A panel of conservative political activists, writers and former military officers convened last week at the National Press Club to sharply criticize President Obama’s nomination of Samantha Power as permanent ambassador to the United Nations.
The event ostensibly served as an announcement that those concerns had been laid out in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-N.V.) and signed by dozens of leaders and representatives of national security, pro-Israel and related conservative advocacy groups.
“In light of her low regard for our country, her animus towards one of our most important allies, Israel, and her affinity for those who would diminish our sovereignty and strengthen our adversaries, we consider her to be a wholly unacceptable choice for this sensitive post and urge you to reject this nomination,” the letter stated.
Frank Gaffney, president of the sponsoring Center for Security Policy, cited the letter as the reason for the panel discussion he then led with a few of the letter’s signatories. While the members cited an extensive list of concerns, it really could be boiled down to their contention that Power could not and would not act favorably on behalf of the U.S. and its allies, especially Israel.
“Whatever one thinks of her patriotism, it is very clearly not a view of patriotism that is shared by the vast majority of the American people,” Gaffney said.
The panel referred to her controversial remarks in a 2002 interview where she advocated American investment in a new Palestinian state with a “mammoth protection force,” and said that kind of policy could lead to “alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import.”
“Samantha Power is bad for America, bad for Israel, and we strongly oppose her nomination,” said Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, adding that she was “basically really extreme and leftist.”
Power, who has been involved with the Obama administration in various roles since joining his campaign in 2008, has since said in interviews that her own quotes don’t make sense to her, rejecting any notion that she might be hostile to Israel. She has recently said she now believes the conflict will be resolved by negotiations of the involved parties, but the panelists dismissed that as political disingenuousness.
“She does a Jackie Mason,” Klein said.
Former Florida congressman Allen West agreed with the panel’s assessment of her anti-Israel bias but argued that that is “ideal for Obama,” explaining in answer to a later question that it is “consistent in this administration to side with radical Islam.”
Rep. West derided Power as an “uber-left militant progressive” and “loyal Obama acolyte.” He added that she was just a part of the “troubling, weak and disturbing” national security team assembled by Obama.
Despite these anti-Israel concerns, Power has received hearty endorsements from prominent pro-Israel groups and individuals.
“She’s absolutely not anti-Israel,” said Aaron Keyak, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council.
Keyak cited staunch pro-Israel advocates who have spoken and written approvingly of Power such as Alan Dershowitz and Josh Block of The Israel Project, as well as Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. Lawmakers including conservative senators such as John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have also voiced approval for her nomination.
For some of the panelists, the concerns were larger than just Power, but extended to suspicion over the entire concept of the United Nations — both for its perceived anti-U.S. and anti-Israel bias and suspicions about a sinister transnationalist agenda also highlighted in the letter.
“I oppose her on the grounds of U.S. sovereignty,” said William Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council.
The former deputy undersecretary of defense said he believes the U.N. wants to be a global governing body, overriding national independence, and that Power subscribes to that same view.
Author Diana West also expressed broader worries beyond the role Power might play in the U.N., questioning the goals and tactics of the organization itself. West called it a “strategic prong of Marxism-Leninism” due in part to the role American Alger Hiss, later convicted as a spy of the Soviet Union, played in its formation.
For now, Power’s nomination remains in play. Although President Obama has encouraged the Senate to move quickly to confirm her, there are no set dates for confirmation hearings or votes.