Samantha Power, Susan Rice, President Obama and departing national security adviser Tom Donilon. (Photo: Christopher Gregory/New York Times)
This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
President Obama and his newly promoted appointees, Susan Rice and Samantha Power, have their work cut out for them. They have to re-commit to America’s global reach.
That assured what remains is how far America’s global reach extends. By demanding the “reach” response, critics threaten to expose those who aspire to political leadership. Are they true believers or imposters from the liberal Left?
Get ready for the obvious line of questioning – Israel, Iran, Syria. In fact it has already begun.
Rice and Power are American interventionists abroad – critics can’t doubt that. Obama is as well. They do show some reluctance, however. Their reach is less. Blowback is inevitable.
Proof is in the policy rather than the rhetoric, though rhetoric is important, too. The lesser of two evils on the American political scene have to be seen as co-dependent empire builders. How else to reach the pinnacle of American power?
Even the President has to prove himself a team player. Think of Rice and Power at the President’s table. Are they going to be the constant naysayers on big issues?
Power corrupts. So does political ambition. If you want to make it big you have to be an empire enabler.
Cynicism about power, like cynicism about God, is always in order. As long as we realize that power is exercised regardless of how corrupt we know it to be and that if we reject one God, we will adopt another one even if it isn’t so named. At issue are our involvement and the stances we take.
Anyone who has followed Samantha Power knows her political ambition to be primary. Her calculations were clear even as a writer about genocide – by the way she parsed her research and what she said and didn’t say. Her politically incorrect indiscretions were clumsy, to be sure, but they too were ways she hoped to ingratiate herself to power.
Will Power’s upcoming Senate confirmation hearings be her ultimate victory lap? No doubt, her behind the scenes coaching has begun.
Power has already earned the important Jewish imprimatur of Alan Dershowitz. Check out his piece where he opines paternalistically on “Samantha’s” qualifications:
To be sure, Samantha has said some things she now regrets—about Hillary Clinton, about Israel and about other controversial matters. She says what she thinks when she thinks it. As the United States representative to the United Nations, she will articulate the policy of the Obama Administration. She will have to be more diplomatic than she was while in private life. I am confident that she will make our country proud.
I have discussed the Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Samantha on many occasions. As a strong supporter of Israel’s security, I have a high level of confidence that she will do and say the right things. Indeed, because of her sometimes critical attitude toward certain Israeli policies—some of which I agree with, others of which I do not—she will bring added credibility to her positions at the most anti-Israel location in the world other than perhaps, Tehran. No one should expect to agree with everything an outspoken person like Samantha has said over the past decades. But nor should anyone judge her on isolated statements instead of on her distinguished total record.
While serving in the Obama Administration, she has supported Israel’s security and defensive actions against terrorism. She stands squarely behind President Obama’s pledge never to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, even if preventive military action is required. She played a pivotal role in persuading the United States and some of our European allies to boycott the notorious Durban II conference, sponsored by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, which invited Ahmadinejad to be its keynote speaker.
There you have the official line – “Liberal values stop at Israel’s shores. Samantha knows the limits of criticism. She’ll betray her own principles to get ahead. Besides she is an interventionist on the issues that count for us. And we score policy points by bringing in a liberal woman who will need our continuing backing to succeed.”
Dershowitz knows the political geography well. He’s standing up for one of “our” own. Is she glad to be in his company?
On the make. What it takes. What you give up. What you get in return. But, then, what is left after all the power moves are made and you’ve made it to the top?
The New York Times has a photo of Obama, Rice and Power walking away from the President’s announcement of their promotion. The camera angle is from behind; they have their arms draped around each other. Above the photo the title reads: “In Personnel Appointments, Obama Takes Assertive Tack.”
To me it appears they are consoling each other. They look beaten rather than triumphant.
As if the price they’ve paid to sit at the table of power has finally dawned on them.
As if their will to power has taken everything from them, including their souls.