The 38-year-old Dublin-born national security advisor to President Barack Obama delivered 7-pound 8-ounce Declan Power-Sunstein last weekend. Just days before giving birth, her husband, prominent lawyer and longtime friend of the president, Cass Sunstein, 54, was also officially named to team Obama as head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The couple was married 10 months ago in Co Kerry; it’s her first marriage and his second.
And what a difference a year makes.
Power and Sunstein met on the campaign trail. She famously called then Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, a “monster” and subsequently resigned her position. The former Harvard professor and journalist then made amends with now Secretary of State Clinton, even attending Hillary’s swearing in ceremony. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Problem from Hell – America and the Age of Genocide” has taken on a prominent role in the new administration’s inner foreign policy circle. Notably, she has repaired relations with the American Jewish community, many of whom were deeply skeptical of Power’s commitment to Israel.
Writer Joe Klein wrote of Power in “Front Page Magazine”: “She would push the Jewish state under the bus for the sake of showing the Muslim world how much we are taking their concerns seriously. “
Others criticized Power for defending Barack Obama’s stance as a candidate that if elected he would meet with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and accused her of minimizing Iran’s threat to Israel. It was puzzling at times to be bashed as anti-Israel when Power had also taken an early high profile stand against the genocide in Darfur — a position many American Jewish groups had also embraced.
“It was really guilt by association,” said a member of one pro-Israeli lobbying groups in Washington who wished to remain anonymous.
“Because some perceived Barack the candidate as being soft on Israel, they picked apart anything that Samantha Power had said in the past to cast her in that light as well.”
Sunstein and Power, whose mother and stepfather live in Yonkers, N.Y., married on July 4, 2008 near Waterville in Kerry. Despite the bumps on the campaign trail, it was always assumed the couple brought together under the influence of the “Yes We Can” mantra would wind up in the administration.
With Power settled into working in the West Wing as one of President Obama’s closest confidants on foreign policy, it came as a surprise for some in the Jewish community to be on one end of a pre-arranged conference call with top administration officials to discuss the UN Conference on Racism, and to hear Power explain the White House’s rationale for boycotting the event. Because many Muslim country participants were advocating language taking to task Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, Jewish leaders here did not want the US to attend the event in Geneva, Switzerland.
The White House’s call to Jewish leaders was to be strictly off the record, but much of what was said was leaked and published. Ben Stein of the Huffington Post even somehow managed to listen in on the call, that was not supposed to be for journalists. He quoted Power as saying the US would not participate in the conference because: “We are also not interested in being involved or associated with fool’s errands.”
It comes as no revelation to those who know Samantha Power that she was taking the lead and working full speed on such a delicate issue a month before her due date. A hard-charging woman who reported from war zones after finishing at Yale and earning a Pulitzer for her very first book wasn’t going to allow pregnancy to slow her down at the outset of the Obama presidency.
Some former critics begrudgingly agree with Democratic Jewish leaders that Power acquitted herself very well in her first few months on the job, and that she has done considerable work in reassuring some groups of the Obama administration’s commitment to Israel.
The proud father told a Politico columnist that baby Declan has his mom’s auburn hair. No word yet whether he’ll follow in his mothers’ attempts to try and save the world.