The big news today–if you listen to the Hillary Clinton camp–is that Samantha Power, a foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama (and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide), referred to Clinton as a “monster” in what she believed was an off-the-record remark with a reporter. She did apologize. But the Clintonites, ever on the lookout for an issue (or non-issue) to hype, quickly called on Obama to fire Power.
Non-News Flash: Aides to presidential candidates routinely refer to the competition in harsh terms, particularly when they talk to reporters off the record. More than once, a top Clinton person has told me that s/he believes Obama is a self-righteous fraud–or worse. It was, of course, always off the record. But if I had reported any of these remarks, I could have gotten the pop The Scotsman has received for disclosing Power’s comment.
The Clinton people do deserve chutzpah points for trying to turn this nothing-burger into a full-course feast. During a conference call with reporters yesterday, Clinton’s top spinner, Howard Wolfson, compared Obama and his aides to Kenneth Starr because they dared to question Clinton’s refusal to release her income taxes. (In The Washington Post, Dana Milbank credited me with asking the question that prompted the Ken Starr remark –a quip obviously locked and loaded before the call.) The comparison was ridiculous. But in Democratic circles, there’s not much of a bigger slur than, Hey, you’re Ken Starr! For Democrats, Starr is the functional equivalent of a monster.
So the Clinton crowd does not have the moral high ground in this round. Yet what was the net result? Power, a talented journalist and thinker who gives a damn about genocides (certainly more so than Bill Clinton did during the Rwanda nightmare), was forced off Obama’s campaign. On Friday morning, she released a statement:
With deep regret, I am resigning from my role as an advisor [to] the Obama campaign effective today. Last Monday, I made inexcusable remarks that are at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton and from the spirit, tenor, and purpose of the Obama campaign. And I extend my deepest apologies to Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, and the remarkable team I have worked with over these long 14 months.
Well, at least she had the heart to apologize and admit she had gone too far in denigrating the opposition. You won’t see such sentiments at Clinton HQ.