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Posted by on Mar 8, 2008 in Media | 16 comments

Faux pas in Perspective

I think that the Samantha Powers faux pas is insignificant. And I think that gotcha journalism is a waste of time and a reckless distraction from more weighty information. Unless such an outburst is part of an intentional trend to influence I am not interested.

I noticed that of all the news reports I watched and listened to yesterday the one that mentioned the Power incident the least was the News Hour on PBS.

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Copyright 2008 The Moderate Voice
  • I often agree with you Paul, but I don’t think it was insignificant. Why do you see it as gotcha journalism when her statements were very unprovoked?

  • DLS

    “Monster” was hardly something that should cost someone her job. Both sides are trying to appear to be on the moral high ground, I suppose, or at least play defense. (That’s always been borne in mind by me as a defense for refusal of candidates to provide the many specific policy positions, plans for Cabinet choices, etc., that we rightly demand of them. If they reveal these things, they are of course subject to attack.)

  • GeorgeSorwell

    I completely with Paul. Samantha Power is extremely qualified to advise any President, even if she spoke too forcefully for a minute. Why should one carelessly chosen word outweigh all her qualifications?

    This is why our politics is full of hacks–hacks who know how to get paid above all else.

  • Okay – but no one is answering my question – how is it gotcha journalism per se?

  • I’d like to add something else that people who don’t interview or get interviewed might not know and I learned early on: you can ask to see your quotes before publication, to be sure they are accurate. Now, maybe she did that – I don’t know – but I often ask and I’ve always been told, no problem.

  • Davebo


    And if you want to say something “off the record” you should let the reporter know before you say it, not after.

    • Well – that’s what I’ve always been taught.

      HOWEVER, I will say that a very good friend of mine who has more or less been my mentor in all things journalism and who is as I write at an incredible fellowship workshop in journalism tells me that a significant number of journalists do believe that the intent that what she said WAS clear that she thought it was off the record. I’ve not read what it is that makes them know that, but if that is in fact the case, well – I would re-think whether the Monster sentence was fair game.

      Again – it’s not like the rest of what was on the record was so tame and appropriate either. But – whatever. She really let her passion get away with her – at a book tour interview. I just don’t get it.

  • PaulSilver

    I don’t believe that Samantha intended to go on record trash talking Hillary. And I have low regard for a journalist who takes advantage of a slip to damage someone who does not deserve it in order to promote their career.

    In a related rant: I miss the old days when private lives were private and what a politician did behind closed doors was off limits. If a Pol nurtured centrist policies but liked kinky sex it would not make a difference to me. But it would to people who are small minded, intolerant, and self righteous.

  • domajot

    I think it’s a rotten shame that Powers lost her job over an unguarded moment of passion.

    I don’t think this can be argued in isolation, though. What would the reaction be if a Hillary starffer had called Obama a monster in like circumstances? Would there be an equal call for making allowances for passion and an equal condemantion of over-eager jounalists?

    At issue are these ‘gotcha’ moments. You can;t have one set of rules for friends and another set for enemies. Certainly not, if we are to embrace the new politics.

  • pacatrue

    Essentially, Powers demonstrated that she wasn’t a good politician. Of course, there’s no reason to expect her to be. She isn’t a politician at all. She’s a foreign policy advisor.

    But of course politics isn’t about making the country better; it’s about being perceived to make the country better, or at least not as bad as the other guy. And so Obama rightly has to fire her during the campaign for going off message. I hope that, if her policy advice is worthy, that they will bring her back on board in December where she can curse up a storm if she so chooses.

    It reminds me a little bit of the Dean scream. I wasn’t even a Dean supporter and I never understood what the big deal was. (I’m sure some of you will tell me.) You can hate or love Dean for his good or bad ideas and personality traits, but I still find it hard to believe that an entire campaign collapsed because someone may have looked silly for a moment. People would continue the war in Iraq with the deaths of thousands of civilians as long as the person advocating the idea looked appropriately Presidential. Rant done (and remember I wasn’t a particular Dean supporter).

    Anyway, I don’t know if it’s gotcha journalism, but I do find the media’s obsession with perception rather than results frustrating to the extreme. At least with the Dean scream it was the actual candidate, not one of the candidate’s 28 advisors.

    • Well – I don’t disagree with what the last three comments talk about, but I also don’t see them as the controlling perspective.

      Power was not even being interviewed about her role in the Obama campaign. Why didn’t she simply re-direct?

      She gave several sentences of not nice quotes about the Clinton campaign – it wasn’t just one word or one oops.

      I don’t know, fellas – I feel as though you are giving her an awful lot of latitude and I say this based on

      1) she’s an author who has interviewed and been interviewed before

      2) she has been working on the campaign for over a year and I would think she’d be more careful – from everything out there about her, she’s got a lot of speaking experience

      3) how many people, even in unguarded moments, speak that way about other people? In my house, the “s” word my kids mean when they say, “Oooo he said the s word” is stupid. We teach that you just don’t say that stuff about people.

      I could be wrong – but I really feel as though some people would let the standards sink even lower than they already are.

      • I agree 100% with Paul about the Dean scream – I absolutely NEVER understood the whole “that sinks him” thing.

  • PaulSilver

    I didn’t think Dean’s scream was all that strange and never understood it’s ramifications.

  • GeorgeSorwell


    Do you think she needed to resign?

    Do you think she ought to be permanently disqualified?

  • pacatrue

    I’m going to give my take on George’s questions. If this was actual government, no, not at all. What Powers did was say something unflattering about a political opponent. She didn’t make racist or sexist remarks that reflect on large numbers of American citizens, some of whom might report to her if she were in a managerial position. She didn’t insult a foreign leader when one of her jobs would be to manage foreign relations.

    However, for the campaign? In a campaign, Obama is trying to keep a certain image up — one of always trying to see the best in others. Her comment damages this image and therefore it seems justifiable to fire her. But I say this only because it is a campaign. If it was “real life” where Obama must make decisions affecting the Middle East, then knowledge of the Middle East trumps poor decision making.

  • PaulSilver
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