Samantha Power, one of President Barack Obama’s top advisers on national security and a longtime aide, is leaving the administration, at least temporarily, to focus on family matters, a White House spokesman said.
Power, director for multilateral affairs and human rights at the National Security Council, has served as an aide to Obama since his 2008 presidential campaign and is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author for her book on genocide. She has two young children, one three years old and the other eight months.
Power probably will return to the administration, though no decisions have been made on what her future role might be, according to the spokesman, Tommy Vietor.
“Samantha has been a powerful voice in this administration and a longtime friend and adviser to the president,” Vietor said. “We will miss her at the NSC, and we look forward to continuing the president’s work promoting human rights and dignity.”
Power, 42, who successfully advocated for the 2011 intervention in Libya on humanitarian grounds, has played a central role in discussions over how far the U.S. should go to protect civilians from repressive regimes.
Power stirred a controversy during Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign for saying in an interview with the Scotsman newspaper that then-Senator Hillary Clinton, Obama’s rival for the Democratic nomination, was a “monster” who would do anything to win the contest. She resigned from the campaign, saying her comments were “inexcusable” and didn’t reflect her admiration for Clinton, who became Obama’s first secretary of state. Power joined the administration shortly after Obama was sworn in for his first term.
Her departure comes as Obama has been criticized for not appointing a sufficient number of women to high-profile posts as he forms his second-term team.
The president’s first four announced nominees were men -- former Senator John Kerry, who replaced Clinton as secretary of state; former Senator Chuck Hagel as his pick for Defense secretary; counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to serve as head of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Chief of Staff Jack Lew for Treasury secretary.
Obama last month announced he would nominate former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White to run the Securities and Exchange Commission. He’s also considering women for key economic posts, including Wal-Mart Foundation President Sylvia Mathews Burwell for budget director and Ruth Porat, chief financial officer at Morgan Stanley, for deputy Treasury secretary.
Obama also hasn’t filled positions at the head of the departments of commerce, energy, transportation, labor and interior, as well as a new administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.
At a White House news conference on Jan. 14, Obama said his administration is among the most diverse in history.
“I would just suggest that everybody kind of wait until they’ve seen all my appointment, who is in the White House staff and who is in my cabinet, before they rush to judgment,” he said.
In his first term, there were eight women among the 23 cabinet and cabinet-level officers in Obama’s administration.
Female voters, 53 percent of the electorate, were a decisive force in the presidential race. Fifty-five percent of women cast ballots for Obama versus 44 percent who voted for Republican Mitt Romney, exit polls showed.