03/09/2008 03:22 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

We Forgive You, Samantha

Last week, Obama campaign foreign policy adviser Samantha Power made a 
mistake that may significantly undermine the Illinois Senator's quest 
for the Democratic presidential nomination.

 She called Hillary Clinton a "monster" in an off-hand
 remark to a Scottish journalist. That, however, was not her mistake. Her
 mistake was resigning from the Obama campaign.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying Hillary Clinton is a monster.
 Monsters are ferocious creatures with fearsome teeth and savage claws. 
They destroy alpine villages, terrorize the citizens of lowland towns,
 and frighten small children. Obviously, Hillary Clinton is not a
 monster. I mean, not literally. Of course it's still not polite to call Hillary a monster. It's just not
 something nice people say.

 So Power made an inconsiderate comment, but instead of resigning she 
should have just apologized and said, "Hey, campaigns are stressful. We
 all make mistakes. Obviously, I don't really think Hillary is
actually a monster."

 Then Power could have made comparisons to demonstrate that, although 
there has been a distressing remorselessness in her readiness to 
personally attack Obama to gain votes, Hillary is not really a
monster. A rabid, desperate attack-dog, yes. But a monster? Well, that's 
a bit strong.

In this way Power could have played to her strengths. She's a scholar: Fine distinctions are her thing. Is Hillary ferocious? "Mean," yes, 
"vitriolic" even. But probably not "ferocious," which means "given to
 unrestrained violence and brutality" (Webster's Ninth New Collegiate).
 Does Hillary have fearsome teeth? Her teeth are "sharp" and "gleaming,"
 but that doesn't make them "fearsome." Has she ever destroyed a village
 or frightened a child? Remembering that to be a monster she would have
 to have done both, the answer, again, is "probably not." I mean, not as 
far as we know.

Had Power stayed on, the incident would have worked to Obama's
 advantage. We're all adults. We know people sometimes lose their cool
 and say what the rest of us are thinking. By forgiving Power, the Obama
 campaign could have treated all of us like the understanding grown-ups we are. 

Also, by resigning Power admitted to a campaign sin when she only
 suffered a moment's insensitivity. Her comment may have been unfair, but
 it was forgivable precisely because it came off the cuff. It's Hillary's 
calculated slurs against Obama that are unforgivable. When Hillary says 
Obama is not a Muslim "as far as I know," she plays on the 
electorate's fear of a religion it doesn't understand.

No one has yet 
pointed out that her ad, in which a little white girl sleeps in the face 
of an unstated menace threatening her at 3 a.m., strikes a subtle but 
clearly racist note.

 I am not saying Hillary is a monster. I am only
 suggesting that she is a fearmonger and a racist.

Finally, by staying on, Power could have kept the whole "Is Hillary a
monster?" narrative going in the press, even as she distanced herself
 from it. It would have been the subject of cable news shows all week 
long. "Tonight on Fox News: Is Hillary Clinton a Monster?" Chris
 Matthews would have shouted the question to his guests in his sand-paper 

 All the while Obama could have played it cool above the fray. "Look," he
 could have said, "I don't personally think Hillary is a
 monster. She may be a calculating schemer who leaves a trail of broken
 bodies in her wake, but I don't think she would suck the blood from
 Chelsea if Satan told her it would mean winning Florida."

"At least," he could have added, "not as far as I know."