Former Obama aide Samantha Power may be repentant for calling Sen. Hillary Clinton a political monster, but on the other issue that marked her resignation, she is not conceding an inch.
Speaking at the Columbia University School of Law on Tuesday night, Power labeled herself "amazed" that Clinton had tried to get so much "political mileage" from comments Power made, in which she suggested that the next commander-in-chief would consider conditions on the ground when implementing his or her Iraq withdrawal plan.
"What I was saying is that you have to take into account what the generals on the ground are telling you," Power told the room of several hundred undergraduate and graduate students. "Take for example that 3 am phone call [from Clinton's campaign commercial]... She is not going to answer the phone and play a voicemail she recorded in 2007. That is crazy. She is going to judge the situation in 2009. Of course she is going to take into account what the generals have to say about the Iraq situation and what they are saying on the ground."
While Power ultimately left the Obama campaign for what she deemed "monster-gate," the brunt of the Clinton campaign's criticism was leveled at a policy interview she conducted with BBC Television shortly before her departure. Downplaying the firmness with which Obama would approach his current plan to withdraw troops, Power said, "[the senator] will, of course, not rely on some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator... What he's actually said, after meeting with the generals and meeting with intelligence professionals, is that you -- at best case scenario -- will be able to withdraw one to two combat brigades each month."
In the days that followed -- even after Power severed her ties to the Obama Campaign -- the Clinton campaign cited the remarks as evidence that the Illinois Democrat could not be trusted to deliver on his Iraq pledges. Obama's camp, in return, stressed that the he would operate off a plan to remove one to two combat brigades per month over the course of 16 months. They also pointed to remarks by Clinton adviser Lee Feinstein, acknowledging that there are "contingencies" that one must take into consideration when looking at Iraq.
On Tuesday night, Power was not as reserved. She fired back against the Clinton campaign's attack, saying it was disingenuous and shortsighted of the New York Democrat to not (should she become president) listen to the advise of her military advisers.
"I now am in my first ever political attack ad," said Power. "And it does no justice to what I was saying and does no justice to a responsible position, which I am sure will entail looking out for U.S. security and that, with the passage of time, things are going to look different then they did in 2007."
The two-plus hour discussion at Columbia was held to promote Power's new book "Chasing the Flame." And while a good portion of the talk centered on the book's content (as well as several apologies for the "monster" remark) much was devoted to a detailed and surprisingly honest look at Obama, his position on the issues, and even the type of White House cabinet he would appoint.
Power called Obama's willingness to meet, without preconditions, world leaders with whom America did not always see eye-to-eye, one of the turning points of the Democratic primary: "I can tell you about the conference call the day [after Obama made the proclamation]," she recalled. "People were like, 'Did you need to say that?' And he was like 'yeah, definitely.'"
She emphasized that, unlike President Bush, Obama would put greater focus on the general welfare of the Iraqi people (looking at population displacements, health conditions, economic insecurities), when considering U.S. policy in that country. She also drew a picture of an Obama administration that was filled with different viewpoints and congenial debate.
And, to the delight of many in the crowd, she even hinted that she could be part of that hypothetical cabinet. "Because of the kind of campaign that Senator Obama has run," Power said, "it seemed appropriate for someone of my Irish temper to step aside, at least for a while. We will see what happens there."
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