns on his plan to end the war, his top advisors tell people abroad that he will not rely on his own plan should he become president. This is the latest example of promising the American people one thing on the campaign trail and telling people in other countries another.”
    Though we would all want more details of their plans and intentions, nuanced discussion–like Powers’–all too often ends up as fodder for gotcha politics, which is why some of us detest Clinton’s style.
    And her tough, angry attacks make her look decidedly less presidential than either Obama or McCain. If she wants to be President, she should stay above the fray and let her surrogates use the sticks.

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  6. Sarah says:

    Hey Koreyel –
    Re the McCain “joke”
    Can you post anything supporting your assertion that McCain ever
    a) Apologized to Hillary?
    b) Hillary ever accepted?
    I’ve only ever read that McCain was quoted as saying he sent a “letter of apology to the WhiteHouse”
    Not to Hillary
    Or to Chelsea
    Or to Janet Reno…
    ???

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  7. CopperheadIsolationist says:

    Samantha Power told the truth about Clinton’s ruthlessness and cynicism, it was politically inconvenient and she paid the price.
    But Power herself is an unsettling figure advocating perpetual war by the US for humanitarian reasons. One of the old cliches is that the Democrats used to be anti-war, but they are just in favor of different ones – out of Iraq and into Darfur (or Gaza?).
    We need leaders and parties that will resist this imperial temptation that we can no longer afford.

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  8. Tahoe Editor says:

    Watching Jeremy Paxman’s “NewsNight” on BBC interviewing Samantha Power — recorded just before her “monster” riff.
    Samantha Power said:
    “Barack Obama is the ONLY one who has actually asked, ‘What about the Iraqis?'”
    Oh Samantha! He’s “The One!”

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  9. Dan Kervick says:

    This just seems like a typical case of a public intellectual moving into the world of “gotcha” politics, who just learned the hard way that once you are associated with a campaign or administration, you can’t just go around saying what you think all the time, but must stick to the campaign or administration line.
    As for the comments themselves, they don’t seem like a very big deal. Powers just articulated what a lot of people think, but won’t say. After the 48 hour brouhaha is over, maybe the media will start to investigate why someone might be moved to call Clinton a monster.

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  10. GP says:

    So … she’s human. I prefer an individual who, after spending months working for someone she views as a stark change from the “normal” politician, defends him when his opponent stoops to whatever level is necessary to destroy his credibility. How would you respond to lies, false choices, … being told about your candidate?
    Hillary seems willing to destroy the democratic party to assure she will have another go at it in 2012. How else can one explain her hypocrisy (NAFTA and Canada), exaggerations (critical foreign policy decisions?), praise of McCain’s foreign policy experience, …?
    There were times during this campaign when I was willing to support either Hillary or Barack. She has driven me away should she be the nominee and that was difficult to do given what the GOP has done to this country in the last 7 years.

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  11. ... says:

    yes poa, and they want to make sure it is an extremely rare commodity in washington these days…. hypocricy on the other hand is a really popular commodity in washington – always has been..

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  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Kudos to Samantha. A shame the candidates can’t get the balls together to call a spade a spade.
    As Den Valdron, (a particularly astute past reader and participant on this blog), pointed out long ago, our leaders have definitely earned the classification of “monster”, and calling them anything less flies in the face of reality. Hillary has exhibited no willingness to rein in this Administration. She has expressed full support for Israel’s human rights abuses against the Palestinians, and fully supported Israel’s war crimes against Lebanon civilians when Israel peppered the Lebanese landscape with literally MILLIONS of cluster bomblets. A favorite of AIPAC, and a recipient of the arms industry’s unfettered support, surely it is no stretch of the imagination to suppose that she will carry on the current Israeli/United States policy of slaughtering Muslims willy nilly; gender, age, or sect affiliation be damned.
    Yes, “monster” is a perfectly reasonable monicker, and this paper mache media sensation Obama is ill advised in firing such an honest and astute individual. We need MORE Samanthas, not less.
    This pissed off American extends a heartfelt “thank you” to Samantha for telling it like it is. Your courage, and your honesty, is a rare commodity in Washington these days.

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  13. RonK, Seattle says:

    MarkL — Yes, the CW Memo was a major embarrassment, but nobody was tallying points against Ob08 at that time.
    So was her Tucker Carlson moment, 2007-11-02.
    Appropriate feedback then might have saved her all this trouble.
    And she may draw valuable lessons from this. Next time she addresses an intense dispute from a 3rd-party perspective, she’ll have a better sense of the distortions those perspectives can induce.

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  14. mars says:

    Hillary is becoming disgusting, and Obama’s a wimp for letting something as childish as this take Power out of the process. This whole thing is a perfect example of why Republicans think Dems are wimpy dopes.

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  15. MarkL says:

    Coming from someone whose area is genocide, calling Hillary a “monster” is really beyond the pale.
    I am not impressed by her political savvy at all. IN fact, the lowest moment of this campaign season was back in August when she accused Clinton of favoring nuclear strikes on terrorist training camps. That was in her hideously misinformed piece on “conventional wisdom”

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  16. Cee Hussein says:

    Since I haven’t read the book I have to ask if Power named countries and individuals who were responsbible for the arms sales that fueled this conflict?

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  17. HTML.Mencken says:

    FYI, here’s the link to an excerpt of the WNYC interview:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylSy-1kyM9o

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  18. Tahoe Editor says:

    “speaking her mind with the press in earshot”???
    It was a 1-on-1 press INTERVIEW with a TAPE RECORDER!
    As for the Clintons “bumping off” Power, BillB, it’s remarkable the powers some folks attribute to the Clintons. Power bumped herself off! Much as you might like to believe, Hillary doesn’t have a voodoo doll of Samantha Power with which she can control her big mouth. Please.

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  19. koreyel says:

    Leo, it’s always Clinton’s fault, right? Samantha Power made the comment and she supposedly resigned of her own free will. So it’s Clinton’s fault. I get it now.
    No I don’t think you get it. So let me spell it out for you:
    When a person apologizes and you don’t accept it and instead ask for their head…. well then: DOH.
    By the way did you hear the one about McCain calling Chelsea a Janet Reno offspring? McCain apologized. Clinton accepted. Pity she couldn’t do as much for a woman intellectual on the left. Very lame Hillary. Very lame.

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  20. top says:

    Indeed. If Clinton’s foreign policy “expertise” is based upon her 8 years as First Lady, it’s pretty thin.
    As the above poster points out, when the Red Phone rang, they ignored Rwanda, tucked their tails between their legs and ran out of Somalia, and made hashwork of an existing peace plan for Bosnia (succeeding only in prolonging the conflict and bloodshed).
    After her First Lady experience, in the Senate, she’s responsible for voting in favor of a unilateral invasion of a country that didn’t attack us, and of supporting the dangerously irresponsible Kyl-Liebermann bill. When the Bush administration launches attacks on Iran and uses Kyl-Liebermann as cover, she’s going to have a hard time explaining her having opened the door.
    But hey, she got called a “monster” in off the cuff remarks (the type that aides from both campaigns say on a daily basis, but are kept out of the press) and saw an opportunity for some political payback on someone who pointed out she did absolutly nothing when the Rwandan Red Phone came calling.
    Just a few weeks ago, I was extolling both candidates and looking forward to either winning. Since then, I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with Clinton. She’s seeming more and more Bush/Rovian by the day.

    Reply

  21. BillB says:

    Interesting piece at HuffPost about a backdrop to the whole Power affair: her Pulitzer winning book about the Rwandan genocide paints a tough portrait of the Clinton administration’s indifference.
    I’m sure the Clintons are ecstatic at bumping off a formidable critic in such a mindless and cheap way.

    Reply

  22. ... says:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marc-cooper/clinton-genocide-and-a-c_b_90436.html
    Power was rightfully awarded the Pulitzer for her finely written and downright horrifying book “A Problem From Hell” which, in macabre detail, describes the calculated indifference of the Clinton administration when 800,000 Rwandans were being systematically butchered. The red phone rang and rang and rang again. I don’t know where Hillary was then. But her husband and his entire experienced foreign policy team – from the brass in the Pentagon to the congenitally feckless Secretary of State Warren Christopher – just let it ring.

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  23. HTML.Mencken says:

    Without question, Samantha Power was the towering intellect behind Obama campaign’s foreign policy strategy. I’ve always worried about her public speaking approach though – freewheeling and perhaps even unencumbered by political considerations at times. When she was interviewed on WNYC, the interviewer asked her: “Are you worried about the impact of what you are saying when you go on shows like this and talk about the campaign?”. Her answer: “Sure, I’m a political rookie. It’s an adjustment.”
    I suppose she must have regarded the straight jacket of “acceptable speech” in election campaigns as pathetic, no more. Should the Obama campaign have done more to reign her in? I don’t know. I’m certain this will turn out to be a make-or-break moment for the Obama campaign.

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  24. ToddinHB says:

    I’ve seen Power speak many times, both on Charlie Rose and in person. She is a brilliant woman with a very practical and compassionate view of the places that most Americans ignore. In my assessment, she got caught speaking her mind with the press in earshot. Rightly, she stepped aside and should let this fade away as quickly as possible. I can only hope that she still has the ear of Obama because her insight would have saved us all a lot of grief if Bushwacker had someone like her to listen to.

    Reply

  25. Angel says:

    Leo, it’s always Clinton’s fault, right? Samantha Power made the comment and she supposedly resigned of her own free will. So it’s Clinton’s fault. I get it now.

    Reply

  26. Tahoe Editor says:

    DAVID BROOKS:
    “These attacks are supposed to show that Obama can’t be pushed around. But, of course, what it really suggests is that Obama’s big theory is bankrupt. You can’t really win with the new style of politics. Sooner or later, you have to play by the conventional rules.
    “In short, a candidate should never betray the core theory of his campaign, or head down a road that leads to that betrayal. Barack Obama doesn’t have an impressive record of experience or a unique policy profile. New politics is all he’s got. He loses that, and he loses everything. Every day that he looks conventional is a bad day for him.”
    David Brooks: Clinton Rules
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/07/opinion/07brooks.html?hp

    Reply

  27. leo says:

    Another Clinton victim, when will it ever end?

    Reply

  28. Tahoe Editor says:

    Heilemann: Monstergate Woke the Media Beast. Can Obama Handle It?
    http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2008/03/heilemann_monstergate_woke_the.html
    The Real Problem with Power’s “Monster” Remark | by Andrew Romano
    http://www.blog.newsweek.com/blogs/stumper/archive/2008/03/07/the-real-problem-with-power-s-monster-remark.aspx

    Reply

  29. bob h says:

    I have been supporting Hillary, but am saddened by what has happened to Power, the sort of person you do want to be involved in our governance. If Obama wins, I hope Power will be involved in his government.

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  30. carsick says:

    She became the story and didn’t want to eclipse her candidate’s story.
    She could come back after the primary without much problem I would guess.

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  31. Tahoe Editor says:

    Retaining an adviser who calls his opponent a “monster” would do little for the “new kind of politics” BO is selling.

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  32. Zathras says:

    People who do campaign politics for a living are not likely to be very good at foreign policy. The reverse is also true.
    Having said that, in Obama’s place I wouldn’t have allowed Samantha Power to leave now over this incident even if I thought she was no good at all. Obama, or more likely his campaign staff, are trying to kill a bad storyline as quickly as possible, which would make sense if he were on the verge of victory. He’s not.
    An apology on Power’s part, along with a public rebuke and reminder from the candidate that he hired her to help with foreign policy, not to muck around with campaign politics, would have been the correct line to follow here. Clinton and her campaign would have complained that their demands for Power’s head had been ignored, and Obama’s campaign could then point out the incongruity of this “fighter” whining about being called names.
    Obama and his people need to forget about Wisconsin. He is not riding a wave of momentum, on his way to clearing one last obstacle to the nomination and the White House. He and his campaign are in a fight that can end in one of only two ways: he wins, or he loses. Throwing one of your own people over the side (or allowing her to jump) may not make you lose, but it almost never helps you win.

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  33. Thom says:

    Wow. Really, really like the site change, SC. Makes the old one
    seem like 1950s, doesn’t it? Was this just today?

    Reply

  34. Tahoe Editor says:

    @ diddler:
    I can’t say what either candidate would do about treason. But there’s no doubt who Joe Wilson wants in the White House.
    Battle-Tested | by Joe Wilson
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joe-wilson/battletested_b_86355.html

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  35. Tahoe Editor says:

    No doubt Samatha is kicking herself for getting caught — not for speaking her mind.

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  36. diddler says:

    We all make mistakes. Powers made hers. Still, I’d hire her in a split second. She’s brilliant, well-spoken and cute, too.
    Hillary Clinton is a big girl; she’s been – and will be – called a lot worse than a “monster”.
    Meanwhile, Powers admitted her mistake and apologised. That’s good enough for me.
    Meanwhile, back in the White House, treason was committed. Ask Valerie. She’ll tell you all about it.
    I wonder what either Obama or Clinton plan on doing about that?

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  37. Tahoe Editor says:

    Sounds like Barack was doubling down on the “we don’t need no stinkin’ experience/naiveté is the new realism” school of thought. Lucky for him she showed her true colors.

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  38. Anon says:

    Samantha Power is a global justice person who has no appreciation for the reality of priority setting given limited national security capital of US.

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  39. kevin barry says:

    Just another big mouth who finally said something in public that
    got her in trouble. Don’t fear for little Samantha, like all the other
    useless political functionaries, she’ll pop up in some other liberal
    bastion. Her ignorance still has a long way to go. She’ll be around
    to screw up again and again.

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  40. Tahoe Editor says:

    “I have no doubt that had she remained a ‘fellow’ in his Senate Office, Power would have made sure he took the helm of Senate Foreign Relations Committee/European Subcommittee hearings to not only learn from those who might testify but to articulate his own views on the global challenges facing Transatlantic relations.”
    Wouldn’t that be the senator’s responsibility to take the helm of his own subcommittee?
    I understand that a president doesn’t stand alone — that the team of advisers around the president help shape/fill out the office in a very substantial way. But if Barack needs an adviser to tell him to pay attention to his chairmanship, that’s troubling.

    Reply

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