The Smartest Woman in America?

Discussion about Samantha Power, Barack Obama's foreign policy adviser.

In our March issue, MC profiled Samantha Power, Barack Obama's Pulitzer-winning Harvard professor of a foreign policy adviser, or, as we called her, "The Smartest Woman in America." (opens in new tab) As the editor of the section (and a Clinton supporter), I'm chafing at that headline today.

Power was quoted in a Scottish paper (opens in new tab) — and subsequently every other news outlet on the planet (opens in new tab) — as calling Hillary a "monster" for her campaign's attacks on Barack. Today, while the blogosphere debated whether the reporter should have published comments that were arguably off the record (opens in new tab), the campaign announced Power's resignation (opens in new tab).

Those of us who are paid to choose our words carefully — be they politicians' advisers or the writers who entrap them — know that "monster" is about a hair away from "bitch." It essentially means the recipient of the slur is ambitious, which in women remains a character flaw. Power's comment lumps Hillary with Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest, Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, Judith Regan, Martha Stewart, and all the other shrill she-devils who dared to grow lady-balls and fight for their due. As Power herself has done — a young woman at an old university, teaching foreign affairs and government to people who will one day lead nations. She's a rock star academic, a brilliant policy thinker, a girl who busted into the boys' club, and I admire her.

But for someone so smart, she can be really dumb.