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The Journalist Diplomat

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Power visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2005.   

As U.N. ambassador, Power will once again be in the spotlight. But it’s not clear what she’ll do with it. “It’s this classic dilemma: One of the foremost writers on the problem of genocide now will be on the very front line of diplomatic efforts to ­prevent further genocide,” says Bloomberg View’s Jeffrey Goldberg. It would be easy to imagine her turning the ambassador’s residence—a penthouse at the Waldorf-­Astoria—into a high-minded salon, but that is probably just another fantasy. “I don’t think she’s going to be having bull sessions with correspondents,” says Gourevitch. “I think it’s much more likely she’ll be doing the Waldorf meetings with the heads of UNHCR and the IAEA and the Jordanian ambassador and a couple of undersecretary generals and the deputy chief of mission from Dagestan.”

The truth is, the Power who wrote A Problem From Hell is not—and can’t be—the same Power now responsible for solving that problem. Goldberg suspects that she will have to “rein in her essential Samantha-ness working for a president who’s not quite as eager to dragon slay.” The chilling of friendships goes both ways. “I’m under no illusions. She’s the U.N. ambassador. And if there are things to be critical about, we’ll be critical about them,” says David Remnick, who, during Power’s brief hiatus from the administration, tried to get her to return to writing for The New Yorker. “It’s very stupid to be sentimental about it. That would be an abrogation of the job.”

First, Power needs to get confirmed. When I e-mailed her last week, I told her that, given her upcoming hearings, I assumed she wouldn’t want to talk to me. She replied, “Are you kidding? I would of course love to talk to you—I am just denied by others that privilege!”

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