Samantha Power: 5 Facts About Obama’s New UN Ambassador Pick

Thursday, 06 Jun 2013 08:11 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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President Barack Obama on Wednesday named former journalist and activist Samantha Power as his nominee to replace Susan Rice as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, setting off a frenzy among conservatives curious about who she is and what she stands for.

Power, 42, is a human rights expert and longtime Obama aide who got her start as a journalist covering the Balkan wars in the 1990s. She later earned a law degree from Harvard and worked on Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

If confirmed, Power will take over as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations while Rice will move over to serve as Obama's national security adviser.

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Garnering both praise and criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike, Power's political past is far from perfect, but commentators say she could prove transformative for America's foreign policy.

Here are five facts about Samantha Power, Obama's UN ambassador pick.


1. Power and Obama Go Way Back


Power was one of the earliest and most outspoken supporters of Obama. She even penned a 2007 memo thought to be the first comprehensive statement of the president's foreign policy approach.

"Barack Obama's judgment is right; the conventional wisdom is wrong," she wrote. "We need a new era of tough, principled, and engaged American diplomacy to deal with 21st century challenges."

She joined the Obama campaign as a foreign policy advisor in 2008 before resigning after making a controversial comment. She later rejoined the administration in 2009 as a member of the National Security Council staff.


2. Power's Controversial Past


Power faced much public scrutiny after calling Hillary Rodham Clinton a "monster" during the heat of the 2008 presidential race.

"We f—ed up in Ohio. In Ohio, they are obsessed and Hillary is going to town on it, because she knows Ohio's the only place they can win," she said in an interview with The Scotsman. "She is a monster, too — that is off the record — she is stooping to anything."

The fallout from her comment ultimately forced Power to resign from the campaign. She later apologized for her remarks.

"Of course I regret them, I can't even believe they came out of my mouth," she said. "The campaign was getting very tense, and I — in every public appearance I've ever made talking about Senator Clinton, I have sung her praises as the leader she's been, the intellect. She's also incredibly warm, funny."

Power has also come under fire in the past for her opinions on American foreign policy.

"In years past, she has written passionately about what she described as U.S. moral failings in Rwanda and the Balkans, criticized various administrations for refusing to 'take risks' to prevent genocide and other atrocities, called U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon 'disappointing'… and publicly pondered U.S. military intervention in the Israel-Palestinian dispute," writes the Washington Post's Karen DeYoung and Colum Lynch.


3. Power and Rice are Old Foes


Power and her predecessor Rice have somewhat of a contentious past, having sparred over human rights issues and policy decisions in the 1990s.

Power has publically criticized Rice for avoiding use of the word "genocide" in 1994, arguing that it was essentially the equivalent of ignoring the mass slaughter happening in Rwanda at the time.

Though their past may be spotty, the women reportedly have a good professional relationship.

"Susan and Samantha have an excellent personal and professional relationship, having worked closely together on a daily basis for the first four years of the Obama administration to promote and defend U.S. interests at the U.N. As has been documented extensively, they also have deep respect for each other," Rice spokesperson Erin Pelton said in a statement.


4. Power's Appointment Could Spark A Foreign Policy Fight


Power's appointment will surely elicit a strong reaction from Republicans weary of her strong ties to Obama.

Jeane Kirkpatrick is "turning in her grave right now," Keith Urbahn, a former chief of staff to former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, tweeted in a reference to President Ronald Reagan’s U.N. ambassador.


Conservative commentators Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck have called Power one of the most "dangerous" Obama appointees.


5. Power Has a Pulitzer


Power earned a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for her book, "A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide," about the U.S. and U.N. failures in their responses to the mass slaughters in Rwanda and Bosnia.

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Related stories:

Dershowitz: Samantha Power Will Stand Up for Human Rights

Gen. Vallely: Inexperience of Susan Rice, Samantha Power 'Unbelievable'

Obama's UN Nominee Has Controversial Past

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