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Clinton Campaign Needs To Get Over Itself

The Clinton campaign is in high dudgeon, calling for Samantha Power to resign her post as an advisor to Barack Obama.

For those who haven't read or heard about this saga yet, it seems Power gave an interview with the Scotsman, a Scottish newspaper, in which she referred to Hillary Clinton as a "monster." Via, here is what Representative Nina Lowey, a top Clinton surrogate, said on this morning's campaign conference call:

Personal attacks are not the way to convince voters that you're capable of being president of the United States. We're calling on Senator Obama to make it very clear that Samantha Power should not be part of this campaign.

Sorry, but this is just absurd.  First, let's revisit the actual Power quote, reported thusly in The Scotsman

Ms Power told The Scotsman Mrs Clinton was stopping at nothing to try to seize the lead from her candidate.

"We f***** up in Ohio," she admitted. "In Ohio, they are obsessed and Hillary is going to town on it, because she knows Ohio's the only place they can win.

"She is a monster, too – that is off the record – she is stooping to anything," Ms Power said, hastily trying to withdraw her remark.

Ms Power said of the Clinton campaign: "Here, it looks like desperation. I hope it looks like desperation there, too."

It's clear Power blurted out the "monster" part accidentally and didn't mean for it to be a public comment.  And that's important, because you can be quite sure plenty of Clinton advisers have said far worse things about Obama privately -- just as plenty of other Obama advisers have said far worse things about Clinton privately.  They're all human beings, after all, working in a hotly contested campaign, so they're going to have strong feelings about it.  

And let's not forget that it was just yesterday that Clinton advisers were using press releases and on-the-record comments to liken Obama to Ken Starr -- which, in the context of Democratic Party politics, isn't all that far from calling somebody a monster.

Now, Power is a grown-up, so she should have known better than to say this sort of thing in the first place -- at least without first being very, very careful to make sure it was off the record.  But she's now apologized for the comment formally and explicitly:

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.

Surely, that's enough contrition. 

More important, Power -- whom I know a little bit and who has written for TNR -- is a bona fide intellectual who has dedicated her career to fighting genocide.  (And, oh yeah, she's an intrepid journalist who put herself at serious phsyical risk many times in order to learn about it first-hand.)  The Clinton people know this, just as they know that campaign staffers on both sides say these things all the time privately.  I strongly suspect this is all about dominating another day's news cycle and, hopefully, bruising Obama's pristine image.  Which, come to think of it, is more or less what Power was saying the campaign was doing. 

Update: I see, via Ben Smith at Politico, that Clinton spokesperson Howard Wolfson added the following: "Had I or anyone on this campaign referred to Senator Obama using the word that Samantha Power used, we would not be on the campaign this morning."  I'll concede that point -- everybody would be all over him for that.  And, upon reflection, the word "monster" is, actually, worse than my quick dismissal above allows.  Then again, Wolfson is a political pro and the campaign's spokesman.  Power is an academic and outside adviser.  As Mike points out in his post -- which is far more eloquent than mine -- there's a difference.

Update 2: Power just resigned.

--Jonathan Cohn