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Former UN ambassador Samantha Power on why she has 'nothing but respect' for Joe Biden

Erin Fuchs
Deputy Managing Editor

In her new memoir, “Education of an Idealist,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning academic and diplomat Samantha Power describes the “immense warmth” of Joe Biden, whom she worked with during the Obama administration.

Power, who served as Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, didn’t agree with Biden on every issue but had a good relationship with the then-vice president.

“He was blunt and demonstrative. He could go on too long. But he seemed to see the value of each person he met, irrespective of their status,” she wrote.

In a new interview, Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer asked Power whether she’s supporting Biden’s presidential bid. Widely considered the front-runner in the race for the Democratic nomination, Biden had the highest favorability rating among Democrats, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

“I'm not in the endorsement business. But I have great affection for Vice President Biden,” said Power, who’s currently a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Then-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden talks with then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power before a summit during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York September 26, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Gombert/Pool

‘A big-hearted Irishman’

In her interview with Serwer, the former ambassador commented on Biden’s sympathy for constituents who suffered a loss. Biden faced tragedy early in life. In 1972, shortly after he was elected to the U.S. Senate, his wife and infant daughter were killed in a car accident. Biden was just 30 years old at the time. In 2016, one of the sons who survived that car accident, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer at 46.

“When he meets somebody who has suffered a loss of a loved one, and you know, he does his Biden thing, tactile, and warm, and deeply empathetic ... He, more often than not, will give the person his cell phone number,” Power said. “And he'll say, ‘Look, I've been there. If you have no place else to turn, here's my number. You can call me.’”

Samantha Power speaks to Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer.

Power, who grew up in Dublin, added, “He's a big-hearted Irishman and I have nothing but respect for him.”

The former ambassador made the comments on Tuesday during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

Foreign policy expert

When asked to comment on tax-the-rich proposals put forth by Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Power said she’d prefer to discuss her main area of expertise — foreign policy.

Power’s experience in foreign policy began at the age of 22, when she worked as a freelance war correspondent in Yugoslavia. She entered Harvard Law School in 1995 to, in her words, “learn the law and pursue the arrest of Balkan war criminals as a prosecutor at The Hague.” She later won the Pulitzer Prize for her book on genocide in the 20th Century, “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.”

Power worked as an adviser on the Obama presidential campaign years later but resigned in March 2008 after calling Hillary Clinton “a monster.” She still went on to work for the Obama administration, including as a special assistant to the president, before becoming the second-youngest U.S. ambassador to the UN.