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The Power of Power

To continue our discussion of different kinds of power, I am thrilled Obama has brought Samantha Power, who was forced to resign from Team Obama during the campaign for calling Hillary Clinton "a monster," back on board as part of the transition team--for the office of the Secretary of State. 

If you don't know about Samantha Power, here is an excerpt from Esquire:

Power, a journalist and now a professor at Harvard, who won a Pulitzer prize for her 2003 book on America's response to genocide, A Problem from Hell, and who helped kick-start the Save Darfur movement, has a vision that will help shape 21st-century American foreign policy. What Norman Podhoretz is to the neocon movement Power is to this as-yet-unnamed force. (Neo-internationalism? Moral interventionism? Machiavellian idealism?) She espouses talks--firm talks--with rogue states, a respect for international law, and a moral and pragmatic duty to intervene--with troops if necessary--in cases of genocide.

I'm happy she's back for a number of reasons: she's passionate about human dignity and has a complex and pragmatic view of how to secure it. In other words, she's tough and smart. Heart and head. Has a plan. A view. And her Pulitzer Prize winning book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, is endlessly relevant, and gives her unique insight into seemingly intractable hostilities, like the one between Israel and Palestine.

Though she's been lambasted by Zionist groups who say she wants to do everything from fund islamic terrorists to invade Israel, apparently her official position is the US should engage in an immediate and intensified involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In her view, the situation "has to be resolved first of all for the benefit of the parties involved, but also to prevent "cynical Arab leaders" from exploiting the conflict as a tool for justifying their policies."

I'm no expert, but this sounds like a rational approach to me. 

But mostly I feel good about Power's return because Obama's ability to bring her back in a leadership role in HRC's realm says he feels free as POTUS to make controversial decisions and continue to mix up ideological perspectives in the hopes of reaching different conclusions. He's apparently using the power vested in him to follow his agenda of change, rather than kowtow to personal gripes, party lines, or general consensus.

Power should be an excellent and necessary counterpoint to Hillary. Obama appears to believe the two women, though different in approach, are stronger together than apart.

What do you think?

December 1st, 2008


Comment #1 by Craig on December 1, 2008 - 3:20am

I think I like her too. I will read more on her but, after a cursory read up on her, she feel right. I've always hated that people careers seem to be jettisoned from political life based on one statement, be it intentional or not. I think Hillary is (a monster) tough and seemingly unpredictable character. A counter balance is in order.

Comment #2 by L Martin Johnson Pratt on December 1, 2008 - 5:55am

As always you are on point, direct, concise and informative.

Comment #3 by Anjali on December 1, 2008 - 6:13am

Right ON. I'm so glad Power's back. It's all so confusing though (hillary clinton as sec of state, samantha power with different views from clinton serving on the transition team and potentially working very closely with clinton on foreign affairs issues). I agree with you -- I hope Obama's mixin' it up makes for a stronger team.

Comment #4 by Anonymous on December 1, 2008 - 11:56am

Powers is dope, and bringing her back shows that the silliness of the campaign season is behind us, and more importantly, she was dismissed for making far less significant comments than Larry Summers, and he's already been tapped for a top post.

Comment #5 by Anonymous on December 3, 2008 - 4:45am

Re: "Power will be an excellent and necessary counterpoint to Hillary--and her history of supporting ill-conceived wars and misallocations of executive power."

Obama has the same history. He consistently voted to fund the Iraq war and unlike Hillary, he voted for FISA and he voted to extend the Patriot Act. Enough with this attitude that Obama and his choices are somehow morally superior to Hillary's. Look at Obama's voting record.

Wasn't the rationale for giving him the nomination over Hillary, despite his lack of experience, was that he differed from her on foreign policy? Well there is no difference. He has not only turned to Hillary for help, but to the whole Clinton Administration. That's fine with me because Bill Clinton was an excellent President. Hillary (and let's be honest, Bill too) are now in charge of foreign policy.

But let's pretend that having Samantha Power in the room will keep Hillary in line.

(rolling eyes)

Comment #6 by rebecca on December 3, 2008 - 7:06am

If you don't see the difference between Obama and Hillary, nothing I say here will make a whit difference.

But it is indisputable that Samantha Power called Hillary a monster and Hillary is now forced to find common ground with her.That says Obama is in control of the team, and it also says that he thinks HRC could benefit from some other views, other instincts.

I'm looking forward to letting the tape roll.



Comment #7 by Anonymous on December 3, 2008 - 7:51pm

We'll see, but I think Samantha Power will be forced to find common ground with Hillary and Bill. Who has more power? The Secretary of State and her former President husband who has personal relationships with leaders all over the world, or some academic on the transition team? Power was removed once and she can be removed again. It's a bit more difficult to remove the Secretary of State. Not to mention Bill. :)

Comment #8 by rebecca on December 3, 2008 - 11:39pm

I'm not so sure. Though I, like millions worldwide, am a huge Bill fan, mostly because of his intelligence and charisma and funamental human capacity (and not because of NAFTA, his welfare reform policies, etc.) I'm not sure how his global relationships are going to pay off-especially if forced to disclose his $500 million dollar stash raised from "friends" all over the world. Bill has defintely got a shadow side.

 As for Power being fired again--good point. But my hunch is Obama is more loyal to her than HRC, even though HRC's got the big job. I think he's going to expect them to work it out, with neither giving more than the other. The world is changing exponentially--he/we need both perspectives ( and more) to make it. 

But you're right. It's one big experiment at the moment. We'll see. 

Comment #9 by amyamy on December 4, 2008 - 2:24pm

Oh dear; I was afraid of this.

Power is a good and courageous journalist. Full stop. She has picked up, though, some of the more confused strands of thought in international relations over the last 20 years, and mixes a wooly relativism with a clear sense of justice -- naturally, a culturally-defined sense of justice. Product of this combination: Woolly and confused intl policy. Potential for enormous, harmful messes where the rules shift week to week as policymakers grapple with their own understanding of relativism v. sense of Right.

Well, nothing to be done about it till the next fiasco or three.

Comment #10 by rebecca on December 5, 2008 - 3:18am

Hi AmyAmy--welcome over from Jewcy!

We continue to disagree on who has the right to frame these disucussions, P.C., and how an entire group/generation of leaders continues to feel entitled to make these kinds of sweeping statements about who is "qualified" and what is "right."

From your view, Power is simply a "good and courageous jornalist"--but others disagree. Which makes the assesment that follows your view simply an opinion based on a self-referential view of who is capable and who is not, who is right and who is wrong, rather than on a results-based model of mutually agreed upon success and failure.

These are exactly the kinds of issues Samantha and Hillary will have to work through. Hillary will need to be open, and Samantha will need to be smart..and tough.The most important agreement for them to have is on desired results. If they agree on basic points, and rely on what can actually meet those reusults--most people fed, housed, free of violence, etc, they will be make a better team overall. If HRC believes her way is Right (no matter past outcomes) and sees Power as simply a "good journalist" (condescending, disempowering, and alienating) we've got major problems. 

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