Power’s patriotism is no issue
A group of conservatives gathered in Washington on the eve of Independence Day to provide a preview of the opposition to Samantha Power’s nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations.
Their technique was clear: They would impugn the patriotism of the Irish-born nominee.
“Her position,” said Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, “is easily confused with that of people who are actually enemies of the United States.”
Allen West, the former Republican congressman from Florida, said “Ms. Power is an uber-left, militant progressive whose previous statements against America and Israel should cause us concern.”
Jerry Boykin, a retired general, determined that Power “would like to very much convince us that we should be ashamed of America.”
Author Diana West accused Power of “an attack on Americans in a very personal way.”
And, finally, Mort Klein of the far-right Zionist Organization of America accused her of “borderline” anti-Semitism and announced: “Samantha Power is bad for America.”
I went to college with Power and have spoken with her at various points in the years since. I’ve known her to be outspoken and brash, but I was unaware that she was un-American. I asked the speakers whether they really believed she was an enemy of the United States or whether they merely disagreed with her politics.
Gaffney, who had convened Wednesday’s news conference at the National Press Club, hit the innuendo button again. “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,” he said, “nor do I think by any, you know, sort of common definition of the term.” He went on to suggest that, in New York, “she will be working in ways that are absolutely antithetical” to “what patriots believe about our country.”
Their support for these accusations was thin, principally a 2002 interview, since disavowed by Power, in which she called for aid “not in servicing Israel’s military, but actually investing in the new state of Palestine,” and said that she might recommend a policy that would involve “alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import.”
Otherwise, they were essentially accusing her of holding the same internationalist views held by her boss, who was re-elected last year by American voters to a second term. Allen West asserted that “perhaps she is the ideal for the Obama administration as an ambassador to the United Nations” – as if this were a disqualifier.
Critics of Power won’t get far simply by saying they disagree with her philosophy because it closely tracks that of the president. Instead, they are using a method against Power that they have often used against Obama: That she is something alien, something other than a patriotic American.
Gaffney began by putting the Power nomination “in stark contrast to the Fourth of July and the sentiments that most of us exhibit on that occasion” because she has been “harshly critical, over a long period of time, of our country.”
Allen West added his belief that “Ms. Power has consistently shown a disdain for American strength.” The former lawmaker said that, particularly as “we celebrate the 237th anniversary of our independence,” he finds the nomination to be “simply FUBAR” – a military acronym for a messed up situation.
Much of the participants’ hostility toward Power was better directed toward the United Nations itself, which they see as a threat to American sovereignty. Diana West informed the audience that Alger Hiss was “the person in charge of shaping” the United Nations and that “we have been ill-served by the United Nations, by our involvement with the United Nations.”
Diana West said Power, likewise, supports “an ideology that we call ‘humanitarian,’ but happens to mesh very neatly and alarmingly so, in my view, with the basis of world governance and these kinds of Marxist-Leninist notions.”
Certainly, Power is idealistic, and she believes in international cooperation and humanitarian intervention. The conservatives are entitled to disagree. But this doesn’t make Power a Marxist, or someone “who reviles American greatness,” as Gaffney put it in a letter to the Senate signed by the likes of Phyllis Schlafly, Richard Viguerie and Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Gaffney closed his assembly with a prayer that the “sense of freedom and the grace” of the Fourth of July would inspire the Senate to reject Power’s nomination. But in confirming Power, the senators will be upholding the very patriotic belief that in America, a political opponent is not the enemy.
Dana Milbank is a columnist for the Washington Post. Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.