The NYT tells us that Samantha Power (who is, on a variety of levels, one of the most interesting senior foreign policy types in US politics) has just resigned from Obama’s campaign after a supposed-to-be-off-the-record quote about Hillary Clinton being a ‘monster’ was published by The Scotsman. Which makes this piece from David Glenn in the Chronicle a few months ago all the more interesting.
Ms. Power is just one of dozens of university-based scholars advising the current crop of presidential candidate … The role of presidential advisers has changed a great deal since the early 1960s, when John F. Kennedy was closely identified with a clutch of Ivy League scholars. One of those advisers, the late Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith, is credited with writing one of the most famous lines in Kennedy’s Inaugural Address: “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”
Ms. Power and the other scholar-advisers of the 2008 season face challenges that Galbraith’s generation never knew. The public is much more skeptical of credentialed expertise than it was during the Kennedy administration. And new technologies make the candidate-adviser relationship more perilous than it once was. In theory a student in one of Ms. Power’s Harvard courses might post one of her classroom comments (perhaps wildly out of context) on a blog and create a news-media storm within hours.
“That’s the one thing that terrifies me,” Ms. Power says. “That I’ll say something that will somehow hurt the candidate.” She says that in public lectures and interviews, she sometimes fights the urge to make unkind statements about other candidates. “That’s just not Obama’s style,” she says. “Left to my own devices, I’d articulate my frustrations in a much harsher way.”
If further reinforcement be needed, this tells me again how bad I (and I suspect many other blogging academics) would be at real world politics in the highly unlikely event that someone wanted me to work for them in a campaign. It’s pretty easy to shoot off your mouth when you’re only representing yourself, but it’s obviously not so great when others can use what you say to attack the candidate that you work for.