Samantha Power: Why Do Conservatives Call the New UN Ambassador a Radical?

Obama’s new nominee for ambassador to the United Nations certainly isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind. In 2008, Samantha Power was forced to resign from her post as a senior foreign policy adviser to Obama after a newspaper quoted her calling Hillary Clinton “a monster.”

Is it Samantha Power’s tendency to blurt out strongly worded statements that has conservatives calling her a radical? It certainly is a part of the problem conservatives have with her. But we should have a UN ambassador who is not afraid to speak up and to fight for human rights — whether those affected are American or not.

To start off on the more personal side, conservatives note that Power’s partner is Cass Sunstein, a “regulatory radical.” Evidently, being married to a legal scholar automatically means that Power shares all the same views as her husband and makes her unfit for her nominated job.

But the big issue that many have cited is Power’s comments on Israel. In an interview from 2002, Power is quoted as saying in response to a question about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “I do think in that sense, both political leaders have been dreadfully irresponsible. And, unfortunately, it does require external intervention…” Conservatives have taken this quote to mean that Power is anti-Israel.

Yet this quote, when placed back in context, doesn’t mean that Power is a proponent of sending U.S. forces into Israel and the surrounding area to impose some sort of settlement. Instead, her response is to a question about a “thought experiment” in which she was asked what she would do if she were an adviser to the president and it looked like Israel or Palestine were moving towards genocide. A champion of preventative measures for genocide, Power recommended what she would do in other genocidal events. Yes, she could have noted that the imagined situation was not entirely plausible and surely would have been more complicated than that, but she didn’t. But that small lack of judgment in an obscure interview doesn’t mean she’s unfit to serve at the UN.

 

The conservative uproar over Power’s comments on Israel and Palestine is just another example of how in the age we live in, sound bytes are more important than in-depth stories. Rather than going back and actually listening to the interview Power gave in 2002, Power’s opponents are twisting her words to suit their own needs. Meanwhile, the Israeli ambassador to Washington has given her a vote of confidence.

Senate members certainly should question Power about her various remarks during her confirmation hearings, but they shouldn’t take them out of context, and they should question her while keeping in mind that her opinions on genocide and human rights don’t need to be softly spoken to be valued.