On Meet the Press today, Colin Powell graced us with his endorsement of Barack Obama for President of the United States of America. A daring move, I suppose, for a Republican and career politician. He will vote for Senator Obama, although he will not actively campaign for him.
Gen Powell praised Obama for the intellectual vigor and curiosity to handle the daunting challenges we face at home and abroad. Powell took issue with Obama's arbitrary deadline for withdrawal from Iraq, but noted that the current administration is now conducting negotiations to do just that.
On McCain, Powell took issue with his erratic campaign and the prospect of more conservative judges. Powell did not feel that Bill Ayers' "very casual" relationship with Barack Obama was material to the campaign, and bringing it up "smacks of demagogery." He said point-blank that Sarah Palin is not ready to be president.
Brokaw noted Barack Obama had had a problem with Powell's support for the war in Iraq in 2002 as well as his speech to the United Nations leading up to the invasion. Powell defended his stance on the war, but claims that only the conduct of the war was terrible and he had privately voiced his opposition to some of those decisions at the time. The threat of weapons of mass destruction was a valid rationale for the war and there was nothing that Powell could have done to prevent the war even if he had wanted to do so.
"The United States is still the leader of the world that wants to be free.. and we can come back." Powell intimated that the current administration for which he had campaigned eight years ago and served as a cabinet member has set us back as a nation.
My take is that many of these observations were readily apparent 3, 6, 12 months ago. Powell's strength-- and weakness-- has always been his loyalty to the hierarchy and he has exhibited too little personal judgment in his duty, especially as Secretary of State under Bush in 2002. When he should have stood up for what was right, he did not. As perhaps the only rational member of an administration that was completely off the rail, he did not sound the alarm for fear of damaging his persona of the loyal soldier.
Powell has spent his entire life making decisions based on political expediency, which has served him well as he got his card punched through Vietnam and rose through the ranks all the way to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and onto a White House cabinet position. The probelm is that he never gave up his undue respect for the power structure-- a quality that serves well as a soldier, but is devistating as a civilian leader. One cannot help but think that this loyalty in Powell is the prime reason Cheney had chosen him to be Secretary of State in 2001.
Too late, Gen Powell. Yes, Obama would make a much better president than John McCain. Some of us realized that many months ago. Since so many of your life decisions have been made in order to advance your career, my first thought is that this latest gambit is made to hitch your wagon to the soaring star of Barack Obama, perhaps to secure another cabinet position-- and you would now be endorsing Senator McCain if he were ahead in the polls. Where were you when the race was still up for grabs? Where were you when your nation needed leadership on this issue?
UPDATE ( 03:19hrs October 20, 2008)
Co-workers know that I am famous for being grumpy until 10:oo am, and that trait carries over even on a lazy Sunday morning. After reviewing General Powell's remarks and giving it more thought, I will admit that his endorsement of Senator Obama was heartfelt, thoughtful and well-timed. In short, It was powerful; it was perfect. My mind changed perhaps because of the dismissive calls by Pat Buchanan and George Will that Powell was merely endorsing a fellow black man. Perhaps it was the follwing video of jeering and angry white people hurling epithets without conscience. Perhaps it was the image of a mother mourning the loss of her 20 year-old Muslim son who gave his life in the voluntary military service of my country. We desperately need change in this country and we must demand it by any means possible and accept whoever will join the fray.