In Oslo yesterday, tongues wagged at the sight of Samantha Power, a presidential friend and adviser. In Washington's preferred metaphor, she's "back." But really, she wasn't gone.
Traveling with the president is interpreted symbolically; the president confers approval on those with whom he visibly associates. But Power, the National Security Council senior director for multilateral affairs, was never marginalized, colleagues and friends say.
She's just been quiet -- her work, by necessity, is sensitive and not public -- and she is disinclined to make sure that the press writes about it. The idea, somehow, is that Power, a Pulitzer-Prize winning academic known as an outspoken liberal idealist, was reluctantly brought in to an Obama national security cabinet that included establishment hardliners. Or that friction between Power and the State Department -- Power had called Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a "monster" during the primaries and later resigned from Obama's campaign over it -- keeps Power relegated to mostly administrative tasks.
Not true, say colleagues.
Power has helped Obama write at least four major speeches, is the key point of contact between the N.S.C. and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, helped Scott Gration, the administration's envoy to Sudan, develop new policy and -- most notably -- is leading the extremely complicated (and close to her heart) process of coordinating humanitarian assistance and aid for displaced persons. Power visited Iraq last month and conferred with top officials, including Iraq's president. This is where she's an expert, and that's where Obama is using her.