March 7, 2007 — -- Samantha Power, a senior foreign policy adviser to Sen. Barack Obama, resigned Friday morning after calling Sen. Hillary Clinton a "monster" in an interview with a European newspaper.
"With deep regret, I am resigning from my role as an adviser the Obama campaign effective today," said Power in a statement issued by the Obama campaign. "Last Monday, I made inexcusable remarks that are at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton and from the spirit, tenor and purpose of the Obama campaign. And I extend my deepest apologies to Senator Clinton, Senator Obama and the remarkable team I have worked with over these long 14 months."
Power's statement came scarcely an hour after congressional supporters of Clinton demanded that Obama fire Power for the remarks.
In a conference call organized by the Clinton campaign, Democratic Reps. Nita Lowey and Gregory Meeks of New York, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, decried the remarks made in The Scotsman by Power, 37, a Pulitzer-Prize winning professor at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University.
"This is an important test for Senator Obama, " said Lowey. "It's really a test of character … You really wonder how Sen. Obama can have a person like that, as bright as she might be, advising his campaign."
Wasserman Schultz said Power's comments violated the spirit of the campaign run by Obama, who "has talked about politics of hope throughout," since her description of Clinton in the interview "degenerated into negative personal attacks and name-calling," which Wasserman Schultz called "below the belt" and "out of bounds."
Minus the name-calling, Clinton herself has been aggressively attacking Obama in recent weeks as unprepared for the position of commander-in-chief, while Obama has generally attempted to take the high road, dropping suggestions here and there of ways he might confront Clinton but never actually doing so.
Clinton's attacks have caused Democratic officials to worry that Clinton may cause irreparable harm to Obama, who still leads in the Democratic race. The dynamic is also causing many of Obama's supporters to wonder if he can take or throw a punch, and whether he would be prepared for a political fight against GOP nominee John McCain.
Since Obama became a threat to Clinton, various officials and allies of her campaign have made personal attacks against him.
In three instances, the Clinton campaign asked the individuals to step down from the campaign: After New Hampshire state chair Billy Shaheen made a reference to Obama's childhood drug use, and after two Iowa field organizers forwarded e-mails ludicrously claiming that Obama was a sort of Muslim Manchurian candidate.
"When Mr. Shaheen made those comments he was removed from the campaign," Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson pointed out today.
But in other instances, the Clinton campaign has not taken any action when an ally has made personal attacks against Obama. When billionaire supporter Bob Johnson, the founder of BET, made an oblique reference to Obama's youthful drug use in a speech, the Clinton campaign in fact originally repeated Johnson's claims that his comments had been misconstrued.
Johnson eventually admitted he had been talking about Obama's past drug use and he apologized to the senator.
When asked about the contradiction, Wolfson said that Johnson "is a supporter of ours, but he is not a senior policy adviser … I don't mean to minimize his importance. But he is not part of the daily campaign life in the way that Samantha Power has been."
And no longer is.
The Scotsman newspaper reported Thursday evening that Power had described Clinton as "a monster," then attempted to subsequently make the comment off the record.
After the comments received notice, the Obama campaign issued a statement from Power saying "these comments do not reflect my feelings about Senator Clinton, whose leadership and public service I have long admired. I should not have made these comments and I deeply regret them. It is wrong for anyone to pursue this campaign in such negative and personal terms. I apologize to Senator Clinton and to Senator Obama, who has made very clear that these kinds of expressions should have no place in American politics." Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton issued a statement saying that "Obama decries such characterizations, which have no place in this campaign."
But the campaign on Thursday stopped short of firing Power, and she stopped short of resigning.
In December, Obama had said he did "not want to see research that is involved in trying to tear people down personally. If I find out that somebody is doing that, they will be fired. And I have been absolutely crystal clear about this, and I have been clear about this for a very long time."
Later Friday, Power apologized for calling Clinton "a monster", explaining that at the time she was having "weak moment."
"I can't even believe it came out of my mouth," Power told a reporter in Ireland Friday after announcing her resignation. "The campaign was getting very tense and every public appearance I've ever made talking about Senator Clinton I have sung her praises, as the leader she's been, intellect, warm, funny. I spent time with her and I think that I just had a very weak moment."
"I'm truly sorry at the harm that it must have caused her. Obviously sorry about any harm I might have caused Senator Obama, who has run such a clean campaign and I talked to him to him today and it was very clear for both of us that we can't have these kinds of comments, that's the whole point of our campaign," she said.