Published July 17, 2013
WASHINGTON – President Obama's pick to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is facing under-the-radar opposition that could flare during Wednesday's confirmation hearing.
While hawkish senators like Republican John McCain have come out in support of Samantha Power, more than four-dozen former military leaders, national security officials and conservative political groups are now asking senators to reject Power’s nomination.
Republicans in the Senate, which must approve Power for the diplomatic post, may press her on controversial comments she’s made on Israel, Libya and American foreign policy during the hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Power began the hearing on Wednesday by stressing her commitment to human rights and calling for reform at the United Nations. Senior members of the committee also spoke in favor of her nomination.
Her past comments remain a backdrop to the hearing. Power, a former White House adviser and longtime Obama friend, once likened U.S. foreign policies to those of the Nazis.
In a March 2003 New Republic magazine article she argued that American foreign policy needs a "historical reckoning" which would entail "opening the files" and "acknowledging the force of a mantra we have spent the last decade promoting in Guatemala, South Africa, and Yugoslavia."
She continued: “Instituting a doctrine of the mea culpa would enhance our credibility by showing that American decision-makers do not endorse the sins of their predecessors. When (German Chancellor Willy) Brandt went down on one knee in the Warsaw ghetto, his gesture was gratifying to World War II survivors, but it was also ennobling and cathartic for Germany. Would such an approach be futile for the United States?"
If confirmed, Power would take the post formerly held by Susan Rice, whom Obama has appointed as his new national security adviser. Despite the complaints about Power, she does have political heavyweights in her corner who could help her win confirmation from the full Senate.
Critics argue that putting Power in power would paint the U.S. as weak, disengaged, irresolute and submissive on a global stage. Among the chief complaints is Power’s history of “anti-Israel” comments that some believe should disqualify her from holding the top U.S. spot at the United Nations.
Adam Savit, a program manager at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, said the next ambassador to the U.N. should not be apologizing for U.S. policies.
“It shows weakness, lack of confidence and in real terms it encourages bad actors on a regional level to take advantage of the vacuum of power that the absence of U.S. leadership creates,” Savit told FoxNews.com. “We see this in the aggressiveness in the Muslim Brotherhood, Iranian regime and in Russia, which is reasserting its dominance in the Middle East and most specifically, Syria.”
Retired Lt. Gen. William G. 'Jerry' Boykin, who is behind a movement to block Power's confirmation, agrees.
“We should be proud to be Americans, and if you look at Samantha Power’s track record there is a strong indication that her attitude is just the opposite," Boykin said at a July 3 National Press Club event.
Mort Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America, the nation’s oldest pro-Israel group, said he opposes Power’s appointment based on a 2002 comment she made suggesting the U.S. stop spending money on the Israeli military and instead invest billions of dollars in a new Palestinian state.
Power recommended the U.S. send “a mammoth protection force” in order to create a “military presence” in Israel and rationalized that the move would alienate a powerful pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. which she referred to as “a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import.”
She later backtracked on her comments.
Others worry that Power’s public push for the U.S. to get involved in civil conflicts in other countries could put America in harm’s way. Power had Obama’s ear when advocating military intervention in Libya and had said that a failure to intervene would have been “extremely chilling, deadly and indeed a stain on our collective conscience.”
Power, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her 2002 book on genocide called “A Problem from Hell,” hasn’t been shy about calling out American officials who have adopted a “wait and see” approach when it comes to military intervention on foreign land.
Former Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith said in an interview with The New York Times that Power would “argue that the failure of the Clinton administration to engage in airstrikes against the Serbs, and to take military action to stop the genocide, was immoral.”
Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called Power’s nomination “deeply troubling” following Obama’s announcement but has since remained relatively quiet on the topic. Requests for additional comment were not returned.
“No nation has spilled more blood or sacrificed more for the freedom of others than ours, and yet Ms. Power has publicly embraces the need for America to continue apologizing to the world for perceived transgressions, going so far as to explicitly urge ‘instituting a doctrine of the mea culpa’,” Cruz said in a written statement following the initial announcement. Cruz does not sit on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Despite Cruz’s objections, Power does have McCain’s stamp of approval – which carries a significant amount of political weight.
Power also has two other GOP senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vouching for her -- Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Idaho Sen. James Risch. More than two dozen foreign policy experts sent committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the ranking Republican, letters calling for a quick confirmation for Power.
In a July 16-dated letter to Sens. Robert Menendez and Bob Corker, 30 people including Paul Wolfowitz, former Deputy Secretary of Defense; Elliott Abrams, former assistant secretary of state for International Organization Affairs; and Samuel Berger, national security advisor under President Clinton, pledged their support of Power who they called a “tireless advocate for American values and interests.”
“She will stand up for universal values like freedom of religion, speech, assembly and the press, and by standing up for those values advances America’s interests around the world,” they wrote. “And she will ensure that the United Nations is using the resources at its disposal to take action on behalf of those in need.”