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March 6, 2008
Samantha Power unplugged (updated)
Samantha Power, Senator Barack Obama's key foreign policy adviser, is traveling through Europe promoting her new book on Sergio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations official killed a few years ago In Iraq. She has been doing a series of interviews where she apparently feels more open to displaying her feelings than in America during a hotly contested primary contest between her close friend Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
She sat down for an interview with England's New Statesman magazine and what she said may surprise many Americans. During the interview, she stated that President Obama would engage with President Ahmadinejad, North Korea, and Syria. Then she is asked, "...is there anyone he wouldn't talk to"?
She responded that there was no one among "elected heads of state. He won't talk to Hamas, but he would talk to Abbas". The interviewer points out that inconsistency inherent in her answer by informing the Harvard foreign policy expert that Hamas was a democratically-elected government and that Abbas' Fatah party lost the last popular vote.
Professor Power backtracked and then said that Barack Obama would talk to "heads of state" and swiftly veered off into a discussion about how America has supported dictatorships in the past. This seems to cut both ways. Would President Obama talk to Hamas? Is Hamas a dictatorship, democratically elected?
(Professor Power might want to consult Jeanne Kirpatrick's distinction between dictatorships and authoritarian regimes and her belief that one can influence the latter, but should oppose the former.)
Even the interviewer doubts Power's sincerity at that point, titling the next section " The Odd Fib" and indicating that he did not believe she's convinced by what she is saying and that dissembling does not come easy to her (for confirmation of this, see her defensive interview with Shmuel Rosner and the critique of the same by Paul Mirengoff of Powerline.)
The interviewer notes (presumably because America is in the heat of the primary season)
Then, in the money quote, Power plaintively complains:
How much comfort can pro-Israel voters take in a candidate whose possible Secretary of State feels free to characterize legitimate concerns and questions as revolving around the issue of "is it good for the Jews"? Ms. Power might be unaware that support for our ally Israel is widespread across America and cuts across all religious and ethnic groups.
Perhaps Ms.Power should leave Cambridge and the Kennedy School of Government for awhile and mix it up a bit with the rest of America. Millions and millions of Americans believe in supporting our allies and opposing our enemies. The key issue is never "what is good for Israel?"; it is "what is good for America?". Would a foreign policy that stiff-arms allies and appeases foes bolster America's image in the world? What would it tell other allies or potential allies?
What brings out the best in America is staying true to the principles that have made our nation great, championing democracies under siege from the forces of extremism. There are legitimate concerns that President Obama's foreign policy -- in so far as advisers such as Samantha Power influence it -- would change our diplomacy in ways detrimental to our nation. Michael Gerson wrote a superb column about some of the consequences for our nation (and the world) should President Obama follow through with his foreign policy plans: we would demean our own principles, send a message that would embolden our enemies, weaken our allies, weaken reformers throughout the Arab world, and weaken ourselves.
Do we wonder why many people have qualms about this candidate?
According to The Scotsman, Ms. Power called Hillary Clinton a "monster" in an "unguarded momnent."