This morning it was announced that President Barack Obama will nominate foreign policy confidant Samantha Power to replace Susan Rice as the United States ambassador to the United Nations. But, who is she? If you’ve been a long-time Blaze reader, you are likely familiar with the controversial figure. If not — or if you’d simply like a refresher — allow us to provide an overview.
Fall from grace — and her return
Power, a human rights expert and former White House adviser, left the White House earlier this year, though she was considered the president’s likely pick to move to the U.N. As TheBlaze reported this morning, she has long been connected to Obama. And if you’ll recall, she has had her fair share of controversy, specifically after she was forced to resign from the president’s 2008 campaign following negative remarks she made about Hillary Clinton.
In an interview with The Scotsman during the heat of the 2008 presidential race, Power called Clinton a “monster.”
“We f***** up in Ohio. 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 said of the Obama camp’s efforts and of Clinton’s political prowess. “She is a monster, too — that is off the record — she is stooping to anything.”
Power’s comments though didn’t lead to completely severed ties to Obama, as she was soon back in the fold. So, too, was her husband — she is the wife of former regulatory czar Cass Sunstein. As early as 2011, TheBlaze covered expectations that Power could possible secure greater power, specifically if the president was elected to a second term. Her U.N. appointment appears to solidify these expectations.
Influence on Libya
In the past, Irish Central called her one of the main architects of the Obama administration’s policies in Libya, noting her influence over the White House. And Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a 2011 New York Times profile that “She is clearly the foremost voice for human rights within the White House and she has Obama’s ear.”
Bloomberg has more about her Libya involvement as well:
She played a role, along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and other NSC advisers, in convincing Obama to push for a UN Security Council resolution to authorize a coalition military force to protect Libyan civilians. Other administration figures were concerned about the effectiveness of a no-fly zone and differences within NATO over what Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned would be a “big operation.” […]
Power, who sought the limelight as a writer and public intellectual, has learned to be a behind-the-scenes policymaker over the past two years, associates say.
Eventually, she repaired relations with Clinton. That said, she’s still widely seen as a problem by conservatives who oppose her ideals. After all, it wasn’t only her comments about the former Democratic presidential candidate that has caught the ire of critics; her foreign policy, too, is seen by some as problematic.
Glenn Beck once covered the controversy surrounding her, while Sean Hannity named her one of the top 10 most dangerous people in the Obama administration. Watch Hannity’s comments, below:
Why? Let’s explore why Power is seen as such a polarizing figure.
Previously, TheBlaze provided a plethora of background on the human rights enthusiast. As noted, Power has a complicated history with the Obama camp and has also been accused, in the past, of making disparaging remarks about Israel.
Let’s review what Beck has said about the incoming U.N. ambassador. In March 2011, the popular radio and television host covered Power on his radio show and a subsequent article on GlennBeck.com recapped the host’s stance:
For anyone who thinks that Samantha Power is just some low level cog in the Washington machine, the New York Times just did a nice profile on her role in the current administration. It turns out that Mrs. Cass Sunstein is probably the most dangerous woman in America, after all. […]
“Now from her perch on the national Security Council, she is in a position to make the case for the commander in chief and to watch him translate her ideas into action. She’s clearly the foremost voice for human rights with in the White House, says Kenneth Ross. She has Obama’s ear. The Irish‑born Miss Power…functions as kind of an institutional memory bank on genocide,” [Beck said].
“So we have Cass Sunstein’s wife advising on the Responsibility to Protect,” Glenn said “If you’re in the circle of George Soros, she was a queen. George Soros immediately funded a group to push the Responsibility to Protect.”
Watch Beck discuss Power back in 2011:
Last year, The Chicago Sun-Times provided information about Power and her involvement in Obama’s Atrocities Prevention Board, an effort to prevent future genocide (i.e. the doctrine of a “Responsibility to Protect”) and other horrific occurrences:
Samantha Power — who won a Pulitizer Prize for her book on genocide and now advises the Obama administration on the subject–will chair President Barack Obama’s new Atrocities Prevention Board, which gets down to work Monday as Obama delivers a speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. […]
The Obama White House efforts to address genocide is headed by Samantha Power, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights. Power won a Pulitizer Prize for her book, “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide”and worked briefly for Obama when he was a U.S. senator from Illinois.
But that has largely been seen as an interventionist policy — something many Republicans and Democrats shy away from.
Considering her past comments about Israel and her perceived stance on the Middle Eastern country, it’s likely that her appointment will be contentious, drawing particular frustration from conservatives and those who believe that her policy stances will be damaging to the current Middle Eastern scenario.
Again, these concerns are nothing new. Last year, The Lid blog wondered if Power would use her position on the Atrocities Prevention Board “as a tool to de-legitimize Israel.” Now, it’s likely that this same question will exist surrounding the U.N. and her powerful role there.
Past comments do little to temper these fears. In 2002, Power sat down with Harry Kreisler, the director of the Institute for International Studies at Berkeley. Kreisler asked her the following:
“Let me give you a thought experiment here, and it is the following: without addressing the Palestine – Israel problem, let’s say you were an advisor to the President of the United States, how would you respond to current events there? Would you advise him to put a structure in place to monitor that situation, at least if one party or another [starts] looking like they might be moving toward genocide?”
Power’s response, in the eyes of those who support Israel, was problematic, as she claimed support for “external intervention” in the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma and said that it’s important to consider the “lesser evils” associated with getting involved in alleviating the issue.
She also, at one point in her commentary, claimed that Middle Eastern leaders — including Israel, it seems — are “destroying the lives of their own people.” Here is a portion of her response, word-for-word:
“What we need is a willingness to actually put something on the line…and putting something on the line might mean alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import. It may more crucially mean…investing literally billions of dollars not in servicing Israeli military, but actually investing in the new state of Palestine.
In investing billions of dollars it would probably take also to support, I think, what would to be, I think, a mammoth protection force…a meaningful military presence because it seems to me at this stage — and this is true of actual genocides as well and not just major human rights abuses which we’re seeing there — but is that you have to go in as if you’re serious. You have to put something on the line and unfortunately the position of a solution on unwilling parties is dreadful, it’s a terrible thing to do, its fundamentally undemocratic.
But sadly, you know — we don’t just have a democracy here either — we have a liberal democracy. There are certain sets of principles that guide, you know, our policy, or that are meant to, anyway. And there, it’s essential that some set of principles becomes the benchmark, rather than a deference to people who are fundamentally politically destined to destroy the lives of their own people, and by that I mean what Tom Friedman has called “Sharafat.” I mean, I do think in that sense, there’s — that both political leaders have been dreadfully irresponsible, and unfortunately, it does require external intervention which, very much like the Rwanda scenario — that thought experiment, of ‘if we had intervened early’ — any intervention is going to come under fierce criticism, but we have to think about lesser evils, especially when the human stakes are just becoming ever more pronounced.”
Some critics (including the The Lid blog), regardless of the blame that was placed on both parties, have charged that this commentary was a call to invade Israel. DiscoverTheNetworks.org also makes some fascinating claims about some of Power’s other most recent statements. Here’s just a sampling:
In her 2004 review of Noam Chomsky’s book Hegemony or Survival, Power agreed with many of Chomsky’s criticisms of U.S. foreign policy and expressed her own concerns about what she called the “sins of our allies in the war on terror,” lumping Israel together with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, Russia, and Uzbekistan. She called Chomsky’s work “sobering and instructive.”
In 2005–06, Power worked as a foreign policy fellow in the office of U.S. Senator Barack Obama. In this role, she helped to spark and inform Obama’s interest in the deadly ethnic and tribal conflict of Darfur, Sudan.
In a 2007 interview, Power said that America’s relationship with Israel “has often led foreign policy decision-makers to defer reflexively to Israeli security assessments, and to replicate Israeli tactics…” The United States, she explained, had brought terrorist attacks upon itself by aping Israel’s violations of human rights.
Naturally, many will still wonder if her views surrounding Israel and the Middle East will impact how she manages her position at the U.N — and, more specifically — her treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This article has been updated.
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