Away back in June The Globe and Mail noted that Colin Powell had indicated that he might endorse Barack Obama. Now, he’s done it:
Colin Powell, a Republican who was President George W. Bush’s first secretary of state, endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president Sunday and criticized the tone of Republican John McCain’s campaign.
The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said either candidate, both of them senators, is qualified to be commander in chief. But he said Mr. Obama is better suited to handle the nation’s economic problems as well as help improve its standing in the world.
“It isn’t easy for me to disappoint Sen. McCain in the way that I have this morning, and I regret that,” Mr. Powell, interviewed on NBC’s Meet the Press, said of his long-ime friend, the Arizona senator.
But, he added: “I think we need a transformational figure. I think we need a president who is a generational change and that’s why I’m supporting Barack Obama, not out of any lack of respect or admiration for Sen. John McCain.”
Mr. Powell’s endorsement has been much anticipated because he is a Republican with impressive foreign policy credentials, a subject on which Mr. Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, is weak. Mr. Powell is a Republican centrist who is popular among moderate voters.
At the same time, Mr. Powell is a black man and Mr. Obama would be the nation’s first black president. Mr. Powell said he was cognizant of the racial aspect of his endorsement, but said that was not the dominant factor in his decision. If it was, he said, he would have made the endorsement months ago.
Mr. Powell expressed disappointment in the negative tone of Mr. McCain’s campaign, his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running mate and Mr. McCain’s and Ms. Palin’s decision to focus in the closing weeks of the contest on Mr. Obama’s ties to 1960s-era radical William Ayers. A co-founder of the Weather Underground, which claimed responsibility for nonfatal bombings during the Vietnam War-era, Mr. Ayers is now a college professor who lives in Mr. Obama’s Chicago neighbourhood. He and Mr. Obama also served together on civic boards in Chicago.
“This Bill Ayers situation that’s been going on for weeks became something of a central point of the campaign,” Mr. Powell said. “But Mr. McCain says that he’s a washed-out terrorist. Well, then, why do we keep talking about him?”
Mr. Powell said Mr. McCain’s choice of Ms. Palin raised questions about judgment.
“I don’t believe she’s ready to be president of the United States,” Powell said.
Mr. McCain seemed dismissive of Mr. Powell’s endorsement, saying he had support from four other former secretaries of state, all veterans of Republican administrations: Henry Kissinger, James A. Baker III, Lawrence Eagleburger and Alexander Haig.
“Well, I’ve always admired and respected Gen. Powell. We’re long-time friends. This doesn’t come as a surprise,” he said on Fox News Sunday.
Asked whether Mr. Powell’s endorsement would undercut his campaign’s assertion that Mr. Obama is not ready to lead, Mr. McCain said: “Well, again, we have a very, we have a respectful disagreement, and I think the American people will pay close attention to our message for the future and keeping America secure.”
Mr. Obama called Mr. Powell to thank him for the endorsement, Mr. Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
“I am beyond honoured and deeply humbled to have the support of Gen. Colin Powell,” Mr. Obama said in remarks prepared for a rally in Fayetteville, N.C. “Gen. Powell has defended this nation bravely, and he has embodied our highest ideals through his long and distinguished public service … And he knows, as we do, that this is a moment where we all need to come together as one nation — young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Republican and Democrat.”
Mr. Powell said he remains a Republican, even though he sees the party moving too far to the right. Mr. Powell supports abortion rights and affirmative action, and said Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin, both opponents of abortion, could put two more conservative justices on the Supreme Court.
“I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that’s what we’d be looking at in a McCain administration,” Mr. Powell said.
Mr. Powell, 71, gained popularity while serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s top military commander, during the first Gulf war under President George H.W. Bush. After retiring from the military, speculation mounted that he would run for president in 1996 — perhaps becoming the nation’s first black president — but Mr. Powell opted against it.
As secretary of state, he helped make the case before the United Nations for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, launched in March 2003.
Mr. Powell said the nation’s economic crisis provided a “final exam” of sorts for both Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain.
“In the case of Mr. McCain I found that he was a little unsure as to how to deal with the economic problems that we were having,” Mr. Powell said. “Almost everyday there was a different approach to the problem and that concerned me, sensing that he doesn’t have a complete grasp of the economic problems that we had.”
In contrast, Mr. Powell said Mr. Obama “displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at problems like this. …”
“I think that he has a definitive way of doing business that would serve us well,” Mr. Powell said.
Mr. Powell said he does not plan to campaign for Mr. Obama. [here]
Well fair readers, this says a whole lot about the George W. Bush administration. It also says something about Barack Obama: there’s nothing at all in his party’s platform that makes it difficult for a conservative Republican like Colin Powell to vote for him.
And, Colin Powell still has a lot to answer for. He’s the one who appeared before the UN and thus, the world, to make the case that Iraq’s Sadaam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that it did not have. I’ll be interested to hear Powell’s story, if he ever tells it. But I hope he doesn’t end up in the Obama administration, because he doesn’t deserve to be there. Powell missed his chances to stand up for right a long time ago. I don’t imagine Obama or anyone in his campaign will be mentioning this embarassment. Too bad.
UPDATE: Oh for fuck sake –
With or without a formal title, Colin Powell will have Barack Obama’s ear if the Democratic presidential candidate wins the White House in the Nov. 4 election, the candidate said Monday.
“He will have a role as one of my advisers,” Barack Obama said on NBC’s “Today” in an interview aired Monday, a day after Powell, a four-star general and President Bush’s former secretary of state, endorsed him.
“Whether he wants to take a formal role, whether that’s a good fit for him, is something we’d have to discuss,” Obama said.
Being a top presidential adviser, especially on foreign policy, would be familiar ground to Powell on a subject that’s relatively new to the freshman Illinois senator. Obama has struggled to establish his foreign policy credentials against GOP candidate John McCain, a decorated military veteran, Vietnam prisoner of war and ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The rest is at The Huff
What a way for Obama to establish his foreign policy creds. I feel a deep, inexpressible outrage. Even as Obama begins to do exactly what I’ve always thought he was going to do …
UPDATE II: While I’m clearly no fan of Colin Powell, I reject as blatant racism the view of some people that Powell endorsed Obama because of race identification. Such a view is obviously reductionist as well and invalidates the view of white men who endorse white men, white women who endorse white women and so on unto infinity, although of course, white people are never forced to justify their views for those reasons.
UPDATE III: Great post at Rustbelt Intellectual