President Obama announced Wednesday his nomination of Samantha Power as the next ambassador to the United Nations and Susan Rice as his national security adviser. Both women have faced controversy in the past and share an ideological bent: both have long fought for the United States to become more involved in preventing human rights abuses and humanitarian crises.
“As the most powerful and inspiring country on this Earth, we have a critical role to play in insisting that the [United Nations] meet the necessities of our time,” said Power Wednesday. “It can do so only with American leadership.”
A graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School, Power spent her early career as a correspondent for TIME and The New Yorker where she reported on the crises in Kosovo, Rwanda, and Sudan.
The Boston Globe points out in the early 1990s, Power called the Clinton administration immoral for not using military strikes to stop ethnic cleansing. In 2003, she called for a “historical reckoning with crimes committed, sponsored, permitted by the United States.”
“She’s an excellent choice,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “She’s seen evil at its worst in the time she was in Bosnia. She’s very aware of the violent threats to humanity that are posed by certain nefarious forces around the world. These are precisely the kind of threats that she will need to address and encourage the Security Council to address as U.S. ambassador.”
As the human rights disaster was unfolding in Libya in March of 2011, Power was serving on the president’s National Security Council as special assistant to the president and senior director running the office of multilateral affairs and human rights. She advocated for intervention, encouraging the president to use military force in Libya and establish a no-fly zone.
“We are seeing bipartisan support, we are seeing Republican support for each of these nominees [Power and Rice],” said Emily Tisch Sussman, a Democratic strategist, on Jansing & Co. Thursday.
One Republican who supports Power’s nomination is Arizona’s Republican Sen. John McCain, who released a statement Wednesday that said in part: “I believe she is well-qualified for this important position and hope the Senate will move forward on her nomination as soon as possible.”
Power made headlines during the 2008 presidential election when she resigned abruptly from then-Senator Obama’s presidential campaign after calling Hillary Clinton a “monster” when she was under the impression that she was speaking off the record to a Scottish newspaper. Power quickly apologized after her comments were made public, saying they “do not reflect my feelings about Sen. Clinton, whose leadership and public service I have long admired.”
Power was born in Dublin, Ireland and moved to the U.S. as a child with her parents. During her nomination announcement at the White House Wednesday, she described arriving at the Pittsburgh airport at age nine wearing a t-shirt with the American flag on it.
“Even as a little girl with a thick Dublin accent who had never been to America, I knew that the American flag was a symbol of fortune and freedom,” she said. “But I quickly came to learn to find opportunity in this country, one actually didn’t need to wear the flag, one just needed to try to live up to it.”