Soft Power Comes to Washington, Part Two

Samantha Power’s substantive views on foreign policy, including her stridently anti-Israel positions and attitude, make her a poor choice for the senior foreign policy position President Obama has bestowed upon her. Yet there has always been reason to suspect that Obama shares many of these positions, including quite possibly her antipathy towards Israel. At a minimum, I think it’s fair to say that Obama wants Power’s views to be part of the discussion he hears. And as president, that’s his prerogative.

But there’s a second objection to Power that has nothing to do with her substantive views. Power’s book tour of last March — “The Book Tour From Hell” — strongly suggests that she lacks the maturity, judiciousness, and seriousness to hold a senior position in the field of foreign affairs.

During the course of the tour, as I observed at the time, Power took on something of a “rock star” persona. As I also cautioned, it was difficult, at least initially, to tell whether (or to what extent) this was Power’s doing. One could easily imagine that the British press was projecting this image on to Power, given her gender, physical appearance, and close relationship to the ultimate rock star, Barack Obama.

Before long, though, it became apparent that Power was, indeed, on a “rock star” trip. As I wrote:

She seemed to cultivate an “edgy” image, using the “f” word during interviews and making candid off-the-cuff negative assessments of Secretary Rice and Gordon Brown (never mind the comment about Hillary Clinton which arguably should have been kept off-the-record by the interviewer), along with vaguely offensive remarks such as “so much of [the discussion] is about: ‘Is [Obama] going to be good for the Jews?’” Most telling of all, perhaps, was her self-proclaimed status as “the genocide chick.”

The comment in which she expressed her disappointment with England’s head of state — “I am confused by what’s happened to Gordon Brown. I thought he was impressive” — by itself showed her to be loose cannon. And calling Hillary Clinton a “monster” was too much even for Obama at the time. If, as Obama concluded, Power was too much of an embarrassment to continue to play a role in the campaign, what sense does it make to give her a senior position in the government? Does Obama take campaigning more seriously than he takes governance?

It speaks poorly of Obama that he values Power’s views, and just as poorly that he deems her temperamentally suited for anything other than perhaps an informal advisor’s role.

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