Muddy Notebook

March 8, 2008

The Power of Politics

Filed under: humanitarian,U.S. politics — carolynthewriter @ 9:21 am

Maybe it’s because I am so interested in looking at the impact of atrocities and prevention of them, especially when it comes to children, that I find myself wanting to give former Barack Obama advisor Samantha Power the benefit of the doubt. The Pulitzer Prize winner’s book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, is considered a classic on the topic.

Maybe she spoke so recklessly because she hasn’t been involved in a political campaign before – Obama, after all, does seem to be drawing in new voters and newcomers to being in a candidate’s inner circle. Maybe Power called Hillary Clinton “a monster” because she just wasn’t thinking strategically, or she’s used to talking about the architects of genocide. That would be a lousy excuse. Whatever her motivation, that and other comments she made in an interview to a Scottish newspaper were simply stupid.

But her unfortunate moment in the spotlight does raise an issue: If Obama had such a highly regarded expert on genocide as a foreign-affairs advisor, why wasn’t he talking about such crises on the campaign trail? In this era of horrors in Darfur, Somalia and Myanmar to name a few, why aren’t any of the presidential candidates talking about the U.S. role in global humanitarian calamities and America’s relationship with the United Nations? Heaven knows it has taken a beating in recent years. Will the United States become an ally to the international organization or continue the adversarial stance that the Bush administration has taken. How will we react when we determine the next genocide is occurring? Calling it a genocide, as the admninistration did for Darfur, is gratuitious if it’s not backed up with action to end the violence. The United States has not gone beyond words.

I challenge the candidates to speak about these issues with more frequency and at greater volume. I challenge journalists who are on debate panels, to ask the contenders least one question about how their White House would proceed with these issues. A lot of people would like to hear those answers before they go into the voting booth. 

Fixing international ties will be one of the most urgent tasks of whoever next occupies the Oval Office.

One of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s hard-working political reporters tells me he has heard those issues raised once in a while on the campaign trail. But they need to be discussed in a broader, more publicized forum for all who care about them to hear and assess as one consideration in who might be the best president.  

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