Trending Topics:

Exile and the Prophetic: Samantha Power’s quest

Culture
on 16 Comments
OBAMApowers
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.

Marc H. Ellis
About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

16 Responses

  1. Blownaway
    Blownaway on June 7, 2013, 9:47 am

    Power has been atoning for her sin of truth in her interview years ago. Besides the Dersh’s forgiveness she has sought out the right wing rabbi Shmuley Boteach who wrote of Power Obama’s pick for UN envoy: her inspiring humanism, tearful meeting with Jewish leaders, and Torah study with Ambassador Shapiro….further he writes..Samantha invited me to the White House where she agreed to go on the record about her comments on Israel and how they had been misunderstood. Inasmuch as that article defending Samantha has been much quoted and revisited over the past few days, there is no purpose in reprising it here.

    But what happened after the publication of that article deserves to be shared.

    I approached my close friend Michael Steinhardt, founder of Birthright Israel and one of America’s most respected Jewish philanthropists, to tell him that I felt that Samantha was being falsely accused of anti-Israel bias. Michael and I often host small briefings for the American Jewish leadership and have played host recently to Majority Leader Eric Cantor, one of the people I most respect in government, and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s senior aid, Ron Dermer, who was my student at Oxford.

    I asked Michael if he would host Samantha at his office and he immediately agreed. About a month later Samantha arrived to address a closed-door meeting of about 40 American Jewish leaders who represented a wide spectrum of our communities’ most important organizations. I introduced Samantha and said that after her remarks on Israel and the Middle East she would be taking questions.

    Typical of her erudition and brilliance, Samantha presented a sweeping view of American policy in the world’s most dangerous region. Then, she directly addressed the accusations that she harbored animus toward Israel. And in the presence of the leaders of our community, she suddenly became deeply emotional and struggled to complete her presentation as she expressed how deeply such accusations had affected her. Tears streamed down her cheeks and I think it fair to say that there was no one in the room who wasn’t deeply moved by this incredible display of pain and emotion. More than a few of the leaders of the room came over to me afterward and said that, based on her comments and her unabashed display of emotional attachment to the security of the Jewish people (it bears mentioning that Samantha’s husband is also Jewish), they would never again question her commitment to Israel’s security

    • Brown-Eyed Girl
      Brown-Eyed Girl on June 7, 2013, 4:30 pm

      I can only wonder if she has any commitment to American security.

    • Pat Tibbs
      Pat Tibbs on June 8, 2013, 1:10 pm

      I’m no Dershowitz fan and don’t know the real motivating force that drives Samantha Power but I certainly don’t agree with the description of the photo of her, Susan Rice, and the President walking away from the press conference where she was introduced as Obama’s next UN Secretary.

      I see three people who are united in their quest (whatever that is) and one who is leaving the inner circle (Donelon). I do NOT see three people who look “beaten” and who are consoling one another.

      I will reserve judgement on Power’s motivation until I see her in action before the Senate.

      • Citizen
        Citizen on June 9, 2013, 3:19 am

        @ Pat Tibbs
        I saw what you did in the photo.

        Imagine Dershie excusing Hagel’s few non-PC remarks about Israel/Israel Lobby in light of Hagel’s over all qualifications, stellar career record. But Dershie had no problem doing it for Power.

  2. Keith
    Keith on June 7, 2013, 10:37 am

    MARC ELLIS- “Power corrupts. So does political ambition. If you want to make it big you have to be an empire enabler.”

    This says it all.

  3. aiman
    aiman on June 7, 2013, 10:39 am

    “To me it appears they are consoling each other. They look beaten rather than triumphant.”

    You are unwittingly humanising those who have voluntarily sold their souls. They are not consoling each other. They are acting out for the camera. The distance between them and a humane (rather than human) concept of “consolation” is that between Martin Luther King (a practicing human being) and Barack Obama (a brand like Nike).

  4. pabelmont
    pabelmont on June 7, 2013, 10:45 am

    To burst into emotional tears, as Powers is said to have done, might be real emotion — but might be acting, I’d like to think she was thinking about the double-cross of the Palestinians that her abasement means — and that her tears were for that.

  5. traintosiberia
    traintosiberia on June 7, 2013, 10:48 am

    Time and again we see something Men and women with illegal connection to academy and media shape the public perception of a potential government employee- public servant.without being challenged and disciplined The empire America is now run by Rasputin like shadows

  6. amigo
    amigo on June 7, 2013, 11:15 am

    The Irish MSM is all over this story—the, “Irish Connection”.

    Of course they are not aware of Power,s cowering to the Lobby to get what she wants.

    Shame on her.

  7. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870 on June 7, 2013, 11:40 am

    RE: 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. ~ Marc Ellis

    PHIL OCHS, 1966:

    . . . I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
    as long as they don’t move next door
    So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

    Phil Ochs — Love me, I’m a liberal [VIDEO, 4:40] – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u52Oz-54VYw

  8. Scott
    Scott on June 7, 2013, 12:22 pm

    @Blownaway,
    How interesting that a close associate of Michael Steinhardt is a mondoweiss commenter. I’d like to read some ideological significance into that.

    • Blownaway
      Blownaway on June 7, 2013, 6:37 pm

      @Scott. I don’t know who Michael Steinhardt is..so there is no ideological significance

    • Blownaway
      Blownaway on June 7, 2013, 6:40 pm

      @Scott oh sorry the header was cropped that was from rabbi Boteach in the times of Israel

  9. gingershot
    gingershot on June 7, 2013, 1:21 pm

    Pardon me while I throw up in my mouth a little bit…

    ‘ Tears streamed down her cheeks and I think it fair to say that there was no one in the room who wasn’t deeply moved by this incredible display of pain and emotion’

    How come I read this as Samantha basically saying she very cynically but with true fear realized what a brush with death to her career she had had as a result of her heresy towards Israel – but how she has now seen the light and like Patty Hearst, has decided to join the Symbionese Liberation Army-Lobby, if only they will believe she is now a true convert and spare her life and career

    And there’s Dersh in the backgrounding singing ‘Under My Thumb’ by the Rolling Stones

    What’s the difference between William Kristol grooming a Sarah Palin and Dersh grooming a Samantha Power?

    Ans: Red Hair

  10. shachalnur
    shachalnur on June 7, 2013, 4:32 pm

    Update;
    Warmongering Rothschild poodles ADL,Dershowitz and Joe Lieberman have all endoresed Power.

  11. Donald
    Donald on June 8, 2013, 11:58 pm

    “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.”

    Bingo. Her genocide book is about America’s sins of omission–we didn’t intervene to stop bad people from killing–and not on our sins of commission, like support for Suharto in Indonesia during the 65-66 mass killings or support for Indonesia’s genocidal occupation of East Timor from 1975-1999 or Reagan (and Israel’s) support for the genocidal Guatemalan government.

    In the opening chapter (I think–it’s been awhile since I looked at “A Problem from Hell”) she even talks about how America’s foreign policy elite are just too civilized to understand true evil (not her exact words, but that’s the gist) and so they don’t always recognize it until it’s too late. Those are the words of someone with governmental career ambitions. Nobody would think of hiring someone like Glenn Greenwald or Noam Chomsky to be our UN rep, because the job description includes lying through one’s teeth. Ask Susan Rice about Israeli war crimes in Gaza–didn’t happen, according to her. That’s the kind of person chosen for that position.

Leave a Reply