Bringing Power into the fold

BRINGING POWER INTO THE FOLD…. In November, Obama brought on Samantha Power to advise his team on transition matters relating to the State Department. Given that Hillary Clinton had been named the next Secretary of State, and there was some unpleasantness between Clinton and Power during the campaign, this raised questions about possible “awkwardness.”

I’ve long believed this was overblown. Looking at Power’s overall career and accomplishments, but emphasizing on one stray campaign comment, is a ridiculous mistake. We’re talking about a Pulitzer-prize winning scholar who has spent most of her professional life combating genocide and raising awareness of human rights abuses and global humanitarian issues.

With that in mind, I’m delighted to see Power will be joining the White House team, and will have a role working closely with the Secretary of State.

Samantha Power, the Harvard University professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author who earned notoriety for calling Hillary Rodham Clinton a “monster” while working to elect Barack Obama president, will take a senior foreign policy job at the White House, The Associated Press has learned.

Officials familiar with the decision say Obama has tapped Power to be senior director for multilateral affairs at the National Security Council, a job that will require close contact and potential travel with Clinton, who is now secretary of state. NSC staffers often accompany the secretary of state on foreign trips.

Yes, 10 months ago, Power said something intemperate. She’d hoped it would be off the record, and when it wasn’t, Power apologized immediately and profusely, before resigning a few hours later. But here’s the thing to remember: Americans are better off if Power has a prominent and active role in public service. That officials are prepared to move on, despite the brief incident, is a sign of some badly-needed political maturity.

On a related note, Ben Smith has a very sharp observation about the styles of Obama administration officials: “It occurs to me that Obama’s broader national security apparatus now includes quite a few people who say the lesson they learned from the Bush and Clinton years is precisely not to be silent. From Power and Susan Rice, who were shaped by the failure to intervene in Rwanda, to the lawyers at OLC who have written that their job is to resign in some circumstances if their advice is ignored, Obama has chosen to hire a number of people explicitly committed to not being good team players on politically tricky questions of human rights and intervention in particular.”

Good. In this sense, among others, Obama is the exact opposite of the recent president who equated “disagreement with disloyalty.”