SAMANTHA POWER REVISITED….Matt Yglesias responds to the news that Obama advisor Samantha Power has resigned after being quoted calling Hillary Clinton a “monster”:
So thinking a bit more reflectively about this Samantha Power business, I’m pretty pissed off. Sure, you can rail against the perfidy of the Clintons, but this sort of ritualized calls for resignations is all in the game. Having her resign, by contrast, is just playing the game poorly. Remember when fresh strategic thinking and common sense were going to break with the conventional wisdom? I do. The “monster” business was a dumb thing to say, and certainly the kind of thing you apologize for, but no kind of indication that she was a bad person to get foreign policy advice from.
I’m trying to figure out if I agree with this or not. My first take was just the opposite: I thought this reflected well on Power, who resigned and issued a fulsome apology rather than allowing this whole thing to spiral out of control and hurt the candidate she was working for. Good for her. And since Obama can obviously pick up the phone and call her anytime he wants, this doesn’t really have any substantive impact.
On the other hand, Matt is right about the optics. Power really is an interesting foreign policy advisor who brings some fresh ideas to the table, and even symbolically you hate to see someone like that get thrown under the bus over a brief indiscretion. It’s a sign of how nasty this campaign is getting that the Obama team apparently didn’t think it could afford to insist that she stay aboard.
So that’s that. I do have one more comment, though: Power called Clinton a monster and then immediately afterward tried to claim “that is off the record.” A few commenters have been crying foul over this, but that’s not how it’s done: something is off the record only if the reporter agrees beforehand that it’s off the record. There are certainly some reporters who would have cut Power a bit of slack here and some who wouldn’t, but the Scotsman reporter who published Power’s remarks wasn’t doing anything wrong. Cozy beltway conventions often seem to dictate that remarks are off the record by default, but we bloggers has long complained about that, and rightly so, I think. Nobody broke any rules here.